And up in the Columbia River Basin, an area the size of central Europe, annual salmon runs that once reached an estimated 16 million fish now total fewer than 1 million. Thirteen evolutionary-specific salmon populations are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act there. US District Judge James Redden has rejected plan after plan for Columbia Basin salmon recovery put forth by federal agencies, and he threatens to order stricter measures for dam operations as he waits for yet another recovery plan due next month.
Regarding the recent news about the Sacramento River salmon fishery closure, Zeke Grader puts it starkly:
"It's going to be devastating," says Mr. Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations in San Francisco. "We're going to be asking for federal assistance and looking for alternatives to keep our fishermen afloat for the next year or two until we get a chance to fix salmon problems."
The economic impact of the California and Oregon coastal commercial and sport salmon fishery varies. According to the Pacific Fishery Management Council, it averaged $103 million per year between 1979 and 2004, then dropped to $61 million in recent years due to declining fish runs. Many commercial fishermen can get income from other seafood species, but the number of commercially licensed fishing boats along the West Coast has declined in recent decades from the thousands to the hundreds.