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Salmon are jumping this year

Biologists report there are more than 800,000 Sacramento Chinook off the coast of California right now, which has the Pacific Fishery Management Council considering three options for the 2012 salmon season.

All three options currently on the table will allow for more salmon to be caught than have been allowed in years. But the bumper crop has many people asking: Why?

California has been attempting to preserve its salmon for nearly a century. Long ago, people realized that dams, pollution and people were putting the pink-fleshed beauties in danger.

Attempts were made to transplant Chinook to East Coast streams. That failed. Hatcheries were installed in California to maintain native salmon runs. That did better, though researchers realized hatchery fish numbers had almost replaced wild fish in parts of the state such as in the Mokelumne River.

This year only one in 10 salmon spawning in the Mokelumne are authentically wild.

Some scientists are worried, mainly because hatchery salmon lack the genetic diversity of wild salmon. This can put a larger percentage of the salmon population at risk to select diseases or climate changes.

After a century of hatcheries, though, the 2012 salmon population growth will have to remain a mystery for now.

Salmon season is expected to start in April and extend until late fall.

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