A NYTimes editorial today builds on a piece from last month I read showing the collapse of the West Coast salmon population. The development caused the Fishery Council to "cancel all commercial salmon fishing" this season.
The warning signals of the collapse came last fall. Among the adult salmon that return from the ocean to spawn in the rivers of their birth are immature ones that have spent as little as a year in the ocean. The quantity of these younger fish, called jacks, is a reliable predictor of the abundance of the next year’s run. Last fall, the count of the fall Chinook jacks from the Sacramento River was less than 6 percent of the long-term average.In today's opinion, the NYTimes says:
Two factors are suspected. One is federally sanctioned diversion of water from the Sacramento River into the irrigation system used by farmers in the Central Valley of California. The other is a climate-driven change in the normal upwellings in the ocean that could have deprived the young fish of food.
This decision is necessary if there is to be any hope of salmon recovery. It will mean even more if it shocks Congress into a serious investigation of the West Coast salmon crisis, exposes the politically driven policies of the Bush administration and persuades a new president of the need to rebuild wild salmon populations and the economies that depend on them.