Contributing Monkie Sarah Backhouse
Published on January 1, 2009
We’re all aware of the crisis in global fisheries. Some of us may even know the details — that a third of the world’s fishing stocks have already collapsed, and that if this trend continues we’d be looking down the barrel of total collapse within fifty years.
But sometimes it takes an event a little closer to home to bring the message home.
For Angelenos, it doesn’t get much closer than the California coastline, where last fall only “about 90,000 adult chinook returned to the Central Valley the second lowest number on record and well below the number needed to maintain a healthy fishery”. This compared with 775,000 salmon in 2002. The Pacific Fishery Management Council will meet in Seattle this week, where they’ll vote to impose a total ban or “the most severe restrictions” on salmon fishing ever seen along the Oregon and California coastlines.
While consumers may lament the loss of the highly prized chinook or King Salmon, biologists will be working overtime to figure how this happened and what can be done to ensure that the Chinook population recovers. Not easy questions to answers “because wild salmon are born in streams and rivers, migrate to the ocean when they’re juveniles and spend two to four years there before returning to spawn in the areas where they were born. In between they have to navigate the often treacherous waters of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and San Francisco Bay.”
The council has requested that scientists investigate 46 possible causes, including “water diversions, habitat destruction, dam operations, agricultural pollution, marine predators and ocean conditions.”
Whatever the cause of decline turns out to be, the local case of the disappearing salmon is a timely reminder of the global dangers of over-fishing — and will hopefully serve as an incentive to quash our appetite for salmon sashimi.