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KAI RYSSDAL: Nothing says weekend like kicking back and throwing something on the grill. But if wild salmon is what you're hungry for, pull out your wallet and get ready for 35 bucks a pound. Fishermen here on the West Coast have voted to cancel the Chinook, or king, salmon season. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Sarah Gardner reports.
SARAH GARDNER: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger has already declared a state of emergency. West Coast fishermen figure they'll lose at least $150 million as a result of the fishing ban.
ZEKE GRADER: We're hoping to get some federal disaster relief.
Zeke Grader is executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. Grader says some federal officials blame poor ocean conditions but they should also look at the rivers where the Chinook spawn. Grader says take California: Over half the state now depends on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta for its drinking and irrigation water. He says those huge water diversions are already damaging fish populations.
GRADER: We've been arguing for years that it was time to begin decentralizing our water system and diversifying it. Not just to protect the salmon but to actually ensure that we have a stable water supply in the future.
That hasn't happened, he says. Instead, West Coast farmers and growing cities have long been beating out the fish. But conservationists hope the decline of the treasured and tasty king salmon will highlight the West's water supply problems and force long-term solutions. Conservationist Joseph Bogaard works on salmon recovery efforts.
JOSEPH BOGAARD: What we need is the leadership to make the tough decisions.
And that could eventually mean everything from strict water use mandates in cities to even sharper water cutbacks to farmers. A judge's ruling last year has already begun restricting water supplies to some growers in the San Joaquin Valley.
I'm Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.