Swim to sea? These salmon are catching a lift

Young coho salmon in California. (photo: Carson Jeffres / UC Davis)
Young coho salmon in California. (photo: Carson Jeffres / UC Davis)

Salmon being moved by truck and barge to sustain their populations during drought.

May 19, 2014
(from the New York Times)

The record drought in California is not only forcing cities to ration water and farmers to sell off cattle. It is also threatening millions of salmon because the newly shallow rivers lack a strong enough flow to guide the fish to sea.

In an act that is equal parts despair and hope, the government is transporting the salmon by truck and barge, trying to imitate nature so that in three years some fully grown fish will find their way back upstream. For some salmon, “this is a way of sustaining the fishery,” said Professor Peter Moyle, University of California, Davis. “For an endangered species, it’s a desperation measure.”

A 2012 report in the journal Environmental Biology of Fishes, by Jacob Katz and Dr. Moyle, said that 81 percent of native California salmon were “threatened with extinction.” It added that bringing them all back from the brink might not be possible.

“The last century has been exceptionally benign in terms of rain and climate and everything else,” Dr. Moyle said. “We’re probably moving back into more tumultuous weather patterns,” he said, although that will “be exaggerated by climate change.”

California salmon will need a lot of help to survive future droughts.

(Read the full article, by Felicity Barringer, April 18, 2014, New York Times.)

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