California's native salmon struggling after 5 years of drought
The sleek, flapping salmon that fishermen hauled aboard the rolling Salty Lady charter boat near the Golden Gate Bridge were the survivors of the survivors.
After five years of drought, the native Chinook salmon that the men were reeling in this past week were there only because state and federal agencies have stepped in to do much of the salmon-raising that California’s overtapped rivers once did. Most of the fish were born at the agencies’ hatcheries and carried in trucks for release downstream.
As the men watched and waited for one of their fishing poles to dip sharply, Victor Gonella, president of the Golden Gate Salmon Association, remembered his childhood in the 1950s and 1960s when the salmon population was healthy enough that he could fish most months.
With the drought bringing one of the driest periods in California’s history, federal and state authorities increasingly have had to intervene mechanically to carry out key stretches of the life cycle of salmon, whose numbers were already declining.
In 2014 and 2015, authorities reared millions of young salmon in artificial hatcheries and trucked them downstream to keep the fishing industry’s mainstay supply of fall-run Chinook salmon afloat