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Salmon season cut short due to drought

Erika Mahoney/KAZU
This year's commercial salmon season is the shortest it has been in the past seven years.

Time is running out to buy salmon caught in the Monterey Bay. This year's commercial salmon season is short because of the recent drought.

Early Tuesday morning, six people pack a commercial kitchen in downtown Santa Cruz. They work for the Community Supported Fishery (CSF) Ocean 2 Table. This morning, they’re prepping fresh King salmon. They pack coolers with ice and the fish filets, which they deliver to homes and restaurants.

Charlie Lambert is co-founder of Ocean 2 Table.

“We're hoping to have one more delivery out before the season is up, hopefully at the end of this week if not early next week,” Lambert says.

The Monterey Bay’s commercial salmon season ends this Saturday, June 30; a total of just 19 days this year.

Harry Morse is with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. He says salmon seasons can sometimes last six months. That was the case back in 2014.

“We set the seasons to try and avoid harvest on stocks that are threatened or endangered,” Morse says.

And this year, California’s salmon population is threatened.

“This all coming back to the drought,” says Morse.

Salmon are struggling in the wake of the drought. That’s because salmon reproduce in rivers. And when local rivers were running low, predators could more easily spot and eat young salmon. So the stock that’s just now old enough for harvest is small.

“You know, you can only harvest so many fish when you need to make sure you have enough that come back for reproduction,” Morse says.

This year’s commercial salmon season is the shortest it's been in the past 7 years.