We’re killing off our Pacific salmon population at an alarming rate and the situation is getting worse. This year there will probably be no salmon fishing season. If we keep going the way we’re going, I predict that the Pacific salmon will be completely extinct within our lifetimes, maybe sooner. We have to do everything we can to save this beautiful fish.
Salmon live most of their lives in the ocean but they are born and die in rivers and streams. Many West Coast rivers and streams have been seriously damaged by development. Dams block access to freshwater spawning habitat. More importantly, dams block young salmon when they try to leave the rivers of their birth and swim to the sea. Water diversions suck young salmon into pumps from which there is no escape.
Unchecked logging and cattle grazing along rivers and streams has destroyed many miles of freshwater habitat needed by salmon. Logging causes dirt to wash off logged hillsides and into salmon streams that buries the small gravel needed by salmon for their nests, or redds. Stream banks where cattle regularly feed often erode into salmon streams and bury the gravels beds.
Scientists estimate nearly 1400 genetically-isolated Pacific salmon populations once spawned from California to southern British Columbia. Due to dam building and other alterations of lakes and rivers, 406 or 29% of the salmon populations have become extinct in the last 240 years.
The winter-run Chinook salmon originating in California's Sacramento River were listed as threatened in 1990, but was reclassified to endangered in 1994. In 1992, the Snake River stock of sockeye salmon was listed as endangered wherever found. The spring-summer and fall runs of Chinook originating in Idaho's Snake River were listed as threatened in 1992. Others are being considered for listing, including the Columbia River (Washington) Chinook and Oregon Coast Coho salmon.
A 1991 report by the American Fisheries Society indicated that 214 of about 400 stocks of salmon, steelhead, and sea-run cutthroat trout in the Northwest and California are at risk of extinction. The report also indicated that 106 are already extinct.
The SalmonAid Festival will celebrate wild salmon and steelhead with a free, family-friendly, music festival in Oakland's famed Jack London Square on May 31 and June 1, 2008. Organized by the largest ever coalition of West Coast salmon advocates (including commercial, recreational and tribal fishermen, conservation organizations, chefs, restaurants, scientists, and many others), SalmonAid will raise awareness of the plight of west coast salmon populations, the rivers and streams they spawn in, and the many coastal and inland communities that rely on salmon for their livelihoods and survival. The festival will feature educational booths, activities and foods highlighting the natural history of salmon, as well as the history, culture and traditions of salmon towns and the peoples connected through our west coast salmon heritage - from Morro Bay, California to Bellingham, Washington, and inland to Idaho and Nevada.
By uniting commercial, tribal, and sport fishing interests with conservation organizations, chefs and restaurant owners, and the American consumer to celebrate and restore our wild salmon and healthy, free-flowing rivers, SalmonAid will inform the public about the historic, cultural, economic, dietary, and environmental benefits of healthy wild salmon populations and the threats to their continued existence. SalmonAid celebrates wild Pacific salmon as a valuable cultural resource for all Americans, an important economic resource for west Coast fishing communities, an exciting recreational fishing experience, a nutritious food source, and a vital ecological link between our freshwater and marine ecosystems. In addition, SalmonAid will raise funds to support education and habitat restoration efforts directed at re-establishing abundant wild, native Pacific salmon populations in Pacific coast watersheds.
(Portions of this article courtesy of www.salmonaid.org)