In recognition of the seriousness of a decline that is likely to shut down the salmon fishery for the second year in a row, the California State Assembly’s Committee on Water, Parks & Wildlife held an informational hearing on California’s Salmon Crisis last week.
California’s anadromous salmon and steelhead fisheries face a number of serious challenges. Degraded water quality, dysfunctional management of the Delta, insufficient instream flow, poor ocean conditions, and degraded inland habitat all conspire to drive these iconic fish towards extinction.
“There are a myriad of problems facing salmon, but what has to be done before anything else, and above all else – is restoring water flows in the Delta and our coastal streams,” said Zeke Grader of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, which represents commercial fishing men and women. “It’s critical the state not get lost in the weeds trying to restore salmon; water flow and water quality are at the foundation of rebuilding our salmon fishery. Fish gotta swim.”
WORKING TOWARD SOLUTIONS
One timely opportunity raised at the Assembly Water Parks and Wildlife hearing was the chance to improve the salmon protection rules currently being revised by the state’s Board of Forestry and Fire Protection. Under current logging rules, critical stream habitat in forested areas where many salmon live and reproduce can be degraded by poor logging practices.
“For over a decade, state and federal agencies have been calling for changes to the state’s logging rules to stop habitat destruction,” noted Sierra Club California’s Deputy Director, Paul Mason. “As salmon drift closer to extinction, it’s time for the Board of Forestry to stop stalling and make these changes when they revise the rules this summer.”
In addition to improvements in habitat and water quality, improvements in California’s water management and aggressive development of locally based water supplies are an important way to alleviate pressure on our imperiled salmon.
As Mindy McIntyre of the Planning and Conservation League explains:
“We can save our California salmon by being more reasonable and innovative with our water use. Certainly salmon are more integrally a part of California than our lawns, and we shouldn’t be sacrificing California’s salmon legacy when we can be smarter about water use. The salmon decline is a call to action to quickly develop recycled water, increase water use efficiency, and clean up streams and waterways.”
Traci Sheehan is the Executive Director of the Planning and Conservation League, a statewide, nonprofit lobbying organization. For more than thirty years, PCL has fought to develop a body of environmental laws in California that is the best in the United States. PCL staff review virtually every environmental bill that comes before the California Legislature each year. It has testified in support or opposition of thousands of bills to strengthen California’s environmental laws and fight off rollbacks of environmental protections.