California Salmon Fishery Shuttered for Second Year in a Row

For Immediate Release: April 10, 2024


Scott Artis, Golden State Salmon Association, 925-550-9208,

California Salmon Fishery Shuttered for Second Year in a Row

Low salmon abundance numbers caused by water policy failures signal 2024 disaster for fishing families and communities

AMERICAN CANYON, Calif. – Coastal towns, river communities and tens of thousands of salmon fishermen and women, businesses, and employees that serve both the sport and commercial salmon fishery are now assured they’ll see no income for the second year in a row with the official closure of the 2024 salmon season. 

On Wednesday, the Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to finalize the season’s closure–a drastic step that continues to plague all of California’s marine and inland waters as well as ocean salmon fishing off most of the Oregon coast.  

“Under Governor Newsom, the State of California has a disastrous environmental record–dangerously low river flows, unsustainable water diversions out of our rivers, record high water temperatures because of dam operations and record numbers of salmon eggs and juveniles killed in our streams. Further, California has planted a record amount of insatiably thirsty almond acreage,” said Scott Artis, executive director of Golden State Salmon Association. “Our water, our natural resources, the resources every Californian and the entire salmon industry rely on, are being stolen on Governor Newsom’s watch.”

This closure comes on the heels of the 2023 shutdown that devastated the commercial and recreational salmon industry, and marks the fourth year in California’s history that salmon fishing has been closed. Salmon fishing was previously closed in 2008 and 2009. Fishery managers, in a presentation given to the salmon industry on February 28, forecasted low adult Sacramento Valley fall-run Chinook salmon in the ocean off the West Coast. Like 2023, this year’s decision was made due to low ocean abundance estimates of adult and two-year-old jack salmon that survived the hostile conditions they have encountered in Central Valley rivers in recent years. 

According to a February 2024 report issued by the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the average number of fall-run Chinook wild salmon that returned to the upper Sacramento River annually to spawn between 1996-2005 was more than 175,000 fish. In 2023, that number was only 6,160. Spring-run salmon on the upper Sacramento River also experienced dramatic declines with an estimated 106 individuals returning in 2023 compared to more than 5,000 returning in both 2021 and 2022. The upper Sacramento River supports four separate salmon runs–fall, winter, spring and late-fall. It has been critically important to endangered winter-run and threatened spring-run Chinook salmon. The upper Sacramento River has historically been the backbone of salmon fishing below the Shasta Dam.

The cause of the 2023 and 2024 salmon shutdowns is clear. In the fall of 2020 and the spring of 2021, baby salmon faced four threats. First, the state failed to require adequate temperature protection for salmon eggs. As a result, lethal hot water, caused by excessive agricultural water deliveries earlier in the year, killed incubating salmon eggs. Second, Governor Newsom has shut down the State Water Board effort to update Bay-Delta standards, including river flow standards to protect outmigrating salmon. As a result, baby salmon did not survive their journey out of the Central Valley to the ocean. Third, in the spring of 2021, salmon faced deadly conditions in the Delta. And finally, in 2021, Governor Newsom waived the already poor salmon standards that were in place in order to allow additional pumping. As a result, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife concluded that 99.7% of winter-run Chinook salmon eggs and juveniles were killed before they reached the Delta. 

“We can’t sugarcoat it or lay the blame solely on drought,” said Artis. “Governor Newsom’s water policies are devastating the thousands of families that rely on salmon to pay their rent and mortgages, put food on the table, and keep their businesses afloat. It’s simple. When the state’s water policies kill all the baby salmon, 2 to 3 years later you don’t get many returning adults. This is Governor Newsom’s legacy.”

A healthy California salmon industry is valued at $1.4 billion in economic activity and 23,000 jobs annually to the state in a normal season and contributes millions of dollars more to the economy and supports thousands of jobs in Oregon. Salmon workers benefiting from Central Valley salmon stretch from Santa Barbara to northern Oregon. This includes commercial fishermen and women, recreational fishermen and women (fresh and salt water), fish processors, marinas, coastal and river communities, equipment manufacturers, the hotel and food industry, Tribes, and many others.

California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin River system supports four distinct Chinook salmon runs: fall, late-fall, winter and spring. The winter- and spring-runs have seen periods of alarmingly low numbers and are designated as endangered and threatened, respectively, under the Endangered Species Act. The fall-run has been the only commercially and recreationally fishable stock, prior to recent and current season closures. The late-fall run has been eliminated from most of its native spawning habitat. All four Chinook salmon runs are dependent upon cold water flows and releases from reservoirs for migration and spawning.

Golden State Salmon Association ( is a coalition of salmon advocates that includes commercial and recreational salmon fishermen and women, businesses, restaurants, native tribes, environmentalists, elected officials, families and communities that rely on salmon. GSSA’s mission is to restore California salmon for their economic, recreational, commercial, environmental, cultural and health values.