Young salmon take the high road to the Pacific Ocean

San Francisco: California officials will truck millions of young salmon raised at fish hatcheries in the state’s Central Valley to the Pacific Ocean because waterways used by the fish to travel downstream are expected to be historically low and warm due to a worsening drought.

Officials announced the massive trucking operation, saying the effort was aimed at ensuring “the highest level of survival for the young salmon on their hazardous journey”.

Young Chinook salmon will again be taken by truck to the Pacific Ocean.Credit:The Seattle Times/AP

“Trucking young salmon to downstream release sites has proven to be one of the best ways to increase survival to the ocean during dry conditions,” Jason Julienne, North Central Region Hatchery Supervisor said in a statement.

California is now in its second year of drought after a winter with little precipitation and it’s the state’s fourth-driest year on record, especially in the northern two-thirds of the state, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

Record low reservoir levels led Governor Gavin Newsom last week to proclaim a regional drought emergency for the Russian River watershed in Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

More than 16.8 million young salmon from four Central Valley hatcheries will be taken in 146 truckloads to coastal sites around the San Pablo, San Francisco, Half Moon and Monterey bays.

California’s iconic native Chinook salmon need cold water to survive but dams have blocked their historic retreats to the chilly upper reaches of Northern California’s Sacramento River tributaries.

Demian Ebert, from PacifiCorp, looks at a tank holding juvenile Chinook salmon at a hatchery at the base of the Iron Gate Dam near Hornbrook, California.Credit:AP

The fishing industry and Central Valley farmers are in a constant struggle over the same river water to sustain their livelihoods, with fish supporters lobbying for higher river water levels and farmers against it so that so they can draw water to irrigate crops.

John McManus, president of the Golden State Salmon Association, which advocates for fishers, told the San Francisco Chronicle he appreciated the extra effort to save the autumn-run salmon amid the drought.

But he said the underlying problem for salmon was that state and federal water officials have allowed too much water to be pulled from rivers and creeks for agricultural irrigation.

“These river conditions are made worse by decisions that put salmon last,” he said.


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