After four long years, the commercial salmon season will reopen on May 1, 2012 setting the stage for what fisherman hope will be a spectacular season. The season will stretch through September 30, with several brief breaks in between. The commercial fishing industry were predicting a huge catch following an apparently successful comeback of the prized fish.
Fishery experts said more than 1.65 million adult Chinook salmon in the ocean are ready to return to the Klamath River, one of the world’s most productive waterways. Large numbers are also expected to run up the Sacramento and American rivers, also. Fishery spokespersons say there are at least three times the number of salmon ever recorded in Pacific Ocean waters ready to spawn in the rivers of there origin.
Picture from Smithsonian.com
Well as we are rejoicing over the fact that the salmon season is reopening, it is to late for some salmon fisherman that didn’t survive the long four year closure. Pictured above is Bruce Abernathy and his son David at there salmon-boat cemetery in Fort Bragg, California, a fishing port located at Noyo Harbor between the Mooring Basin and Dolphin Cove, which is full of bleached and peeling hulls of salmon boats waiting to be dismantled. Over the years many California vessels have landed in Bruce Abernathy’s front yard, pitched at steep angles among the weeds, some still rigged with trolling poles. Eventually Abernathy’s son David takes them apart with a tractor and chain saw and sells what he can for parts.
Thirty years ago there were several thousand salmon boats in California. Most recently, as the fish became scarce, only a few hundred worked the coast. Then when salmon populations crashed in 2008, for the first time United States officials cancelled all ocean salmon fishing off California and most of Oregon, and curtailed it off Washington, a $300 million loss. Disaster relief money would be on the way, but to many second and third generation fisherman, a summer without salmon fishing felt like the end of the line.
For the better part of a century the fish supported Fort Bragg, home of the World’s Largest Salmon Barbeque, which tourists come from far and wide to taste one of the most sought after fish in the sea, the Chinook salmon also known as king salmon.
Did you know that salmon is the third most popular seafood in the United States after shrimp and canned tuna, approximately 600 million pounds are consumed annually. Most of the fresh meat is Atlantic salmon which is raised in fish farms. California fishermen bring in about 5 million pounds of Chinook meat in a good year. The Chinook salmon is the largest and perhaps the choicest variety, owing to omega-3 fatty acid content and rich flavor.
The salmon typically stay at sea for about 3 years, ranging thousands of miles in the Pacific ocean and gaining 90% of their body mass. Then they head for home, tracing the smell of minerals and organic materials to find there natal streams. This is truly a brutal journey. The salmon stop eating once they hit fresh water, and their bodies begin to deteriorate. Ready to mate males flush crimson and grow hooked jaws for fighting, while females search for gravel for a nest. Soon after laying and fertilizing eggs, the exhausted adults die. But the life cycle doesn’t stop there. The Chinook’s spawned out carcasses nourish the baby salmon, and the whole life cycle continues.