The Pacific Fishery Management Council said this week that salmon fishing in California and Oregon might have to be shut down completely this year. A report in the San Francisco Chronicle says that the federal agency is considering the move in the face of collapsing numbers. “There are many ways to count fish, depending on what rivers and tributaries are included, but only 63,900 fall run salmon were documented spawning in the Sacramento River in 2007, far below the 122,000 to 189,000 objective the council had set,” says the Chron.

The financial impact on commercial fishermen and businesses that depend on the patronage of tourists lured by salmon fishing could be massive.

And if that weren’t bad enough, there’s also considerable disagreement about what is leading to the collapse of fish numbers.

The scientists, fishermen and tribal representatives at the meetings this week are trotting out various theories for the decline, including global warming, diversions of freshwater in the delta, pumping operations, a lack of nutrient rich deep ocean upwellings and exposure to pollutants. One document lists 46 possible reasons.

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