The American River used to have a healthy salmon population. Today, however, many of the wild salmon are gone, so they are having to be introduced by the California Dept. of Fish and Game to prevent them from dying out there. (The baby salmon were grown in a manmade hatchery). Last year because of some of the lowest salmon levels ever, the Dept. of Fish and Game had to cancel their salmon appreciation festival. For the previous years, the crowd size was up to 20,000. Earlier this year, it was reported the fall salmon run was at a record low.
Only about 39,000 or one third of the expected salmon returned to the river this past fall. The reason, reportedly, is simply too much water is being pumped from the delta to support agribusiness activities. According to the source above, the nearby San Joaquin river only had about 2,100 Chinook salmon during the same fall period.
If the Fish and Game officials released two million, then we have a clear contrast with 39,000 for the fall count, which suggests strongly the salmon population is far too low. There may have been greater than 800,000 in 2002. Who makes the decisions about water use and are they paying attention to the correlation between low river levels and dangerously low salmon numbers?
Low water levels were identified as the cause of a huge salmon dieoff in 2003 at the Klamath River in Oregon. It seems more than a little odd that after seven years the politicians and local government officials has not been able to strike the right balance with agribusiness. How many second chances are there for species like the salmon?
Things might be looking up in the San Joaquin River, as plans for building up the population there to 25,000 adults are under consideration. Even with that potential project, it seems salmon are just an afterthought to some and could become a casualty of politics.
Image Credit: Save Our Salmon