Losses of Chinook salmon continue along the California coast and off the southern Oregon coast Lingering effects from region’s mega-droughtAnd it has cost fishermen the Chinook season this spring.
It is also likely that Chinook salmon fishing will remain closed off the California coast for much of next year as the Pacific Fishery Management Council tries to help the fish rebuild from years of record drought.
Given the state of the Klamath and Sacramento Rivers last year, the cancellation of a season in April and early May was not surprising to sport fisherman Jim Yarnall, who serves on the fishing and salmon advisory subpanel of the Council of Tribal Representatives. were members.
season, which could have occurred along the California coast and as far north as Cape Falcon, Oregon through May 15 According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service, fall Chinook in the Sacramento River were canceled to protect them.
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Salmon in California’s Sacramento River were at near-record low numbers last year, and the Klamath River fall chinook had the second-lowest abundance forecast since current assessment methods began in 1997.
Proposed Management Plan for the California Coast No options are included for the coming year that allow fishermen to keep Chinook salmon, but a limited season is possible off southern Oregon. Following a public hearing, the council will meet in early April to finalize the program.
Drought affects salmon
California’s dominant species of salmon, including Chinook, rely on abundant water and travel from their spawning grounds out to sea, and then migrate back and release eggs that produce the next generation of fish.
Water in California and much of the West has been anything but plentiful for years.
Robin Ehlke, salmon staff officer for the Management Council, said low river flows and high river water temperatures have affected the survival of the salmon, especially as they spawn and need to move downstream to sea Is. “The fish are getting less and less.”
- Some fish are likely to die when they return to spawning grounds
- Banner seasons, albeit limited ones, have also played a role in the past few years.
Based on data on catch and field surveys to return salmon, scientists use models to estimate how many fish there are and estimate fishing pressure from commercial and recreational fishermen.
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Ehlke said his current forecast for the Sacramento River Chinook is low and not much above the target needed to ensure viability. “Some of those salmon stocks are projected to be at low levels right now and it would be very risky to continue fishing and not meeting those conservation goals.”
Yarnall said that for the past few years, models estimating fish populations have been performing poorly because of the effects of climate change and drought. “The people who are running these models are pulling their hair out. It’s an unfortunate place we’re in and it’s going to affect a lot of livelihoods.
a complex puzzle
Yarnall said the management of salmon, the region’s water supply and fishing season are a complex puzzle. He said this is partly because it would be harder to “hit the watershed much” than the current Sacramento-San Juaquin Regional River System with all its dams and reservoirs.
Federal and state water managers juggle all the moving parts trying to manage water flow for flood control, agricultural irrigation, public water supplies and wildlife. Sometimes, Yarnall said, “the fish get the short end of the stick.”
How is salmon fishing season determined?
Seasons are scheduled a year in advance with the possibility of revision.
- NOAA gives guidance to the Fisheries Management Council and its advisory panels on the numbers they expect.
- State fisheries managers issue abundance numbers.
- Ehlke said the council knows that in order to keep a healthy stock of salmon, it needs to get a certain amount of salmon back from the ocean and up the rivers to their spawning grounds.
- The council and its advisory panels prepare proposed seasons that meet minimum goals.
- Have a public hearing and comment period
- A final proposal is sent to NOAA Fisheries for review and approval.
He said an option of no spring season was drawn up by the advisory panel last year for the annual management plan for 2022-2023. Based on that advice, the council concluded that the fishing option was the fairest and had the lowest risk.
“Obviously everyone wants to catch fish, but most fishermen understand the state of salmon and understand they need to make sure those salmon stocks stay healthy,” she said. “Taking a year off – so hopefully Salmon has time to regain his strength – seems reasonable.”
hope for the future
Yarnell remains optimistic about Chinook in California.
“If there’s a silver lining in all of this, it’s been wet here in California since December,” he said. “Snowpack is high. Reservoirs are filling and salmon are a surprisingly resilient species.
“If we get that out of the way and are given half a chance,” he said, “you could see them bouncing back into an abundant fish stock in three years.”
Dina Voyles Pulver covers climate and environmental issues for USA TODAY. He can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter at @dinahvp.