west coast salmon collapse

Federal officials have indicated that they are likely to close the Pacific salmon fishery from northern Oregon to the Mexican border because of the collapse of crucial stocks in California’s major watershed.That would be the most extensive closing on the West Coast since the federal government started regulating fisheries.

“The Central Valley fall Chinook salmon are in the worst condition since records began to be kept,” Robert Lohn, regional administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service in Portland, Ore., said Wednesday in an interview. “This is the largest collapse of salmon stocks in 40 years.”

Counts of young salmon, whose numbers have dwindled sharply for two years, were the first major indication of the problem. The number of fish that survive more than a year in the ocean, or jacks, is a marker for the abundance of full-grown salmon the next year. The 2007 count of the fall Chinook jacks from the Sacramento River was less than 6 percent of the long-term average, Mr. Lohn said.

The Central Valley salmon runs are concentrated in the Sacramento River, the focus of a water struggle between farmers and irrigation districts on one hand and environmental groups and fishermen on the other.

NYT, 3/13

Washington & Alaska fisheries are still okay, but of course this will put major pressure on them.