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California bans salmon fishing in rivers for a second year

Biologists in wetsuits use a net to capture young salmon in a river.

Due to declining salmon populations, California has canceled river fishing for a second year. Here, state biologists collect young spring-migrating Chinook salmon at Deer Creek in October.

(Peter Tira / California Department of Fish and Wildlife)

California regulators have decided to ban chinook salmon fishing in the state’s rivers for the second year in a row, in an effort to help the species recover from a significant decline in its population.

The California Fish and Game Commission’s unanimous vote Wednesday follows a similar decision last month to ban salmon fishing along the California coast this year.

The decision will end the recreational salmon fishing season along the Sacramento, American, Feather, Mokulumne, Klamath and Trinity rivers, among others.

State officials said salmon are in trouble because of factors such as the reduction in river flow during the severe drought of 2020-2022, the effects of climate changethe proliferation of harmful algae, and changes in the species’ oceanic diet.

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Fishing advocates have blamed Gov. Gavin Newsom and his administration, arguing the state is sending too much water to farms and cities and depriving rivers of the cold currents salmon need to survive.

Scott Artis, executive director of the Golden State Salmon Assn., said the root cause is “appalling water policy that greenlights unsustainable water diversions from our salmon rivers.”

Artis reiterated his group’s opposition to the state’s proposal to build the Delta Transportation Projectthat would divert water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, as well as his plan to build Site reservoir in a valley north of Sacramento. He said these projects would cause more harm to fish and argued that Newsom’s policies are “turning California’s rivers into ghost towns for salmon.”

State officials said they are prioritizing plans to help salmon populations recover. The Newsom administration announced in January a strategic plan for salmon outlining a series of expanded efforts, including restoring habitats, modernizing hatcheries and removing obstacles that block fish migration.

Charlton “Chuck” Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said in a recent interview with The Times that while the fishery is going through this difficult time, state officials are focused on actions that can “ change the trajectory. He said these efforts include restoring wetlands to create more habitat, removal of dams on the Klamath River and protect river flows and water quality to support fish.

“Hope is alive and well for salmon in California,” Bonham said. “We think they can not only hang on in the state, but thrive and get back to healthy numbers every year where people can enjoy them.”

This year marks the fourth time in state history that no salmon fishing has been allowed. The other consecutive closure took place in 2008 and 2009.

California’s rivers once teemed with salmon, but damming has prevented the fish from reaching many cold mountain streams where they once spawned. For decades, government-run hatcheries have raised and released millions of salmon each year. However, these efforts were not enough to prevent population decline.

Successive droughts and global warming have also had harmful consequences. During the 2020-22 drought, water flowing from dams sometimes became so hot that it was deadly for salmon eggs.

California’s commercial and recreational fishing industries depend on fall chinook, which migrate upstream as adults from July to December. Some fish return to hatcheries where they were released, while others spawn along tributaries of the Sacramento, San Joaquin and Klamath rivers.

Salmon is also central to the cultures of indigenous tribes, whose chiefs subsistence fishing canceled Last year.

Other salmon runs in California have declined to the point where they are at risk of extinction. Spring-run chinook are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and winter chinook salmon are in danger.

California Daily Newspapers

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