More information on that sharp decline in the 2007 salmon run up the Sacramento River. Basically, last year was the weakest spawning year in recent memory. For the first time in 15 years, the salmon population failed to meet spawning goals set by the Pacific Fishery Management Council. From the council’s press release:
Last week, the Council’s Salmon Technical Team (STT) met to tabulate salmon returns and catches. Two areas of bad news emerged. First, in 2007 the adult spawning escapement for Sacramento River fall Chinook failed to meet the escapement goal (122,000‐180,000 adults) for the first time in 15 years. Sacramento River fall Chinook are the largest component of Central Valley Chinook. (The escapement goal, or conservation objective, is the optimal number of adult fish returning to spawn in order to maximize the production of the stock).
Second, the count of “jacks” in the Central Valley fall Chinook return this past fall was a record low. Only 2,000 jacks returned, compared to a long‐term average of about 40,000 and the previous record low of 10,000. Jacks are immature fish that return to the rivers at age two (unlike adult fish, which return at age three or four). Their numbers are used to forecast future returns. This suggests that 2008 abundance will probably also be weak. Last week scientists questioned whether returns in 2008 could meet the conservation objective even without any commercial or ecreational salmon fishing where these fish are found. If returns do not meet the conservation objective, an emergency rule from National Marine Fisheries Service may be required to allow any fisheries.
According to the council, the economic impact will be severe, as the numbers are similar to the 2006 Klamath River decline that led to an abbreviated salmon season. Cross your fingers, people.
Salmon Press Packet [Pacific Fishery Management council]