Salmon woes continue

Chinook Salmon in Butte Creek in 2008. Credit: Kurt Rogers / S.F. Chronicle.

The Sacramento Bee reports this morning that contrary to expectations the Central Valley fall-run chinook salmon had another weak run this year, probably no better than the record-low return a year ago. That’s bad news because the hatchery-boosted fall Chinook is the main target of the commercial salmon fishery off the California and Oregon coasts. The low return suggests that we are in for a third consecutive year of little or no commercial fishing and severe restrictions on the recreational catch. The situation may even be worse than that. Preliminary analysis shows that about 90% of the returning fish were hatchery spawned, leading to speculation that the wild fall-run may soon need protection under the Endangered Species Act, which would shut down the fishery and further complicate Delta water management. There is one ray of hope in the numbers — the return of 2-year old “jacks” is better than last year, providing some room for optimism about a stronger run next year.

Reader Comments

One Reply to “Salmon woes continue”

  1. There is such limited adequate spawning grounds on the Sacramento that I am not surprised that this wild run is having problems. Wild juvenile salmon out-migrants have to find sufficient food, make the run to the bay and smoltify before entering the pacific. Hatchery fish are hand raised and fed optimal amounts and are released directly into the bay to smoltify and out migrate. Beside differences in food availability and predator mortality, there is likely a big difference in the energy reserves of wild juveniles and hatchery raised juveniles when they hit the bay. The most perplexing issue is why hatchery fish did not return in sufficient numbers. Nearly 5 million juveniles fall run Chinook are released each year into the bay but this year only a couple hundred salmon returned.

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About Holly

Holly Doremus is the James H. House and Hiram H. Hurd Professor of Environmental Regulation at UC Berkeley. Doremus brings a strong background in life sciences and a comm…

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