The salmon fishery
faces an uncertain future, as do we all. Apart from changes in ocean
regime and climate which are beyond human control, many human factors
must be considered: the attitudes of regulatory agencies toward
the fishery, the interest and perseverance of those who would protect
the resource, and most important, the fundamental attitudes of society
towards natural resources and the way we use them.
climate for ocean salmon fisheries may be stabilizing. With
the commercial fishery concentrated below Pt. Arena and apparently
successfully targeting Sacramento fall-run chinook while avoiding
Klamath fall run, coastal fall chinook, winter run, and coho, the
regulatory agencies may be content to leave this remnant fishery
more or less alone while monitoring it closely.
Basin and smaller coastal streams occasionally produce an outstanding
run of naturally-spawned chinook or coho salmon, giving reason to
hope that, with good rainfall and ocean conditions, our rivers are
not yet totally ruined for salmon and may be restorable.
With over 33
million people living in California, it’s pretty remarkable that
we have the best salmon fisheries remaining south of Alaska. It’s
even more amazing considering that most of the salmon supplying
those fisheries pass through the middle of one the nation’s largest
urban areas. But if we had to rely on naturally produced fish alone,
we would have tiny token fisheries at best – in spite of all the
work supported by the Stamp Committee and the hundreds of millions
of other state and federal dollars that have been invested in salmon
recovery. Since few if any salmon fishermen, let alone biologists,
think hatcheries are the long-term answer for all river systems
or for the future survival of salmon, it’s clear that a whole lot
of work remains to be done.
that many of the long-term reforms in water management policy they
have fought for would be achieved with passage of the Central Valley
Project Improvement Act, through the Calfed process, and under the
Endangered Species Act, especially with the listing of winter-run
salmon. Indeed, much of the public money invested in salmon recovery
in the Central Valley appears to have been well-spent. Winter run
and spring run spawning numbers have been increasing steadily and
sometimes dramatically in recent years. Attitudes towards salmon
in the Central Valley have changed for the better. Who
would have thought we’d see the water contractors and Metropolitan
Water District joining fishermen to open up habitat in Battle Creek
and other streams for winter- and spring-run chinook?
But we are just
embarking on a long and difficult political and social voyage. If
salmon, and salmon fishermen, are to have a future in California,
we must continue to struggle along the path that Nat Bingham first
among many others has shown us. Great perseverance will be required,
and nothing worthwhile will be achieved without effort.
fishery faces a totally uncertain future, the commitment of the
salmon fishing industry and the Stamp Program to restore California’s
magnificent salmon resources remains firm.
“We can bring back the salmon and with your help we will.” (Nat
Bingham, Commercial Salmon Stamp Committee chairman, speaking to
President Clinton, April 1993.)