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'Jack' Collapse Endangers Pacific Fishery

US - The Pacific salmon fishery from northern Oregon to the Mexican border could be closed due to the collapse of vital stocks in Californias major watershed.

Such a move would be the most extensive shut down of West Coast fisheries since the federal government started regulating them, reports the New York Times.

“The Central Valley fall Chinook salmon are in the worst condition since records began to be kept,” Robert Lohn, regional administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service in Portland, Oregon said Wednesday in an interview. “This is the largest collapse of salmon stocks in 40 years.”

Although the Washington and Alaska fisheries are not affected, the California and Oregon areas produce some of the most valuable fish.

The effect on salmon prices is not yet clear although the effects on commercial and sport fishermen and their communities could run to millions of dollars, said Dave Bitts, a commercial fisherman from Eureka, California.

On Wednesday the council closed several minor short-term fishing seasons off California and Oregon in connection with the salmon shortfall.

Counts of young salmon, whose numbers have dwindled sharply for two years, were the first major indication of the problem. The number of fish that survive more than a year in the ocean is a marker for the abundance of full-grown salmon the next year. The 2007 fall count from the Sacramento River was less than six percent of the long-term average, said Mr. Lohn.

The Central Valley salmon runs are concentrated in the Sacramento River, the focus of a water struggle between farmers and irrigation districts on one hand and environmental groups and fishermen on the other.

View the New York Times story by clicking here.