Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Will we have salmon in 2009?

The last two years have been a disaster for those who make their living from the sea. Fish populations, especially salmon, have plummeted. This year, the dungeness crab season might as well have never started off San Francisco. Jacoba Charles provides a good summary of the problem along with some speculations for 2009 in an article at Salon.
"This was the first time that I sat around San Francisco and wasn't out there catching wild California king salmon," says Larry Collins, one of roughly 1,500 commercial fishermen forced to spend summer on dry land.
But, there are problems with the article. Click Read more! to find out what.

Some data was left out regarding chinook salmon that spawn in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers of California. This is not to refute Charles's story, only to point out that it was not complete.
Yet the common thread in the failure of the salmon seems to be the sea. Coho and chinook salmon from up and down the coast -- not just from one river or river system -- all declined. "When you start looking at what they have in common, it is that they share the same ocean at the same time," says MacFarlane.

The unfavorable conditions weren't in 2008 and 2007 when adult salmon failed to return from the sea -- but three years earlier, when the fish were only a few months old and the ocean's food chain fell apart.
The fault, we are told, is global warming. While that is true to some extent, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla from Restore the Delta provide a slightly different opinion in the 3rd page of comments.
This article too easily dismisses what's happened with pumping water from the Delta

While I do not doubt that climate change is beginning to alter ocean conditions, what we do not know is how many of the 2008 juvenile salmon were ground up at the massive water pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta several years ago when record amounts of water were being sent to irrigate San Joaquin Valley farms. If the juvenile salmon never made it to sea, then they could not return.

Our understanding at Restore the Delta is that Klamath salmon did just fine in 2008. Why would Klamath salmon thrive in poor ocean conditions while Chinook salmon, which pass through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, perish under the same conditions?

Commercial fishermen, and environmentalists who are experts on Delta conditions, are skeptical of the climate change explanation -- and not because we do not believe that climate change is a threat to fisheries throughout the world. We just question it being used as a cover for bad environmental policies in the immediate present.
It is always better to look at all the data before writing your conclusions. It does create a problem for global warming deniers (many of which posted comments). It it wasn't global warming, then Barrigan-Parrilla must be right.

No comments: