Authorities in California will once again transport millions of young salmon raised in fish hatcheries from the Central Valley agricultural region to the Pacific Ocean, as forecast river conditions show the waterways fish use to travel. downstream will be historically low and warm due to increasing drought.
Officials said the massive trucking operation is aimed at ensuring “the highest level of survival for young salmon on their dangerous journey to the Pacific Ocean.”
“Trucking young salmon to downstream release sites has proven to be one of the best ways to increase survival in the ocean in dry weather,” said Jason Julienne, Hatchery Supervisor. from the north-central region, in a statement.
California is now in its second year of drought after a winter with little precipitation. This is the fourth driest year on record in the state, especially in the northern two-thirds of the state, according to the California Department of Water Resources.
Illustrating the state’s drought risk, record 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 juvenile salmon from four Central Valley hatcheries will be trucked to coastal sites around San Pablo, San Francisco, Half Moon and Monterey Bays.
It will take about 146 trucks to transport the fish.
Federal officials will do the same from a hatchery, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
California’s iconic native chinook salmon need cold water to survive, but the dams have blocked their historic retreats in the cold headwaters of the tributaries of the Sacramento River in northern California.
The fishing industry and farmers in the Central Valley are in a constant struggle for the same river water to maintain their livelihoods, with supporters of the fish pushing for higher water levels and farmers against them so that they can draw water to irrigate the crops.
John McManus, president of the Golden State Salmon Assn., Which advocates for fishermen, told The Chronicle he appreciated the extra effort to save the fall chinook amid the drought.
But he said the underlying problem for salmon is that state and federal water officials have allowed too much water to be removed from rivers and streams for agricultural irrigation.
“These river conditions are made worse by decisions that put salmon last,” he said.