No Water, No Salmon!
San Francisco Chronicle
By Jackie Speier
See the original piece here.
Wake up, Californians! We are on the verge of losing Pacific salmon runs. This loss would be devastating to both our health - salmon are high in nutritional value - and our welfare - salmon support a multibillion-dollar fishing industry.
Three years ago, this industry boasted 1,200 commercial boats, half a million recreational fishermen, hundreds of retailers, commercial charters, river guides, marinas and restaurants. Then in 2008, the once-robust salmon run in the Central Valley collapsed - endangering the fish and the associated jobs. Fish returns in the Sacramento River plummeted from a high of 768,000 in 2002 to a staggering low of 39,500 fish in 2009. Low runs canceled fishing in 2008 and 2009. This year's commercial season lasted eight days - few fish were caught, and fishermen could not earn a living.
The California salmon industry includes such people as Jacky Douglas, skipper of the charter boat Wacky Jacky for 30 years; Duncan MacLean, a commercial fisherman for four decades; Paul Johnson, a fish buyer and former chef in San Francisco; and Peggy Becket, owner of a sport fishing store in Half Moon Bay. I've met with these proud industry representatives to learn firsthand what abuse of our river water is doing to California salmon.
Salmon face many obstacles: dams, logging, development, agriculture - all factors that destroy or alter their habitat. Salmon are born in rivers. In a miracle of nature, after three years at sea, they return to their birth river, where they spawn and then die, leaving the next generation to fend for itself. But this doesn't happen when river levels are too low or excessive water diversions disrupt the natural cycle, as has occurred in recent years. The biggest hazard the Central Valley runs confront is the lack of robust spring outflows through the delta to flush baby salmon out to the ocean.
Water has long been the gold of California: Everyone is fighting for its limited supply. The good news is that scientists know how much water is needed to support healthy salmon runs. The bad news is that in years of drought, rivers and the delta are being drained by farmers and developers.
A 2009 study released by the American Sportfishing Association estimates that the shutdown of the salmon fishery cost California 23,000 jobs and $1.4 billion in economic activity. The same study projects that a full recovery of California's Central Valley chinook salmon runs can potentially provide $5.7 billion in new economic activity and 94,000 new jobs. We need those jobs!
Salmon have been around since before the ice age. We can't afford to be the generation that forces them into extinction, but we will if we continue to let rivers and the delta be drained by special interests that do not have salmon in mind.
I will be sponsoring a Salmon Summit in conjunction with Reps. Anna Eshoo, Mike Thompson, George Miller and Lynn Woolsey. I encourage the public to get involved by attending this free meeting to learn more about what is killing our salmon and what can be done to save them.
What: Learn what can be done to save the salmon
When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Mavericks Lodge and Event Center, 107 Broadway, Half Moon Bay
Rep. Jackie Speier represents San Mateo and San Francisco counties in the U.S. House of Representatives.