The Wild Plan to Save 17 Million Salmon From California’s Megadrought by Driving Them to Sea

Home Technology The Wild Plan to Save 17 Million Salmon From California’s Megadrought by Driving Them to Sea
The Wild Plan to Save 17 Million Salmon From California’s Megadrought by Driving Them to Sea
Chinook Salmon swim up a fish ladder at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (Feather River Hatchery just below the Lake Oroville dam during the California drought emergency on May 27, 2021 in Oroville, California.
Chinook salmon.
Photo: Patrick T. Fallon (Getty Images)

Usually, California’s iconic (and endangered) Chinook salmon hatch in freshwater bodies and then swim out to sea for most of their adult lives. But this year, Chinook populations in the state’s Central Valley will be hitching a ride downstream because severe drought conditions have made their traditional path untenable.

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Workers at the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife will load almost 17 million young Chinook salmon from four of their hatching locations in the Central Valley into dozens of climate-controlled tanker trucks. They’ll then drop them off in coastal waters around the San Pablo, San Francisco, Half Moon, and Monterey bays. State estimates show it will take about 146 truckloads carrying 130,000 fish apiece, collectively traveling more than 30,000 miles (48,280 kilometers), to transport all the salmon.

California’s record-breaking hot and dry conditions are leaving lakes and streams unusually shallow and warm, creating less-than-ideal swimming conditions for salmon. Officials hope the plan to drive the fish to cooler bay waters will save them the trouble of migrating, giving them a better chance to survive.

“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, the state’s North Central Region Hatchery Supervisor, said in a statement.

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