By Ken Bastida

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – Two hundred years ago, California streams were the perfect spawning grounds for hundreds of thousands of wild salmon every year. In this Good Question: What has caused the Northern California salmon population to dwindle?

ANSWER: According to John Rosenfield, President of the group Salmon-Aid, many of California’s rivers and streams can no longer support spawning for wild salmon.

This is due in part to severe water restricting dams that have affected the flow of enough water to support spawning grounds and the overuse of pumping in the Delta. As a result, wild salmon populations have declined more than 90 percent in the past 40 years.

(© CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (16)
  1. Karen L. Auguste says:

    There was a typo on the on-screen question — it was “Why are there less dalmon…?

  2. Sid in San Jose says:

    Blame it on the commercial fishermen and the Central Calif. farmers who each have affected salmon populations. Rather than harvesting salmon, ocean fishermen have clear-cut by catching so many for commercial sales. The farmers just are greedy and want more and more water diverted while polluting the streams with their pesticides.

  3. Daryl says:

    Look commerciat fishing has been going on for years and there is little impact in regards to there take as commercial salmon license are restricted to only so many liceses being issued. It really comes down to decreased flows that provide enough cool oxygenated water as well as ocean conditions that have not been favorable over the last few years. The two situations hit at the same time these devastating conditions will effect this natural resource, which is what we are currently faced with. Good waterflows equal healthy fish populations.

  4. cosmo254 says:

    Why should so much water be diverted to the farmers when many turn around and sell large portions of their water out of state. Why do northern Californians need to conserve water every summer when they see southern Californians wasting water refilling swimming pools and washing down driveways?

  5. pj says:

    I agree with Daryl 100%. The problem today is greedy agricultural giants growing subsidized crops (farm bill) with subsidized water and cosmo254 is correct when he says they often turn around and sell that water to developers for millions in profit. But the historical problem is the 1300 dams that have a chokehold on the Sierra Nevada and spawning grounds.

  6. James says:

    Until the utilities, farmers and the politicians get out of bed together you won’t see any sustainable flows, ideas and or fish;-(

  7. jane says:

    how is this a good question? it’s not news salmon is being consumed faster than it can procreate. duh

    1. Jonathan Rosenfield says:

      It’s a “good question” because your answer (which many people reflexively believe) is not correct. Commercial fishing in California has been closed almost completely for the past three years, yet fish numbers continue to decline. Our salmon are disappearing because we export so much water from the river to agribusinesses, killing juvenile fish in the process. Also, dams in the upper rivers release hot water (heated in the reservoir behind the dams) onto the developing salmon eggs.

  8. Mark Rockwell says:

    Thank you for getting this message on salmon to the public. Jonathan tells us why and shows the challenges to our fisheries. Salmon are a major historic part of California history. We’ve gone from a few million people to now 37 million all with the same water management system. It is time for a big change to conservation, water efficiency, reclamation, and other ways to make us more efficient with the water we have. By doing so fisheries can once again be restored. The California Environmental Water Caucus report, California Water Solutions NOW, is a good plan to make this change.

  9. Bruce Tokars says:

    There are many reasons that salmon are in trouble but fishing is not one of them. go to for a whole lot of videos that describe the status of salmon and the issues that Californians need to understand in order to prevent wild salmon from going extinct.

  10. Ted in San Jose says:

    Has anyone driven down I-5 and seen the dried up farm lands that could be growing our food if the water restrictions were lifted? How many farmers must we put out of business and how many farm workers must we throw out of work to save the salmon? We need to find some balance here. Any comments?

  11. Doug O says:

    Ted –

    Although there’s a lot of hype over water restrictions, three dry years (and not fishery protections) is responsible for the vast majority of water supply reductions, and even with drought and ESA protections, the economic analysis by UC Davis and the University of the Pacific showed that agricultural production in the San Joaquin Valley declined by around 2% in 2009. Likewise, the analysis by economists with the University of the Pacific shows that in 2009, more jobs were lost as a result of the salmon fishery closure than were lost as a result of ESA protections.

    There’s no question that 2009 was a tough year in the Valley, but foreclosures and the economic crisis — not water — were the real culprits. Ensuring that we use our limited water resources efficiently, and that we develop drought-proof and diversified water supplies (like water recycling and better groundwater management), will help all of us get through tough dry years in the future.

    For more information about how the facts bust these myths about fish vs farms, check out my blog at:

  12. judy vardanega says:

    Hi there,
    I have been away for a few weeks and have missed the earaly morning news with John Kessler and Sydney ,please tell me if John is on vacation or not with the station.
    Thank you
    Judy Vardanega, a fan

  13. Thia Steding says:


    What happened to John Kessler? My mornings are not the same without him. Is he coming back?


  14. Bob Martin says:

    In regards of the PG&E smart meters transmitters,which side of the meter is powering this transmitter,the homeowner’s or PG&E’s?

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