San Francisco, CA – [On March 3] state and federal officials forecast there are 396,458 adult Sacramento Valley salmon in the ocean off the West Coast. This compares to 271,000 forecast last year at this time. After fishing and spawning, the 2021 number was recalculated to be 322,137.
This year’s forecast suggests slightly better fishing prospects in 2022 except for concerns over low Klamath stocks. The low number of Klamath River salmon will likely lead to constraints on both commercial and sport ocean fishing this year, especially in north state coastal waters. In the month ahead, officials with the Pacific Fisheries Management Council will use this forecast and other information to set times and areas open to both sport and commercial ocean salmon fishing for 2022.
“We are hoping for a decent salmon fishing season this year, and there’s some reason for optimism, but there are several variables yet to be dealt with,” said GSSA president John McManus.
The number of adult salmon that returned to the Sacramento Valley to spawn in 2021 fell short of the targeted 122,000. Instead, just over 104,000 spawning adult salmon were counted. More fish actually returned but died of heat related causes prior to spawning due to low, warm, water conditions connected to drought and water management decisions. The inland sport fishery continued to be poor in 2021.
The National Marine Fisheries Service says it will advise that this year’s fishing seasons be structured so the number of salmon that evade fishermen and spawn is closer to the top end of the escapement target, which is 180,000 fish.
Although the 2022 forecasts will allow a fishery, the entire Central Valley is still deep in drought which has greatly reduced survival of natural spawning salmon there.
State efforts in recent years to increase survival of its hatchery salmon through innovative release techniques have greatly aided the ocean fishery, a point illustrated by the data released. Hatchery born salmon supplied 64 percent of the salmon caught in the ocean sport fishery and 48 percent of those caught in the commercial fishery in 2021.
“What’s needed is a few years of good returns and some water to help rebuild the natural spawning stocks,” said McManus. “GSSA is working overtime to get more river flows for salmon, coupled with habitat and hatchery improvements.”
Drought and over-diversion of the Central Valley rivers in years with less rainfall is a major reason for declines in the salmon population. The State Water Resources Control Board is tasked with rebalancing how water is shared in the Central Valley but has failed to adequately protect salmon. GSSA is working through the courts and state and federal governments to address the problems facing salmon communities and the fish they depend on.
The Golden State Salmon Association (www.goldenstatesalmon.org) is a coalition of salmon advocates that includes commercial and recreational salmon fishermen and women, businesses, restaurants, a native tribe, environmentalists, elected officials, families and communities that rely on salmon. GSSA’s mission is to restore California salmon for their economic, recreational, commercial, environmental, cultural and health values.
Currently, California’s salmon industry is valued at $1.4 billion in economic activity and 23,000 jobs annually in a normal season and about half that much in economic activity and jobs again in Oregon. Industry workers benefiting from Central Valley salmon stretch from Santa Barbara to northern Oregon. This includes commercial fishermen and women, recreational fishermen and women (fresh and salt water), fish processors, marinas, coastal communities, equipment manufacturers, the hotel and food industry, tribes, and others.