Yuba Net –
Less than 4,000 salmon spawned in the Yuba River in 2016 according to a Monitoring Update from the Yuba Accord River Management Team. Such low numbers have not been seen since the California Salmon Stock Collapse of 2007 and 2008 when the estimated total for the Yuba River was 2,604 and 3,508 salmon, respectively. Over the last 30 years, the average annual estimate exceeds 15,000 salmon, with occasional runs above 30,000. No surveys precede the construction of Englebright Dam in 1941, which blocks access to historic spawning habitat in the watershed. However, fisheries historians have estimated that the salmon run in the Yuba River watershed originally comprised up to 15% of the historical abundance of Central Valley Chinook, or roughly 100,000 salmon.
The low salmon run size for the Yuba River appears to be part of another regional salmon collapse. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife point to preliminary data from the Sacramento River that indicates salmon runs have also dropped to record low levels. According to Dan Bacher’s reporting, last year’s salmon run on the Klamath River was a 38-year low, and estimates for the Sacramento River basin in 2016 suggest the need for fishing restrictions that would have a devastating impact on an already beleaguered salmon fishing industry. Salmon live a 3-4-year life cycle, and we are likely seeing just the beginning of a period of low returns resulting from five years of drought
Gary Reedy, SYRCL’s consulting salmon expert reports that “A new crash for the Central Valley Chinook salmon is not unexpected.” “Efforts to restore salmon habitat have been small compared to the ongoing impacts of water diversions, dams, invasive species and hatcheries. We need to really step up restoration efforts or else we are going to lose one of the most valuable components our watershed ecosystems and our natural heritage.”