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Home > Natural Resources

Salmon Population in California CRASHES 2008 -- Update

Complete shutdown of fishing off California and Oregon.

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Aquaculture for sustainable fish protein March 17, 2008 -- The Pacific Fishery Management Council Curtails Salmon Fishing for the 2008 Season.

"Reports of near-historic lows of adult chinook salmon returning to the Sacramento River to spawn came as little surprise to commercial fishermen after several years of salmon declines in the Klamath River. But the extent of the damage — and the prospect of a total cancellation of the salmon fishing season, the most lucrative time of year for party boats and commercial skippers — has been deeply sobering," reports the AP.

On March 14, 2008, the Pacific Fishery Management Council unanimously adopted three options for sport and commercial fishing off the Pacific Coast, including an unprecedented complete shutdown of fishing off California and Oregon.

Only about 90,000 adult salmon returned to the Sacramento River and its tributaries to spawn last year, the second-lowest number on record and well below the government's conservation goals, according to federal fishery regulators. That's down from 277,000 in 2006 and a record high of 804,000 in 2002.

Biologists predict this year's salmon returns could be even lower because the number young male fish returning hit an all-time low last year. Only about 2,000 returned, which is far below the 40,000 counted in a typical year.

The California Salmon Council

Advisors to the Pacific Fishery Management Council were expecting another year of problems since they haven't seen many small fish in the ocean in the past three years. They understand that it makes no sense to go fishing if every fish they catch is critical to spawning populations for the future."

Salmon fisherman in California received federal aid to cover some of what they lost in 2006, and it's likely that the government will once again offset some of the losses. The March 2008 vote prompted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the governors of Oregon and Washington to urge the federal government to declare a resource disaster if the fisheries are closed or severely restricted. Such a declaration would make communities eligible for federal aid.

The California Fisheries Problem(s)

Marine scientists blame an unusual weather pattern that triggered a collapse of the marine food web in 2005, the year most of this year's returning adults were entering the ocean as juveniles.

Fishermen blame the salmon's troubles on poor water quality and water diversions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, including the construction of dams to irrigate the cotton and potato crops of local farmers. The Department of the Interior — refuses to change the way it manages the river system along the West Coast.

The salmon problem is moving its way up the food chain, and if people don't pay attention to it, it's going to be a disaster for everything else.

The salmon collapse could not have come at a worse time for California fishermen, whose average age is 60, according to the California Salmon Council — too soon to retire and too late to look for another career.

Other Fisheries Solutions

The other options are severely limiting fishing or hiring fishermen to catch and release salmon for scientific projects. Both those options would require the federal government to grant an emergency rule because the salmon numbers are so low.

Fishermen are face coping with additional fishery challenges:

  • Dungeness crab season, which got off to a poor start with the Cosco Busan oil spill.
  • Albacore tuna is available in Oregon, but diesel costs $3.80 a gallon, and success is not guaranteed.


Read a comprehensive overview of the California Salmon Fisheries story on

For official UPDATES, check Pacific Fishery Management Council, one of eight regional fishery management councils established by the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 for the purpose of managing fisheries 3-200 miles offshore of the United States of America coastline. The Pacific Council is responsible for fisheries off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington.

The California Salmon Council was formed in 1989 to represent the marketing interests of the state's commercial salmon fishermen.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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