California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials are completing an unprecedented effort to save more than 1 million Chinook salmon, a campaign that also may help preserve a way of life for a Native American tribe.
In June, salmon hatched at the Klamath River’s Iron Gate hatchery were temporarily trucked to a Trinity River hatchery in Northern California. The finger-length fish were held back from a scheduled release to the Pacific Ocean out of concern the river was too warm and too full of parasites for them to survive.
Over the past two weeks, they have been released as six-inch (150 mm) yearlings, when their natural mortality is lower and when the water is a little colder and to their liking.
It’s one step to address threats to fish populations that have declined since the Trinity and Klamath rivers were dammed in the 20th century.
Bigger measures are planned: Four dams in the Klamath River are due to come down in the next three years, in what officials are calling the largest dam removal undertaking in U.S. history. Dam removal is expected to improve the health of the Klamath downstream of the Trinity, part of the route that Chinook salmon take from the ocean to their upstream spawning grounds, and where the young fish return to the sea.