SF Bay Area Indymedia indymedia
About Contact Subscribe Calendar Publish Print Donate

California | Central Valley | East Bay | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections

Lower Numbers of Fall Chinook Salmon Returning to Battle Creek
by Dan Bacher
Thursday Nov 12th, 2009 1:41 PM
Preliminary data released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today indicates the number of adult fall run chinook salmon returning this season to Battle Creek, a tributary of the Sacramento River, is roughly only 60 percent of what returned last year.

DFG Photo of leaping chinook by D. Killam.
web_jumping_chinook-1.jpg
web_jumping_chinook-1.jpg

Lower Numbers of Fall Chinook Salmon Returning to Battle Creek

by Dan Bacher

Preliminary data released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today indicates the number of adult fall run chinook salmon returning this season to Battle Creek, a tributary of the Sacramento River, is roughly only 60 percent of what returned last year.

Roughly 8,000 adult fall Chinook salmon have returned to Battle Creek this year, according to Scott Hamelberg, Project Leader for the Coleman National Fish Hatchery in Anderson, California. Of those, a little more than 5,000 have entered the hatchery’s fish ladder and were used during the spawning season.

About 14,000 returned to Battle Creek with nearly 10,000 entering the hatchery in 2008, the year when the lowest number of Chinook salmon in history returned to the Sacramento River. Scientists estimated that only 66,264 natural and hatchery adult fall Chinooks returned to the Sacramento River basin in 2008.

“The numbers of fall Chinook salmon returning to Battle Creek this year have been a great disappointment,” said Hamelberg. “We will continue to operate the fish ladder into December and collect eggs when we can.”

Hamelburg said eggs are collected from the returning adults in order to produce juvenile fish that will be reared at the hatchery and released the following year. So far this year, hatchery workers have collected just shy of 12 million eggs, 3 million short of the 15 million eggs required to produce 12 million juveniles.

With the number of eggs collected to date, Hamelberg expects about 10 million juveniles will be ready for release this spring, about 85 percent of what is normally released by the hatchery. With a 1 percent survival rate of these juveniles, which is what is generally expected, about 100,000 adult salmon would result from this release and be available for fishing and broodstock needs in 2012.

The service said the reasons for this year’s reduced salmon return to Battle Creek "are not yet known."

“The juvenile fall run Chinook were released as two groups two and half years ago and preliminary data shows that returning adult fish from the second release group are nearly absent from this year’s return,” said Jim Smith, Project Leader at the Red Bluff Fish and Wildlife Office. “We will be examining data over the next few months to determine possible causes, and to ensure greater probability of successful returns in future years.”

Although the state and federal government have claimed that "ocean conditions" are the primary cause of the collapse in recent years, the latest data appears to contradict this claim, since the fish that are returning to Battle Creek and the Sacramento River now went to sea after ocean conditions had improved. A coalition of fishing groups, Indian Tribes, environmentalists and independent scientists have pointed to increased water exports from the Delta and deteriorating water quality in recent years as primary causes of the Central Valley salmon collapse.

Commercial and recreational fishing for chinook salmon was closed in ocean waters off California and most of Oregon in 2008. The ban continued this year, with the exception of a 10 day season off California's North coast in late August and early September.

Salmon fishing in Central Valley rivers is also closed this year, with the exception of a limited recreational fishery season for late fall chinook salmon - a separate run from fall run chinook - on a stretch of the Sacramento River starting November 16.

From Nov. 16 through Dec. 31, 2009, the fishery will be open on the Sacramento River from 150 feet below the Lower Red Bluff (Sycamore) Boat Ramp to the Highway 113 bridge at Knights Landing. The daily bag and possession limit is only one salmon. In April, the Fish and Game Commission approved this very limited fishing opportunity due to the "present stable status of the late-fall run."

"This fishery provides very limited access to late-fall run Chinook, which are presently not listed as threatened or endangered at either the federal or state level," according to a news release from the California Department of Fish and Game. "The season will open after the fall run has migrated upstream past this section of river, and before the winter run arrives. The rest of the Central Valley basin, including the Sacramento, Feather, American and San Joaquin rivers and their tributaries, will remain closed to salmon fishing."

The salmon closures have resulted in a loss of 23,000 jobs to the California economy, according to data from the American Sportfishing Association.

Coleman National Fish Hatchery was constructed in 1942 to partially off-set the impacts of the construction Shasta and Keswick dams. The hatchery is located on Battle Creek, approximately three miles east of the Sacramento River and 20 miles southeast of Redding, Calif. Each year, Coleman NFH produces approximately 12 million fall Chinook salmon, 250,000 winter Chinook salmon, and 600,000 steelhead trout.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by .
Thursday Nov 12th, 2009 2:20 PM
What caused the Sacramento Fall chinook collapse
http://www.pcouncil.org/bb/2009/0409/H2b_SUP_WGR_PPT_0409.pdf
by brightpath
Thursday Nov 12th, 2009 3:44 PM
http://www.derrickjensen.org/

There's talk, and then there's action. Boycotts, lobbying your congressperson, Sea Shepherd-type actions....