In this chart the red line shows the fish that returned to a hatchery, the blue shows those that spawned naturally in the rivers. Note in all the big years when we’ve had lots of fish, many didn’t return to a hatchery, presumably because most didn’t come from hatcheries. They were naturally spawned salmon.
If you think we only need hatchery fish, and not functioning rivers with natural spawned salmon, think again.
If you want to see truly good salmon fishing in the future, understand we need some semblance of functional rivers. In wet years, when the rivers are half way working, we can get many times the production of all the hatcheries put together.
The pie charts below provide a look at three years of adult salmon returns, 2010, ’11 and 2012. The beige pie piece represents natural origin salmon, the gray represents hatchery salmon. What we see is that natural origin salmon (not hatchery salmon) made up greater than 50 percent of what was caught in the ocean commercial fishery south of Horse Mountain in southern Humboldt County in 2010 except in the Monterey cell. Statewide, in 2010, natural origin fish comprised 22 to 74 percent of the ocean catch for both sport and commercial. The further north you go, the higher the contribution of natural origin salmon. The natural origin salmon include salmon from both the Central Valley and coastal rivers.
By 2012, natural origin fish made up between 28 and 54 percent of the sport and commercial ocean fishery.
From Pigeon Point in southern San Mateo County south, you see a higher percentage of hatchery fish in the ocean catch.
Net pen acclimation for hatchery fish was in place in 2008 when brood year 2007 hatchery fish were trucked and released, and has remained in place since. The 2007 brood returned as three year old adults in 2010 so hatchery stocks should have been very well represented in the 2010 ocean fishery and since then.
None of the years from 2010 to 2012 were considered great fishing years but 2013 was. A review of 2013 data would shed further valuable light on the issue.