Salmon season opens, while virus threatens

Posted by Christine, April 20, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO—West coast commercial salmon fishermen are getting ready for what is expected to be their most fruitful season in years, after federal fisheries regulators this week predicted a healthy Chinook salmon run this fall for the first time since 2007.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council on Wednesday recommended that the season off the coast of California, Oregon and Washington open on May 1, and run into September.

Fisheries managers estimated 730,000 Chinook would return to the Sacramento River this fall. This run of salmon provides many of the fish caught off of California and southern Oregon, and has been plummeting in numbers in recent years.

Despite those optimisdtic predictions, north of Sacramento in Canada:

WASHINGTON — In Canada’s Fraser River, a mysterious illness has killed millions of Pacific salmon, and scientists have a new hypothesis about why: The wild salmon are suffering from viral infections similar to those linked to some forms of leukemia and lymphoma.

For 60 years before the early 1990s, an average of nearly 8 million wild salmon returned from the Pacific Ocean to the Fraser River each year to spawn.

Now the salmon industry is in a state of collapse, with mortality rates ranging from 40 percent to 95 percent.

The salmon run has been highly variable: The worst year came in 2009, with 1.5 million salmon, followed by the best year in 2010, with 30 million salmon. But the overall trend is downward.