Earlier this week, I toured the San Joaquin River, where NRDC is working together with farmers, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other agencies to restore the river and its once-mighty salmon fishery. As the Fresno Bee wrote today, this year, for the first time in decades, the river is connected to the Bay-Delta and to the ocean during the summer months.
It’s incredible to see water flowing in stretches of the river that were bone dry for years, and to see the river coming back to life: willows and other riparian vegetation growing on the banks, birds flying overhead, and trout swimming in the cold water. In only a few years, salmon will be returned to the river, with the goal of having self-sustaining populations of as many as 25,000 fish returning each year. I took the photo below on August 18th.
Many Californians don’t realize that the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley is home to the second largest salmon run on the West Coast (excluding Alaska), or that more unique runs of Chinook salmon spawn here than any other river system. For generations, hundreds of thousands of salmon – and in many years, more than a million salmon – returned each year to spawn in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, supporting a vibrant fishing industry along the coast, and salmon canneries across the Valley and the State. Unfortunately, over the years the salmon runs have declined in the Central Valley, with the salmon fishery in California closed in 2008 and 2009, and only an 8 day commercial fishery in 2010.
But salmon are resilient fish, and sport and commercial fishermen, Tribes, chefs and other small businesses, conservation groups, farmers, and many others are working together to restore salmon in California and across the Pacific Coast.
SalmonAid (www.salmonaid.org) is a celebration of our shared salmon heritage, and it helps support those who are working to restore our rivers, our salmon, and our fishing jobs. The SalmonAid Foundation is hosting Salmon Month at Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco, including the Go Wild Gala on September 1. Throughout September, SalmonAid is hosting events in San Francisco featuring great food, great beer and wine, and the great company of fishermen, Tribes, and other experts on restoring salmon. Many of SalmonAid’s members (including NRDC) have helped to support the restoration of the San Joaquin River (check out the photo below of flows being released into the San Joaquin River last year).
If you care about salmon, come join in the fun!