A collapse in wild chinook salmon populations has prompted the US Fish and Wildlife Service to seriously consider closing the 2008 salmon fishing season from northern Oregon to the Mexican border. The reason for the dwindling salmon population? Pollution in the rivers and oceans, plus shrinking water levels caused by diverting water via aqueducts to Southern California.Washington and Alaska fisheries are not affected, but California and Oregon produce the most prized varieties of chinook salmon found in fine restaurants and home dinner plates. Chinook populations have been sharply declining over the past three years. 60,000 chinook salmon are expected to spawn this fall, a number that is less than half of what is needed to justify a nominal fishing season. In sharp contrast, the bumper crop of 2002 saw 800,000 salmon spawn.
A chinook ban could potentially increase the price of salmon in supermarkets and restaurants. Home chefs will instead have to buy sockeye salmon from Alaska.