California Salmon – Issue History

Salmon in the Central Valley are entwined in a battle over water.

chinooksalmonUPDATE 3/2/16: In response to the ongoing drought in California, Sen. Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced yet another bill that could potentially wipe out salmon fisheries in California and part of Oregon and Washington. Not unlike previous versions, S. 2533 – the California Long-Term Provisions for Water Supply and Short-Term Provisions for Emergency Drought Relief Act – would harm numerous sportfish and other species by side-stepping state and federal environmental protections and permitting the maximum amount of water be pumped out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to other parts of the state. This bill falls short on its promise to find fair and balanced solutions between safeguarding natural resources, such as Chinook salmon, and delivering water to farms and families. If passed, California’s multi-billion dollar salmon economy and tens of thousands of fisheries jobs will be put at risk.

UPDATE 11/11/15: On June 25, Congressman Valadao (R-Calif.) introduced HR 2898 the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015. HR 2898 would weaken protections for salmon in favor of industrial agriculture. In doing so, it ignores the social, economic, and ecological benefits of the salmon fishery to the surrounding communities if the San-Joaquin River delta was restored and water allocations were sustainably and equitably managed.

On July 29, Sens. Feinstein and Boxer (D-Calif.) introduced separate legislation – S. 1894 – to address the issues arising from the ongoing drought in California. This bill offers some innovative solutions to deal with drought, and would have positive impacts on salmon. However, it would also create a program to eradicate “non-native predators” like striped bass, which the fishing community should not support.

UPDATE 04/22/15: On April 17, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife approved emergency regulations that will take effect on April 27 to protect winter-run Chinook salmon. The two-pronged measures temporarily close 5.5 miles of spawning habitat in the upper Sacramento River and reduce the allowable ocean harvest for sport and commercial fisheries. The Pacific Management Fishery Council adopted equivalent protections in federal waters for saltwater salmon fishing.

In early 2014, the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives passed respective pieces of legislation aimed at pumping more water from the San Francisco Bay Delta. Both bills contained provisions that were severely detrimental to the salmon fisheries of California and Oregon. Because of your action and the actions of thousands of other like-minded Californians, Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) postponed attempts to pass a California water bill in the previous session of Congress.

While we won the last round, given California’s serious water problems, this issue is sure come up again in 2015.

GGSA_salmon_dataKeepAmericaFishing and other fishery and conservation organizations were opposed to these bills.  By waiving the Endangered Species Act provisions that safeguard fish within the Delta, the bills upset the balance of water allocation, giving more to large and politically connected agribusinesses – all at the expense of the salmon. If similar legislation remerges in Congress, salmon fishing in California will become a thing of the past, but this doesn’t have to be.

The salmon of the Central Valley of California contribute $1.4 billion to the California economy and support 35,000 jobs in California and Oregon. Central Valley salmon account for 90% of all of California’s production and almost 60% of Oregon’s ocean catch off most of the coast.

While the drought in California warrants action, it should not come at the expense of salmon and the communities and fishermen that depend on them. The worst parts of this bill would completely destroy the Central Valley salmon populations by removing the protections for salmon in the Delta and river systems.

 

 

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