During the last few weeks as portions of J and K pod (strangely split up into unusual associations) have traveled around Puget Sound, I’ve been wondering where L pod (not the L12s) has been since they were last sighted with a newborn on December 6. An sfgate.com article on Sacramento chinook salmon returns offers a hopeful hint that L pod may be foraging along the west coast and encountering a few more CA chinook than last year. The article also suggests that next fall may bring even better returns (possibly as much as 3x this year’s return of 163,000 (which would be about half of the 2002 peak of 770,000).
It’s interesting to think about what portion of the fish the SRKWs catch along the west coast during the winter months are from CA, versus Oregon rivers, the Columbia, WA rivers, or BC rivers. Could it be that the CA salmon are important to SRKWs in proportion to their role in local fisheries: making up 90% of salmon catch in CA and 60% in OR?
A few excerpts:
The California Department of Fish and Game recorded 163,181 chinook in the river system during the annual count this past fall. That’s the best return in the once-thriving Central Valley system since 2006, but it is still below federal predictions and well below the historic average.
In 2009, only 39,500 fall-run chinook returned to spawn, the worst showing on record.
“Yes, 163,000 is better than 39,000, but that’s all that returned after an extremely limited fishing season,” said Larry Collins, president of the newly formed San Francisco Community Fishing Association and a longtime fisheries advocate. The salmon run “is a shadow of its former self.”
The Central Valley run in September and October has for decades been the backbone of the West Coast fishing industry. The local salmon, also known as king salmon, have traditionally made up 90 percent of the salmon caught in California and 60 percent of the chinook harvested in Oregon.
At its peak in 2002, 769,868 fish spawned in the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and their tributaries. The Central Valley chinook pass through San Francisco Bay and roam the Pacific Ocean as far away as Alaska before returning three years later to spawn where they were hatched.