Monday, February 8, 2010

Fish Stix

What happens in the ocean has an impact on California's inland environmental conditions so it's worrisome that West Coast salmon conditions have declined from 2008. Salmon are the fish we eat, the water we store and pump, a pink and wiggling precursor to a healthy California economy.

But, NOAA Fisheries scientists who monitor biological and physical conditions in the Pacific say 2008 conditions were "unprecedentedly positive." National Marine Fisheries Service scientist John Ferguson, who heads the Fish Ecology division at the agency's science center in Seattle, is still upbeat.

He said they saw 2009 spring conditions for migrating salmonids that were still generally favorable, but by the time fall chinook and coho hit the ocean, the situation had deteriorated "significantly."

"Our September coho catches were the lowest on record, and reflected a complete reversal of the state of the ocean at that time," Ferguson said, via an e-mail update.

He said the late summer ocean survey detected few forage fish or juvenile salmon, "but warm water predators like Humboldt squid had come up and onto the shelf and (presumably) ate everything in sight."

Preliminary data shows the spring chinook survey ranked fourth highest since 1998, and there were plenty of lipid-rich copepods for them to eat. The length of the upwelling season was also the fourth best since 1998.

But by September, waters had warmed, and the juvenile fish survey trawled up small silvers at a rate of only 0.01 coho/square km. In 2008, the coho survey was 27 times better than that. -B. R.

Source: Northwest Fishletter, Publisher: Cyrus Noƫ, Editor: Bill Rudolph