(NaturalNews) The National Marine Fishery Service has ordered a ban on all salmon fishing along the west coast of the lower 48 United States due to an unprecedented collapse of wild salmon stocks.
The decision was initially recommended by the Pacific Fishery Management Service in response to the collapse of the Sacramento River's Chinook salmon run. While hundreds of thousands of the fish typically swim up the Sacramento River and its tributaries to spawn each year, fewer than 60,000 are expected this year.
"This is far below what is needed to sustain the population," said Jim Balsiger, acting assistant administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association's Fisheries Service, "and we have decided to shut down the commercial salmon fishery for all of California and most of Oregon to aid their recovery. It's a tough decision, but the condition of the salmon fishery forces us to close most of it down to ensure healthy runs of this valuable fish in the future."
The recreational fishing season was set to begin on April 5 and the commercial season normally runs from May 1 to Oct. 31. Both have now been canceled.
Due to the closure's anticipated effects on commercial salmon fishers, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared state of emergency, while U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez declared a commercial fishery disaster. These declarations are expected to clear the way for millions in federal aid to affected businesses and individuals.
Salmon begin their lives in fresh water, then swim downstream to spend their adult lives in the ocean, before returning to their birth grounds to spawn and die. The current fishery collapse is believed to have originated a few years ago, when adult salmon entered the ocean off the coast of Oregon during a time of poor conditions and scarce food - a situation that still continues and may be due to global warming. But salmon populations had already been drastically reduced by water diversion for agriculture and dams blocking their river migration routes, both of which reduce the number of fish that are able to breed each year.