Wednesday January 30, 2008

Modesto Bee

January 30, 2008

By Mike Mooney

A dramatic decline in the number of chinook salmon returning to spawn in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, and elsewhere in California, could lead to severe fishing restrictions.

As of Tuesday, only 1,100 chinook, also known as king salmon, had been counted on the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers.

That’s about an 80 percent drop from the previous year, when about 5,800 returning salmon were reported in the three rivers.

Last fall, Doug Demko of FishBIO, a consulting firm with offices in Oakdale and Chico, told The Bee that salmon numbers were in decline throughout the West.

Why? Demko and other experts believe changing climate conditions, including warmer water temperatures in the northern Pacific Ocean, could be behind the dramatic decline.

Salmon thrive in colder water.

For years, conventional wisdom in the Northern San Joaquin Valley has been that more water flowing through rivers during the spring would lead to larger numbers of salmon returning to spawn in the fall.

MID officials have speculated that a host of problems could be making life difficult for the fish, including predatory striped bass, declining water quality, warmer water temperatures and delta pumping.

It’s only the second time in 35 years that the Central Valley has not met the agency’s conservation goal of 122,000 to 180,000 returning fish, according to the council, which regulates Pacific Coast fisheries.

More worrisome is that only about 2,000 2-year-old juvenile chinooks — used to predict returns of adult spawners in the coming season — returned to the Central Valley last year, by far the lowest number ever counted. On average, about 40,000 juveniles, or “jacks,” return each year.

Read more here: http://www.modbee.com/news/local/article3100644.html#storylink=cpy

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