Nearly Vanished Fish Slowly Returning to Delta

By Matt Baume
|  Monday, Feb 7, 2011  |  Updated 6:15 AM PDT
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Nearly Vanished Fish Slowly Returning to Delta

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SELKIRK, SCOTLAND - NOVEMBER 02: Salmon attempt to leap up the fish ladder in the river Etterick on November 2, 2010 in Selkirk, Scotland. The salmon are returning upstream from the sea where they have spent between two and four winters feeding with many covering huge distances to return to the fresh waters to spawn. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

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Breathe a little easier, fishermen: the salmon are slowly starting to return.

After years of meager spawns, 2010's run has been the most populous since 2006, according to the CC Times.

That follows a disastrous decline in 2009, when less than a third of the expected fish showed up. That led the state to curtail recreational and industrial fishing. The ban is likely to continue into this year, but will be lifted periodically to allow for small amounts of fishing. Specific dates will be announced sometime after March 1.

The Sacramento River comprises a significant portion of the west coast's salmon catch.

It's unclear exactly why the salmon numbers dropped so sharply, but it's likely that humans are to blame. Dams and pumps make it difficult for the fish to navigate, and could be preventing them from reproducing. Human modifications have turned the Delta into an impassable maze for many fish.

Elsewhere around the Bay, a controversial plan to pump Russian River water over wineries to reduce frost is likely to move ahead. In the past, pumping has lowered the water level beyond what is safe, killing wildlife.

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