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Peter Moyle's Commentary on Central Valley Chinook Salmon Decline
Dan Bacher
For the first time in history, recreational fishing boats in Santa Cruz, Moss Landing, Monterey, Morro Bay and other ports along the northern and central California Coast didn't go out fishing for chinook salmon on the traditional opening day of the season. The boats stayed in port on Saturday, April 5, due to an unprecedented emergency closure imposed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC). The federal PFMC and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in March took action to close the already open ocean sport fishery between Horse Mountain and Point Arena on April 1, 2008. In addition, they took emergency action to close the April 5 sportfishing openers in San Francisco and Monterey port areas (south of Point Arena to the U.S.-Mexico Border). "These actions are being taken to protect Sacramento River fall Chinook salmon which returned to the Central Valley in 2007 at record low numbers," according to a statement from the California Department of Fish and Game. "Even if all ocean sport and commercial fisheries are closed throughout California, salmon returns are not projected to meet the escapement goals required by the PFMC Salmon Fishery Management Plan." The PFMC has produced three ocean salmon fishing season "options" (effective May 1, 2008 through April 30, 2009) for public comment. Option 1 provides very limited commercial and sport fishing after May 18. Option 2 provides no commercial or sport fishing after March 31 but allows a non-retention research project to collect tissue samples for genetic stock identification analyses. Option 3 provides no fishing between Cape Falcon, Oregon and the U.S.-Mexico border. The PFMC will meet April 7-11 in Seattle to adopt a final regulatory packet from the three "options" listed above. More information regarding the PFMC meetings and options can be found on the PFMC Web site at www.pcouncil.org. The impact of these closures will be devastating to the lives of fishermen, fisherwomen, and the thousands of people employed by businesses that depend upon healthy runs of salmon. In light of the salmon disaster, the following is an excellent commentary on the Central Valley Chinook Decline by Peter B. Moyle, Professor of Fish Biology, University of California Davis, on Google News. Moyle gives a brief history of the many factors that led to the historic decline that culminated in the unprecedented salmon collapse. He explains the complex interaction between freshwater conditions and ocean conditions - and how "blaming 'ocean conditions' for salmon declines is a lot like blaming the iceberg for sinking the Titanic, while ignoring the many human errors that put the ship on course for the fatal collision." "'Ocean conditions' may be the potential icebergs for salmon populations but the ship is being steered by us humans. Salmon populations can be managed to avoid an irreversible crash, but continuing on our present course could result in loss of a valuable and iconic fishery," says Moyle. He lists short run remedies as well as long term solutions to the salmon dilemma - and closes with an optimistic note that "there is a reasonable chance that Chinook salmon populations will once again return to higher levels, as they have in the past, although not quickly."

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