The population of Pacific salmon is collapsing, and officials may outlaw commercial fishing in California and Oregon this season, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Such a move would "jeopardize the livelihoods of close to 1,000 commercial fishermen," outlaw recreational fishing enjoyed by more than 2 million people and "significantly drive up the price of West Coast wild salmon," according to the Chronicle. But it may be the only thing that can save the salmon population from collapse.
Unfortunately, this kind of scenario is not unique to salmon, or the West Coast. Shad and other river herring on the East Coast are subject to similar bans and restrictions right now. Across the nation and world, stocks of popular food fish are collapsing, so that more than half could be effectively fished to "commercial extinction" by mid-century, according to some estimates. That means the familiar species we have come to know at the fish counter will no longer exist in numbers high enough to catch.
The ocean ecosystem, too, is undergoing vast changes because whole schools of fish, whole categories of predator and prey, are being wiped out.
"Fisheries experts say even if the salmon fishery remained wide open there would not be any salmon left to catch," the Chronicle reports. In other words, salmon may already be commercially extinct, and the fishery managers may just be making it official.
To choose fish that are fished in a sustainable manner, and are low in contaminants that can foul some species, consult Environmental Defense Fund's Seafood Selector.
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