Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sad and Alarming News about 2009 California Salmon Returns

Last month, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council released numbers showing California’s once most abundant salmon run came in at a new all time record low in 2009.

The Council reports “In 2009, a total of 39,530 natural and hatchery Sacramento River Fall Chinook adults were estimated to have returned to the Sacramento River basin for spawning. The 2009 adult return estimate is the lowest on record and continues the declining trend in Sacramento Fall run salmon returns despite the 2008 and 2009 closures of nearly all ocean Chinook fisheries south of Cape Falcon…”

Once upon a time, this salmon run was close to a million fish. Now, they really are on the path towards extinction. The Council’s report also shows that federally protected runs of winter and spring run Chinook both came in at less than 5,000 individuals each. The San Joaquin River is in particularly bad shape with just under 2,100 salmon representing perhaps the last of their race in that watershed. The last three years of salmon returns have each set new record lows and coincide directly with three of the highest years of Delta water diversions. Delta pumping kills juvenile salmon migrating through the Delta to the sea. It takes three years for surviving salmon to return as adults and for scientists to record the full destruction caused by the pumps.

In the face of these sobering facts, Senator Feinstein is attempting to push through legislation to get around the
Endangered Species Act laws in order to increase delta pumping to benefit farms which don’t have senior water rights. GWWF signed onto a letter to the Senator along with nearly 40 other groups to protest this action which would surely be the end of salmon fishing in California. In addition, a big group of legislators (Signed by Reps. George Miller (D-CA), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), David Wu (D-OR), Norm Dicks (D-WA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Doris Matsui (DCA), and John Garamendi (D-CA) sent a letter to Senator Feinstein expressing their dismay of her actions.

Hopefully, she will back off and investigate other ways to solve the water problems in California without destroying the Endangered Species Act which is the last hope for endangered salmon and steelhead.

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