Northern California Fishery Devastation
In 2008, the commercial and recreational ocean salmon fishing season in California and most of Oregon was closed for the first time in history. The economic impact on coastal communities in Northern California was devastating and led to federal emergency disaster relief.
Fishery experts at U.C. Davis and other institutions have opined that unless the governmental bodies, private enterprise and the public implement substantial changes in river flow management and estuarine habitat conditions for salmon and steelhead in the near term, two-thirds of the runs will be extinct in a short period of time.
The chairman of the State Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee has stated that there is a clear and growing crisis in the salmon, steelhead and trout populations of California. Water management policies and practices must change in order for California to meet the various competing demands for water.
Many other fishery experts have offered evaluations of the current situation. They have stated that the battle to protect salmon and steelhead has lost substantial ground because those in charge of water resources control the fisheries and the fisheries are a low priority. Fishermen and wildlife supporters are not signficant participants in the political process. Their only recourse is greater political involvement and organization.
Other groups organizing in the Central Valley are committed to making the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta fishable, swimmable, drinkable, and farmable. A coalition has been formed to restore the Delta. This coalition includes Delta residents, business leaders, civic organizations, community groups, faith-based communities, union locals, farmers, fishermen, and environmentalists who are seeking to strengthen the health of the estuary and the well-being of Delta communities. These groups are seeking the reduction of water exports to restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta’s ecosystem on a sustainable basis.