Words by Smiley Team
California continues to face droughts and wildfires, a trend that has been destroying homes and clearing treelines. Now, those weather events, along with warming water, are beginning to affect the Chinook winter-run salmon.
In response, local and federal biologists have moved 300 Chinook salmon to their native habitat above Eagle Canyon Dam on North Fork Battle Creek.
The dam – as well as others like the Shasta and Keswick dams – have shifted the winter-run salmon farther south, all but blocking and eliminating them from their native habitat. The 300 adult salmon will be the first winter-run Chinook salmon in the region in almost 110 years.
Winter-run salmon are special. Unlike most other salmon, whose young rears in the winter, require warmer water, winter-run salmon’s young rears in the spring, require warmer water to protect their young from the elements.
“The one remaining winter-run Chinook salmon population has persisted in large part due to agency-managed cold water releases from Shasta Reservoir during the summer and artificial propagation from Livingston Stone National Fish Hatchery's winter-run Chinook salmon conservation program,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a statement.
“Thus, winter-run Chinook salmon are dependent on sufficient cold water storage in Shasta Reservoir, and it has long been recognized that a prolonged drought could have devastating impacts, possibly leading to the species' extinction.”
Beyond moving the salmon north many groups are also trying to help the salmon that are still in warmer water.
Groups like NOAA Fisheries, the Bureau of Reclamation, the California Department of Water Resources, are working closely with the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, whose culture is closely linked with the salmon. In order to give the fish the best chance at survival, they’re doing things like releasing more breeding pebbles to keep the water cooler, and having controlled releases of cool reservoir water.
Scientists are also expanding the production of winter-run Chinook salmon at Livingston Stone National Fish Hatchery operated by the USFWS at the base of Shasta Dam.
DONATE: Check out Run4Salmon, an organization started by the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, to help support the salmon conservation effort.
GET INVOLVED: Run4Salmon has a section on their website where people can get involved with their conservation efforts.