State may rescue ailing salmon industry

An unabated crash in West Coast salmon numbers prompted a federal department to extend an emergency declaration, potentially providing millions of dollars for out-of-work fishermen and affected businesses.

Chinook salmon once swarmed from the Pacific Ocean — where they were caught by slow-trolling fishermen using lures and baited hooks — through the San Francisco Bay and up delta waterways toward spawning grounds.

But the number of king salmon, as they also are known, estimated to have migrated up the Sacramento River crashed from 770,000 in 2002 to a record low of 39,500 last fall.

The salmon runs provided economy-lifting recreational fishing opportunities and supported the livelihoods of more than 1,000 California commercial fishermen, who spent their earnings and purchased supplies at shops, marinas and other waterfront businesses.

For millennia, the runs also carried calories, nutrients and other biological riches contained in salmon bodies up to rivers and lakes, where they were eaten by bears and birds or rotted to fertilize plants.

But growing exports of water from streams for farms and households and consecutive years of poor ocean conditions drove down the population, leading authorities to ban salmon fishing in 2008 and 2009 and limit commercial fishing to eight days this year.

Late last week, U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke agreed to a request from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to extend a 2-year-old federal emergency declaration, which may provide new disaster assistance for businesses and fishermen that relied on the fishery for their livelihoods.

Congress provided $170 million for West Coast salmon fishermen after the emergency was first declared, but the money ran out.

“Secretary Locke’s declaration means that it is now up to the Congress to provide relief to help these fishermen get through the year,” U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-San Francisco, said in a statement. “It is a difficult time and nothing is assured, but we will do our level best.”

The eight days of fishing allowed this year proved unproductive, worsened by strong winds, according to Mike Hudson, president of the Small Boat Commercial Salmon Fishermen’s Association.

The season formerly extended for nearly half the year.

“We’re not getting our water,” Hudson said. “Once you give these salmon a chance, they will flourish.”

 

Collapsing resource

  • 601: Fishing boats trolling California waters for salmon in 2007
  • $8.2 million: Value of salmon caught commercially in California in 2007
  • $18.1 million: Average value of salmon caught commercially in California in previous years
  • 769,900: Salmon that returned to Sacramento River to spawn in 2002
  • 39,530: Salmon that returned to Sacramento River to spawn last year

Source: Pacific Fishery Management Council

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A construction worker watches a load for a crane operator at the site of the future Chinatown Muni station for the Central Subway on Tuesday, March 3, 2021. (Sebastian Miño-Bucheli / Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Major construction on Central Subway to end by March 31

SFMTA board approves renegotiated contract with new deadline, more contractor payments

Neighbors and environmental advocates have found the Ferris wheel in Golden Gate Park noisy and inappropriate for its natural setting. <ins>(</ins>
Golden Gate Park wheel wins extension, but for how long?

Supervisors move to limit contract under City Charter provision requiring two-thirds approval

San Francisco school teachers and staff will be able to get vaccinations without delay with the recent distribution of priority codes. 
Shutterstock
SF distributes vaccine priority codes to city schools

San Francisco has received its first vaccine priority access codes from the… Continue reading

COVID restrictions have prompted a benefit or two, such as empty streets in The City. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Taking the scenic route through a pandemic

Streets of San Francisco are pleasantly free of traffic

Kelly Marie Tran and Awkwafina provide the voices of the title characters of “Raya and the Last Dragon.” <ins>(Courtesy Disney)</ins>
‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ boasts full-scale diversity

Though familiar in plot, Disney’s latest is buoyed by beauty, pride and power

Most Read