Dwindling Salmon Stocks Lead to Second Consecutive Fishing Ban in California

Dwindling Salmon Stocks Lead to Second Consecutive Fishing Ban in California

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In a devastating blow to California's fishing industry, federal fishery managers have made the difficult decision to cancel all commercial and recreational salmon fishing off the coast of the Golden State for the second consecutive year. This marks only the fourth time in state history that such drastic measures have been taken, underscoring the dire state of California's salmon populations.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council, responsible for setting Pacific salmon seasons, unanimously voted to close the fishery in an effort to protect the dwindling Chinook salmon stocks. The decision comes on the heels of a challenging year for the industry, which supports tens of thousands of jobs and is still reeling from the previous year's shutdown.

Drought and water diversions have been identified as the primary culprits behind the decline in salmon populations, resulting in river flows that are too warm and slow for the state's Chinook salmon to thrive. A February report by the fishery council revealed that in 2023, a mere 6,100 fall-run Chinook returned to the upper Sacramento River to spawn, a stark contrast to the average of more than 175,000 fish between 1996 and 2005.

The ban currently affects commercial and recreational ocean fishing, but the council has also recommended that the California Fish and Game Commission consider barring river fishing as well. The state agency is expected to vote on this matter in the coming weeks.

Environmental factors, such as rising river water temperatures due to warm weather and a Trump-era rollback of federal protections for waterways, have exacerbated the challenges faced by the salmon population. Climate change also threatens the food sources for young Chinook maturing in the Pacific.

Scott Artis, executive director of Golden State Salmon Association, has been critical of state water policy under Gov. Gavin Newsom, arguing that it has led to unsustainable water diversions, record-high water temperatures, and the death of record numbers of salmon eggs and juveniles in California's streams.

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