California Salmon Dodge Drought Bullet for Another Year

By Russ Parsons | Los Angeles Times | March 3, 2015

Populations of 2-year-old California salmon are healthy; next year may be a different story.

Apparently the California salmon has dodged the drought bullet for another year: The annual forecast for the fishery predicts that the population this year will be slightly bigger than last.

The initial results of the 2015 National Marine Fisheries Service survey forecasts an adult ocean population of California salmon that’s about 2.7% higher than last year.

That translates to about 650,000 fish — up from about 630,000 last year but substantially less than 2013 total of more than 800,000. Still, that’s far healthier than 2008 and 2009, when the fishery was closed completely.

The most recent figures are much better than many observers had predicted, given the devastating four-year drought the state is still enduring. With reduced water flow in the Sacramento River, some observers had feared a collapse in the population of young salmon heading out to sea.

There’s a pretty good chance well see that in the future, maybe as early as next year, says Michael O’Farrell, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research fisheries biologist specializing in salmon.

But we make abundance forecasts based on 2-year-old fish, and while California was certainly dry two years ago, it certainly wasn’t like it is now.

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