Your King Salmon or Your Life

Expect to pay more, possibly way more, for your wild salmon fillet. That’s the sobering if unsurprising message of a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article on the combined effects of drastic cuts in salmon fishing in California, Oregon, and Washington. In fact, federal fisheries managers are expected to announce a decision today on exactly how deep the cuts will go: The numbers of king, or chinook, salmon have dropped especially low this year, and their catch in the season beginning May 1 is expected to be severely restricted. The data from the Sacramento River are particularly discouraging:

In 2002, 775,499 adult chinook salmon returned to the Sacramento River, according to the [Pacific Fishery Management Council]. Last year, the number dipped to about 88,000 and this year, the council predicts, 58,200 will return. The council believes that at least 122,000 fish must return to the river annually to maintain a healthy population.

Although the Alaskan salmon season starts next month, quotas there will be reduced by a third from last year’s harvest. The short-term result: A Seattle market is currently selling wild king salmon for $32.95 a pound.