California Salmon Near Extinction

By Matt Baume
|  Tuesday, Dec 7, 2010  |  Updated 11:30 AM PDT
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California Salmon Near Extinction

Start saying your goodbyes now -- the way things are headed, California's salmon could soon be a thing of the past.

California's salmon run has shrunk by 97% since 2002, prompting a federal disaster declaration. Everyone's affected, from consumers to recreational fishermen to commercial harvesters.

The last, best hope for restoring their numbers is a "Salmon Summit" in Half Moon Bay. The meeting will assemble representatives from the fishing industry, which contributes 23,000 jobs to California's economy. Conservationists will also be in attendance, so sparks may fly.

It's unclear why the decline has occurred, but agriculture is the suspected culprit. The epicenter of the population drop is the California Delta, which has been radically transformed by farms. Pumps are responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of fish.

Conservationists hope that the state will adopt a more careful stewardship of the aquatic resources in the bay.

Salmon aren't the only cash crop swimming around in California's water. There's also crabs, which are caught in boats costing $200,000. Picked up in small "pots," only the large ones are harvested. Women and children crabs are thrown back for a second chance at life.

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