Perspective: Salmon Recovery Solution

Perspective: Solution to West Coast salmon decline

BY MIKE MCHENRY/Pres., Ca. Barging & RestorationPublished: Apr 10, 2019

My qualifications for introducing these solutions are as follows: A lifetime (57 Years) of fishing salmon from Newport Beach, Ca. to Astoria, Ore. — Six years barging over one-million smolt salmon from Sacramento and Lodi to the safety of the Golden Gate Bridge release site.

In this way, overall success was astounding, proving predation and water diversion are the two main factors decimating outgoing smolt salmon (i.e., results are few fish make it to the ocean, hence there are no fish to return).


Therefore, after working with the California Salmon Stamp Program, Half Moon Bay Coastsiders, and East Bay Municipal Utility District’s outstanding Mokelumne Hatchery crew, and Ca. Department of Fish & Wildlife, I have concluded hard but necessary changes are imperative to San Joaquin/Sacramento River salmon recovery.

Below are the 12 necessary changes that myself and several other longtime salmon fishermen, (who’ve lived it), have agreed upon would lead to the recovery of a once incredibly productive industry of bringing quality food to the public: Wild Caught Salmon.

1. All salmon returning under the Golden Gate Bridge are San Joaquin/Sacramento Salmon welcome to return and spawn anywhere.

2. CA Department of Fish & Wildlife do away with Winter Run listing as endangered species, which stifles all other hatchery efforts, moreover severely impeding salmon fisheries in California.

3. Do away with all straying protocol, as there were never any studies done before dams.

4. Currently, there is not one hatchery on the main stem of the Sacramento River. Build at least three or four one-million-egg hatcheries to mollify Shasta Dam’s devastation of over 186 miles of prime salmon spawning grounds. Mitigation of this loss was guaranteed in the Shasta Dam Mitigation Agreement of 1940-41 with the US Bureau of Reclamation and never honored. Water is sold for gold: water buyers must pay a small hatchery tax in order to contribute to the building or these new hatcheries.

5. Truck and barge at least 50% of the smolts from Coleman, Feather, Mokelumne and Nimbus hatcheries’ protection to Fort Baker (Under Golden Gate Bridge).

6. Discard biologists’ ideas that hatchery fish are inferior. Stock was taken from wild fish original gene pool and is therefore the same. They have adapted, and will adapt back to nearly any situation they face today.

7. Limit all major pumping from river(s) to before bulk of smolt salmon downriver journey to the ocean in April and May.

8. Develop more water storage by expediting projects now on the table.

9. Seek highly qualified workforce to maintain hatchery operations (higher salaries for quality of work), as well as stipulation of termination for dereliction of job.

10. Upon collection of ocean and alltag information (river, hatcheries, and carcasses) without delay consolidate, log, and publish to quickly identify which releases are most successful and why. Years later defeats the purpose of tagging and does little good, especially for hatcheries setting up for the following cycle.

11. Designate a special salmon troller to sample juveniles and adult tags at sea to learn distribution of all stages of salmon on West Coast.

12. The Columbia River system ought to adopt this same protocol, perhaps return to levels of 1960s and ‘70s hatchery production of Coho Salmon. Toutle and Cowlitz River (Columbia River tributaries) hatcheries were responsible for millions of south-leaning Coho. These runs of Columbia River Coho carried Oregon and California salmon fisheries, filling in gaps when Chinook stocks were lean. They are all completely gone now.

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