What Caused the Hole in the Local Salmon Population?

Categories: Talking Points
California_Salmon_Smolt.jpg
University of California, Davis
Baby Coho salmon: worth protecting.
In the latest episode of their new science podcast, Field Trip, local journalists Kara Platoni and Eric Simons set out to ask the question: Why exactly are all the fish in the ocean disappearing, and how do we measure how quickly the dieoff is happening? Among the people they interview in their 30-minute program is Berkeley fisherman Mike Hudson, who docks in the Berkeley Marina. Thanks to a sudden, steep drop in the local salmon population that appeared several years ago, Hudson's annual time out on the boat dropped from five months of 80-hour weeks a year to nine days. Some days, he can't recoup his fuel costs.

Why did the salmon disappear so suddenly? The answer isn't just "We ate them all," it turns out -- rather, it has much more with the impact of commercial agriculture on rivers, which prevented a generation of baby salmon from making it back to the ocean after their parents labored so hard to swim upstream to lay eggs. Overpumping, fertilizer runoff, climate change -- all these factors have come together to kill off our local salmon populations. And so the solution, it appears, is going to be just as complex as the problem.

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