Wednesday, February 25, 2009
(02-25) 20:26 PST -- Prospects are not good this year for the folks who fish for salmon off the California coast - or for the people who like to eat it.
The number of chinook in the ocean right now is barely enough to meet the minimum sustainable goal when the fish return to spawn in the Sacramento River system this fall - and that's assuming no fishing is allowed this year, according to a forecast today by a federal agency.
The ominous news, contained in the Pacific Fishery Management Council's report on ocean salmon fisheries, comes on the tail fins of last week's announcement that fewer salmon than ever recorded swam through San Francisco Bay last fall to spawn in the Sacramento River.
"This is grim news for the state of California," said Don Hansen, chairman of the council, a federal body that regulates commercial and sport fishing. "We won't be able to talk about this without using the word 'disaster.' "
Last year only 66,286 adult salmon returned to the Sacramento River to spawn, only the second time in 16 years that the number of fall run chinook failed to meet the council's goal of between 122,000 and 180,000 adult fish. Six years ago, the peak return was 13 times higher.