The state of salmon

If we can save the bald eagle, we can save the salmon

Mr. Harthorn is executive director of Friends of Butte Creek. He lives in Chico.

California was once the state of salmon. A century ago the salmon canneries in the Sacramento Delta were canning millions of pounds of salmon annually. Unfortunately, since then we have dammed and diverted the rivers, destroyed the freshwater habitat with logging and farming, and over-harvested the salmon.

The second year of salmon closure in California is gaining the attention of the general population, which values the heritage of California—consumers, who recognize the incredible health and economic value of salmon; and conservationists, who recognize their value as an indicator species. The marine nutrients the salmon bring back support insects, birds and mammals, which in turn help support grasses, shrubs and trees. When salmon are gone, so are the best nutrients that support all the components of healthy water systems.

Approximately 66,000 salmon returned from the ocean to the Sacramento system in 2008. A mere 45,000 hatchery fish made it, compared to hundreds of thousands in a normal year. Fewer than 20,000 wild salmon returned to their native streams to spawn. Butte Creek led the runs with 11,000 salmon. Big Chico Creek, sadly, had no spawning salmon.

This year we have the smallest run since 1997 on Butte Creek. Estimates are fewer than 3,000 adults. All the restoration projects on Butte Creek and the incredible runs of recent memory are not enough to prop up other streams and the Delta ecosystem.

Can we let the iconic King Salmon of California disappear? Will our streams slowly starve for lack of marine nutrients? Will we let the water diverters take all the water out of the system?

Americans rallied to protect and recover the bald eagle. Let’s do the same for salmon. Tell your local, state and federal legislators you support wild salmon.

You can also help by joining Friends of Butte Creek as we host the third annual Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival. It will be held in the Sierra Nevada Big Room Sept. 17 at 6 p.m., sponsored in part by the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and Mountain Sports. Six great films will be featured along with a silent auction, raffle and giveaways.

Red Gold, the story of the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fishery and the gold mine that could ruin it all, will be featured. The Big Room has donated a intermission treat, and music from MaMuse will fill the air. Buy tickets online at, at Pure Skin on Broadway, and under the orange canopy at the Saturday Farmers Market.