In the coming week, authorities are anticipated to announce the complete closure of commercial and recreational salmon fishing along the coast of California for the entirety of 2023. The neighboring state of Oregon is also expected to face significant cancellations in this regard.
The primary reason behind this decision is the alarming decline in fish populations, which can be attributed to a combination of heavily engineered waterways and the intensified heat and drought resulting from climate change. Additionally, researchers suggest that there are lesser-understood threats in the ocean that may be connected to global warming.
Scientists and fishermen were mentally prepared for disappointing figures due to unfavorable conditions experienced a couple of years ago. During that time, the young and delicate salmon struggled in low, overheated creeks and rivers throughout California. However, as the fish counts were tallied and models were analyzed, the numbers turned out to be even more disheartening than anticipated.
Out of all the salmon species in California, the fall-run Chinook were the last remaining population sizable enough for commercial fishing. However, projections indicate that fewer than 170,000 fall-run Chinook will return to the Central Valley rivers this year. This is a significant decrease from the peak numbers of over a million observed as recently as 1995. While fluctuations in population levels are normal, the current decline is a cause for concern.
The fishing shutdown will result in higher prices and the absence of fresh local salmon in California for the year. Nevertheless, the impact beyond the region is likely to be minimal or nonexistent.
Salmon are resilient creatures that have inhabited Earth for a much longer period than humans. They undertake extensive migrations, covering hundreds of miles from their birthplaces in freshwater creeks to the saltwater ocean and then back again, conquering waterfalls on their return journey. However, scientists argue that the situation in California and Oregon, located at the southern edge of their range, may foreshadow what lies ahead in cooler waters farther north.
A recent report from local media in China has revealed a concerning practice among fish sellers who have been mislabeling fish as salmon instead of the actual species, causing disappointment and anger among sushi enthusiasts throughout the country.
In response to this outcry, Chinese fish authorities have expressed their approval of this practice. They stated that rainbow trout can be sold as salmon, based on new standards established by a fish association affiliated with the government and supported by 13 commercial fisheries. To justify this change, officials highlighted the biological connection between salmon and rainbow trout, as both species belong to the same fish family. Additionally, the authorities mandated that sellers must clearly indicate the specific type of fish on the label.
However, the ambiguous nature of this redefinition has struck a chord in a nation plagued by long-standing issues related to food labeling, and where the population of discerning consumers continues to grow. Thousands of individuals voiced their frustration online, criticizing regulators for compromising food standards instead of addressing the underlying problem. Some even declared their refusal to consume salmon in the future.
Even frequenters of sushi restaurants expressed their loss of confidence in consuming raw salmon, as the trust they once had in the authenticity of the fish has been severely shaken.