Salmon Scare

Environmentalists are claiming, in this Sacramento Bee article, the imminent extinction of salmon due to dams and other important water policies allowing deserts to bloom, cities to grow and suburbs to prosper; while conveniently forgetting that hatcheries can produce all the salmon we need.

Responding to the claim that hatchery fish are inferior to wild fish, the memorable comment by Congressman Tom McClintock at a conference rings true, (paraphrasing): “The only difference between wild salmon and hatchery salmon is the same difference between a human baby born in a hospital or born at home.”

An excerpt from the Bee article.

Researchers have issued a dire warning for California’s native trout and salmon: Three-quarters of them will be extinct in the next 100 years unless urgent action is taken.

This bleak assessment came Tuesday from biologists at the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences and from California Trout, a nonprofit advocacy group. In a new report, the groups said nearly 75 percent of California’s 31 salmon, trout and steelhead will be extinct by 2117 unless critical habitat is protected and restored.

The report follows up on the groups’ 2008 assessment that established a baseline level of health for each type of native fish. The researchers said that almost all of the fish are worse off than they were a decade ago. California’s record-breaking drought that officially ended this winter wreaked havoc on many of the already-struggling fish, which depend on cold water.

The researchers warned that warming waters from climate change only will exacerbate problems that already exist. Dams, for example, often block fish migrating to cold-water spawning grounds. Humans have transformed many of California’s river channels and estuaries into what are basically large, engineered drainage ditches – used for shipping, water supply and flood control. These waterways bear little resemblance to natural river systems that shrink and swell with the seasons, creating flood-plain habitat rich in food and sheltered areas critical to young fish.

To save the species, the report stated, regulators need to focus on the protection of rivers least altered by humans, such as the Smith and Eel rivers on the North Coast. Researchers said other needed efforts include protecting rivers’ cold headwaters, creating better groundwater management, removing problem dams or building fish passageways around them, and using altered landscapes such as flooded rice fields to mimic natural floodplains.

The good news is that many of those changes already are happening, said Curtis Knight, Cal Trout’s executive director.

He pointed to ongoing efforts to get fish around a dam blocking Battle Creek, a key cold-water tributary of the Sacramento River, and the pending removal of four huge hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River. There also are promising partnerships among Sacramento Valley rice farmers, state water managers and biologists to create habitat in and around the engineered Yolo Bypass floodplain west of Sacramento.

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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