Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The King Is...Dead?

A story has been developing in the last few weeks about the Sacramento River and its mysteriously vanishing run of chinook, or king, salmon. Last year's run was 10 percent of the run just five years ago, and this year's is projected to be even smaller. The San Francisco Chronicle has an update.

Is this really a surprise?

Certainly salmon runs fluctuate over time. But when hit with the multi-whammy of dams, development, irrigation, timber harvest, pollution, and innumerable other man-made affronts, even these incredibly resilient fish are finally waving the white flag. What really disturbs me is that the current low runs in the Sacramento might be seen by my children as not so bad when they're older. This phenomenon is known as the shifting baseline syndrome, and it's at the heart of our predicament.

It's painful to imagine a day when salmon swim mostly in city fountains. (Photo by Stephen Rees)

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