Last year, the delta smelt, a tiny fish that few people had ever heard of, grabbed headlines. The endangered fish’s population decline forced court-ordered reductions in drinking water exports to San Diego from a major source: the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
This year, another fish found in the delta is grabbing headlines. This time, it’s more well-known: the Chinook salmon.
The causes of the salmon’s population decline are more complicated than the smelt’s. The salmon spends much of its life outside the delta in the Pacific Ocean. But its population has crashed, and federal fisheries regulators are deciding today whether to ban all salmon fishing this summer — from the Mexico border to the Canadian border.
The decline could further affect water exports from the delta to Southern California, as environmental groups have lawsuits pending to compel the state and federal government to consider the effect that exports have on the salmon.
But beyond that, the cancellation of the salmon fishing season is expected to reverberate throughout the Pacific coast. NPR’s David Gorn provided one of the most comprehensive examinations of those ramifications that I’ve heard in a piece that aired this morning. Looking at the business impacts, he points out that wild-caught king salmon could hit $30 per pound in grocery stores this summer, while a ban would cut tourism dollars spent on party boats and recreational fishing trips.