Those measures adopted by federal authorities seem to be fruitful for salmon in California. (Photo: NOAA)
Salmon numbers rising in Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
Wednesday, October 19, 2011, 00:50 (GMT + 9)
Early indicators are pointing to the success of federal salmon rebuilding plans, according to the Golden Gate Salmon Association (GGSA). Other fish dependent on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are benefiting too.
Rebounding fall chinook salmon numbers have brought a modest salmon season this year in California, and a poor one in Oregon.
During the three previous years, fishing businesses and families faced fishing closures due to a salmon population crash largely caused by over diversion of Delta water to agribusiness in the San Joaquin Valley and other water users.
Positive signs this year include good salmon returns to the Mokelumne River largely due to a 10-day closure of Delta diversion gates from 4-14 October; salmon counts in the Feather River, the Sacramento River's largest tributary, already higher than 2010’s; and a rise in the highly endangered Delta smelt population, indicating that better water management may have hindered the Delta-estuary ecosystem's rapid decline.
"In the middle of the economic recession facing the whole nation, we've got many of our salmon industry jobs back this year, and for that we're thankful this year," said GGSA President Victor Gonella.
These are mostly the result of factors including key court rulings in 2008 and 2009 won by Earthjustice and Natural Resources Defense Council attorneys representing GGSA member group Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA), and other salmon advocates.
After devastating the Delta and fish species by taking too much water, water managers were forced under court order to cut their diversions. In 2009 and 2010, new and improved federal rules limiting diversions were adopted.
"These science-based, common-sense Delta protections are starting to work," said GGSA director and Pro Troll tackle owner Dick Pool. "It's absolutely vital that we keep these protections in place to allow the rebuilding of our salmon runs and the return of the tens of thousands of jobs our industry supports."
Even with these new protections, millions of native fish died in the Delta pumps this year.
"Even with the current federal protections in place, attempts to seize Delta water by water users south of the Delta continue to threaten the salmon we need to make a living," said Roger Thomas, GGSA director and charter boat captain. "We've only reduced, not eliminated, the damage caused by the Delta pumps. As long as the pumps interfere with the natural flows of the bay and Delta we'll need to continue physically transporting hatchery juvenile salmon in tanker trucks."
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