The start of the King Salmon season starts May 1, and we should all be grateful because it almost didn’t happen. Again.
Looking back a few years, the size of California’s King Salmon population had been declining for years, and finally got to the point where the commercial fishing season was cancelled for 2008 and 2009. The Pacific Fishery Management Council, one of eight regional fishery management councils that govern fisheries in the US, made the difficult call after evaluating the sharp decline in numbers of salmon returning to the Central Valley to spawn.
Part of the problem could be traced back to the deterioration of spawning grounds where the salmon originally were hatched. This is also the destination where the returning salmon complete their life cycle and lay their eggs before dying. [Read more about salmon life cycle at thinksalmon.com]
Salmon spawning grounds have deteriorated or disappeared due to dams and groundwater runoff caused by logging, agricultural, housing and other man-made events. Couple this with increased demand for salmon and it’s easy to see why the King Salmon is in such short supply today.
The Long and Winding Road for Salmon
California’s salmon industry is a $1.4 billion enterprise. Efforts to revive the critically dwindling population needed to involve everyone from state and federal governments, environmentalists, the fishing industry and legions of salmon lovers everywhere, including the Coleman Fish Hatchery near Redding, CA.
Operated by the US Fish and Wildlife Department, the Coleman National Fish Hatchery sits along Battle Creek, one of the tributaries to the Sacramento River. This particular hatchery’s focus is on optimizing the fertilization rate of the salmon that spawn in this area. Normally the “smolts” (baby salmon) are released directly into Battle Creek. However, the ongoing drought has lowered water levels to the point that safe passage was even more perilous than usual. An elaborate plan was devised to ensure the smolts made it to the Delta, east of San Francisco Bay using special trucks to transport the fish to the Delta. Smolts are released in a series of waves, or “pulses.” From there the three inch smolts will make their way through the Golden Gate and into the Pacific where they will spend their days feasting on krill and other rich organic matter until it’s time to return to Battle Creek to start the cycle over again.
Support Sustainable Fishing Practices
The commercial season for King Salmon in California begins May 1. You can get your salmon hot off the boat from H & H Fresh Fish Company at the Aptos and MPC farmers markets. If you don’t want to wait that long, head down to the Santa Cruz harbor where H & H owner, Hans Haveman, is the designated buyer in the harbor for all commercial boats selling their catch. “We want people to experience what boat to table fish really tastes like,” Haveman said. “Come see us for the highest quality salmon you can get anywhere in California.” H & H Fresh Fish Company is located at 493 Lake Avenue, Santa Cruz, just below Johnny’s restaurant at the harbor.
It’s important to support local fishermen whose livelihoods are dependent on a strong salmon season. Making a commitment to source environmentally responsible salmon is not only an important action to drive positive environmental change, it will help to ensure we can continue to enjoy this exceptional fish for years to come.
Find out which fish are On the Hook each week at the farmers markets!
Important Fishing Issues to Consider – Courtesy of The Monterey Bay Aquarium