Following the salmon to central California
September 3, 2019
Crescent City Triplicate by Jessica Goddard
Fishermen along the California coast boasted boatloads of prized salmon during this year’s season, which reportedly has been one of the better salmon fishing seasons in years.
“It was a good one,” acknowledged fisherman Richard Hagel of Crescent City, “(although) I don’t know if I’d term it one of the best. We’ve had some big years in the past, you know.
“But I would say that in recent history, it was the best season.”
That depends on where you fish, of course. Not every California fisherman got that lucky. Some reported that very few salmon made it to the state’s northern coast. “Nobody seems to understand why, but the fish stayed south,” said Rick Shepherd of Crescent City, president of the Crescent City Commercial Fishermen’s Association.
While salmon generally migrate north, this year they swarmed the areas of Bodego Bay, Monterey Bay and even as south as Morro Bay, just north of San Luis Obispo.
Yet that didn’t stop fishermen to the north from pursuing their catch. Many from Crescent City took boats and crews down south, as if chasing gold. And many of those fared well, catching upwards of 1,500 salmon.
In fact, for the season to really pay off, many fishermen needed to commit to an extended time on the central coastline. Some found it more difficult to stay south, away from their families for longer periods of time. Some struggled to turn much of a profit when fishing the Bay Area, given the high cost of staying there.
“It’s so expensive down there,” said fisherman Karl Evanow of Crescent City, who boated to the Bay Area mid-salmon season. “I mean, you’re almost taking the money from the fish and putting it right back out.”
Still, nearly all agreed that the California coast housed the salmon treasury.
As to why, among the numerous possibilities for the influx of salmon to the south could be heavy rainfall, particularly in 2017, which ended California’s several-year drought. The rain caused rivers to fill and made the salmons migration to the Pacific Ocean easier.
Some credit this season’s success to hatcheries.
CDFW Seeks Information Related to Listing of Northern California Summer Steelhead
August 22, 2019
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is seeking information relevant to the proposed listing of Northern California Summer Steelhead as an endangered species.
Northern California Summer Steelhead occupy a relatively small geographic range in Humboldt and Mendocino counties that includes Redwood Creek and the Mad, Eel, Van Duzen and Mattole rivers. They fill a unique ecological niche, entering freshwater in the spring and early summer and then holding for many months in deep pools high up in the stream systems while waiting to spawn.
In September 2018, the Friends of the Eel River submitted a petition to the California Fish and Game Commission requesting to list Northern California Summer Steelhead as an endangered species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The petition described threats impacting the survival of the fish, specifically emphasizing habitat loss, alteration and degradation as a result of human impacts.
CDFW recommended that Northern California Summer Steelhead be advanced to candidacy for CESA listing and the Commission voted in favor of this recommendation on June 12, 2019. The official findings of this decision were published on June 28, 2019, which triggered the start of a 12-month period during which CDFW will conduct a status review intended to inform the Commission’s ultimate decision on whether to list the species.
As part of the status review process, CDFW is soliciting information from the public regarding Northern California Summer Steelhead ecology, genetics, life history, distribution, abundance, habitat, degree and immediacy of threats to reproduction or survival, adequacy of existing management measures, and recommendations for management of the species. Comments, data and other information can be submitted in writing to:
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Attn: Vanessa Gusman
830 S St.
Sacramento, CA 95811
Comments may also be submitted by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. If submitting comments by e-mail, please include “NC Summer Steelhead” in the subject heading.
All comments received by Sept. 22, 2019, will be evaluated prior to the submittal of CDFW’s final status review report to the Commission. Once CDFW submits the final status review report to the Commission, it will be placed on the agenda for discussion at the next available Commission meeting. Comments will also be made available to the public at that time.
Following receipt of CDFW’s status review report, the Commission will allow a 30-day public comment period prior to taking any action on CDFW’s recommendations.
The listing petition and CDFW’s petition evaluation for Northern California Summer Steelhead is available at https://fgc.ca.gov/cesa#ncss.
Off the hook: California king salmon rebounds after drought
August 22, 2019
Associated Press/The Washington Post By Terence Chea | AP
SAN FRANCISCO — Trolling off the California coast, Sarah Bates leans over the side of her boat and pulls out a long, silvery fish prized by anglers and seafood lovers: wild king salmon.
Reeling in a fish “feels good every time,” but this year has been surprisingly good, said Bates, a commercial troller based in San Francisco.
Bates and other California fishermen are reporting one of the best salmon fishing seasons in years, thanks to heavy rain and snow that ended the state’s historic drought.
It’s a sharp reversal for chinook salmon, also known as king salmon, an iconic species that helps sustain many Pacific Coast fishing communities.
Commercial salmon catches have surpassed official preseason forecasts by about 50 percent, said Kandice Morgenstern, a marine scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Harvests have been particularly strong in Morro Bay, Monterey and San Francisco, but weaker along California’s northern coast.
“We’re really surprised to be seeing this many fish being landed so far this season,” Morgenstern said.
The salmon rebound comes after three years of extremely low catches that resulted from poor ocean conditions and California’s five-year drought, which drained the state’s rivers and reservoirs.
Over the past several years, regulators imposed severe fishing restrictions to protect chinook salmon, and officials declared federal fishery disasters in 2018 to assist fishing communities in California, Oregon and Washington.
This year’s adult salmon are the first class to benefit from record rainfall that filled California rivers and streams in early 2017, making it easier for juvenile chinook to migrate to the Pacific Ocean, where they grow into full-size fish.
Chinook salmon are also being helped by improved ocean conditions that have produced an abundance of anchovies, krill and other feed. Several years ago, an El Nino event brought unusually warm water to the Pacific Coast and disrupted the marine ecosystem.
“For the salmon fishermen who’ve been dealing with disaster for so long, this is an incredible boon to their livelihoods,” said Noah Oppenheim, who heads the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations.
The strong salmon season, which typically runs from May to October, is positive environmental news at a time of growing anxiety about climate change. A United Nations report released this month warns that global warming threatens food supplies worldwide.
Morgenstern says climate change is creating greater fluctuations in ocean and river conditions, making chinook fisheries “less stable, less predictable and more challenging for fishery managers.”
Most of the chinook salmon now being caught come from the Sacramento River and its tributaries, where they spawn. Many were raised in state-run hatcheries then released into rivers to swim to the ocean. Harvests of chinook from rivers farther north have not been strong.
For consumers, the bountiful harvest has driven down wild salmon prices to $15 to $20 per pound, compared with $30 to $35 per pound in recent years. Fishermen are making up for the difference by catching more fish.
“The market is dictating right now that there’s a lot of salmon, so the customers don’t have to pay as much,” said Gordon Drysdale, culinary director at Scoma’s, a seafood restaurant at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.
The wharf is one of many California fishing communities now benefiting from the salmon boom. Pier 45, where boats unload their fish, hasn’t been this busy in many years, said Larry Collins, who runs the San Francisco Community Fishing Association.
“This year started out with a bang, and it’s just kept banging the whole time,” Collins said. “We’re all really excited and happy the fish showed up.”
On a recent morning, commercial fisherman Brand Little, who sells to customers in the Lake Tahoe area, returned from four days of fishing with nearly 200 salmon weighing more than 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms).
“Best trip of the season,” Little said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
The salmon boom is also welcomed by sport fishermen and the boat operators who take them out to the ocean.
“When the fish are biting, it’s always good for business for us,” said Mike Rescino, who runs a charter boat. “When the people see the big reports, they’re going to come out and go fishing with us.”
Dam Management Can Help Salmon and Sturgeon
August 19, 2019
Courthouse News Service By Jon Parton
(CN) – Scientists working to preserve endangered fish in the Sacramento River unveiled a new water-management plan Tuesday that might protect the river’s salmon while maintaining a healthy environment for other fish.
As cold water from Lake Shasta releases into the Sacramento River, it creates a better environment for endangered winter-run chinook salmon, but at the cost of harming green sturgeon.
Whereas salmon need colder water for their eggs to survive, young green sturgeon require the typical warmer temperatures of the river to thrive.
In a paper published Tuesday in the Journal of Applied Ecology, scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz and the National Marine Fisheries Service used statistical modeling to determine an optimal water management plan that would protect both species and ensure other water users would benefit as well.
“It’s a win-win-win here in the sense that we’re not giving up anything to get an improvement for the green sturgeon,” said Eric Palkovacs, senior author and associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz. “Currently, the primary management objectives are keeping it cold for the salmon eggs and delivering enough water downstream. As a result, we’ve been refrigerating the river in regions where historically the green sturgeon have been spawning.”
Study author Liam Zarri discovered that water temperatures and discharge rates from the Shasta Dam into the river heavily affected the health of larval green sturgeon.
When a high amount of discharges of cold water happened over the course of a year, survival of winter-run chinook salmon eggs increased while survival of juvenile green sturgeon decreased. In years of drought, with warmer water and low discharge flows, the reverse effect occurred.
Zarri said the key to ensuring both species’ survival was in their different spawn times.
“We’re able to suggest a management scenario which uses the differential timing of spawning in these two species. When they overlap, our model gives us the ideal temperature and flow for when both species are present,” he said.
Zarri proposes that low flows of warmer water, drawn from the surface of the lake, be released in April and May when only green sturgeon spawn and agricultural demand for water is low. Then from July to November, high flows of cold water can be released in order to ensure the survival of the salmon and meet the water needs for agriculture.
“Under the current management, there is quite a long period of cold water releases starting very early in the season before the chinook salmon have really started showing up in earnest. We’re saying that you can wait until the green sturgeon have matured and moved out of the system,” Palkovacs said. “That has a side benefit in drought years, when limiting those early releases saves water for later in the year when it’s more valuable, both for salmon and for downstream water demand.”
The Sacramento River winter-run chinook salmon is one of two chinook salmon species listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Seven others are considered threatened.
Blue Creek part of 50,000 acres of forest re-acquired by Yurok Tribe
August 17, 2019
Crescent City Triplicate
On Aug. 19, the Yurok Tribe, Green Diamond Resource Co. and Western Rivers Conservancy will celebrate a 10-year effort to preserve and place into tribal ownership about 50,000 acres of forest surrounding four salmon sustaining streams, including Blue Creek.
“It is a good day for the Yurok people,” said tribal chairman Joseph L. James.
“On behalf of the Yurok Tribe, I would like to thank Green Diamond and Western Rivers for assisting us in the re-acquisition of a significant part of our ancestral territory, and putting us in a position to permanently protect the Blue Creek watershed, which is the crown jewel of the Klamath River.”
In 2006, the two organizations and the tribe formed a partnership designed to facilitate the transfer of the land to the tribe and conserve Blue Creek, the lifeline of the Klamath River. During this period, Green Diamond and Western Rivers Conservancy held the land while the Yurok Tribe and Western Rivers Conservancy pursued funds for its acquisition.
Financial support came from a variety of sources, including the Hoopa-Yurok Settlement Act, the New Market Tax Credits program, the Kendeda Fund, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Wyss Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation/Acres for America and Walmart Stores, Inc., the Wildlife Conservation Board; California Coastal Conservancy, loans from the California State Water Quality Control Board and Indian Land Capital Co., and the sale of carbon offsets.
Green Diamond vice president and general manager Jason Carlson said, “We are very pleased to see the successful completion of this multi-phase, multi-year project that culminated with the transfer of the Blue Creek drainage. These lands provide the tribe a nearly continuous ownership that can be managed as a working forest and for the cultural resources that are vital to the Yurok
“This is a historic and joyous moment,” said Western Rivers Conservancy president Sue Doroff. “The Yurok Tribe has been reunited with Blue Creek, and we have finally ensured that this all-important tributary of the Klamath River will forever remain a source of cold, clean water and a refuge for the incredible fish and wildlife that depend on it.”
In addition to Blue Creek, parcels in the Pecwan, Ke’pel and Weitchpec Creek drainages are included in the project. The latter three properties will become part of the tribe’s Community Forest.
The tribe plans to manage the lands to support native wildlife, in addition to the production of a wide variety of traditional foods and basket-weaving materials.
The tribe is restoring about 15,000 acres in Blue Creek into an old-growth forest and a salmon sanctuary.
Tribal officials said Blue Creek is one of the most important Klamath River tributaries, providing a critical thermal refuge area for migrating salmon, as well as forest habitat for sensitive wildlife species.
During the fall Chinook salmon run, they said, the water at the mouth of the creek can be 20 degrees cooler than the main stem of the river. In most years, thousands of fish, stressed by dam-warmed water temperatures, rest and recharge below Blue Creek in order to make it to the upriver spawning grounds in a healthy condition.
The officials said Yurok biologists, foresters and cultural experts are nearly finished with a comprehensive plan to create the salmon sanctuary. The long-term blueprint will guide restoration of the habitat for endangered species, including coho salmon, marbled murrelet, northern spotted owl and Humboldt marten, along with other culturally important fish and mammals such as chinook salmon, black-tailed deer and Roosevelt elk.