A Day on The Bay-FishWise Goes Fishing
Yesterday, the FishWise team chartered the 60 foot Stagnaro Sportfishing vessel Velocity for a day of fishing on the Monterey Bay. Leaving the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor at sunrise, we cruised out into deeper water hoping to locate schools of Chinook (King) Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) feeding on krill or baitfish. We fished throughout the morning and early afternoon at locations ranging from the North Coast all the way down to the deep canyons of the Soquel Hole. Despite the best efforts of our Captain, we failed to land any fish — although several bites were had! Not all was lost, though, as we were treated to spectacular up-close viewings of migratory Humpback whales, as well as porpoises and dolphins. All of the time spent fishing (but not catching) gave us time to think about the conservation of one of California’s most revered fish species.
Understanding the reproductive biology of Salmonids is an important part of their conservation and management. Unlike many other commercially fished species that carry out their entire life cycle in a marine environment, mitigation of factors affecting Salmonid populations requires attention to issues facing both marine and riparian areas. Chinook Salmon are anadromous fishes, meaning that they are hatched in freshwater streams and make their way downstream to the ocean anywhere from several months to years later. After a period of 1 to 6 years at sea (varying by the individual salmon), they prepare for their one-time return to their freshwater location of origin. Once spawning has occurred and the eggs have been deposited in the bed of the stream, the salmon die. As a result, the combination of recreational and commercial fishing pressure in concert with reduction in habitat and water quality inland can have disastrous effects on the breeding population.
2012 marks the second consecutive Salmon sport fishing season in California since a closure in 2008. In 2008 and 2009, counts of returning individuals to spawn in California’s Central Valley were the lowest in the Department of Fish and Game’s recorded history. From 2002 to 2008 the number of fish returning to spawn dropped from 880,000 to only 66,000. The California salmon industry was hit hard by the closures, suffering an estimated 279 million dollars in economic losses and costing thousands of jobs statewide. Fortunately, populations have begun to show some growth through appropriate management of the fishery, hatchery restocking efforts, habitat conservation, and the construction of fish ladders in dammed areas upstream. Current data indicates that there are close to 820,000 fish returning to the Central Valley – Sacramento area and an additional 1.65 million to the Klamath river system!
Recreational anglers and commercial fisherman alike are excited at the chance to catch these elusive and delicious fish, and consumers are now able to find a more sustainable pole and troll caught salmon in our local markets. Monterey Bay Seafood Watch ranks California pole-caught salmon a “yellow”, or a good alternative to commercially farmed salmon.