The severe drought in California has created numerous issues. One major issue is that many of the waterways are now too dry for juvenile salmon to make their usual 270-mile migration to the Pacific Ocean.
In early March, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife proposed the idea of trucking the Chinook salmon.
In years past, trucks have been used to transport the salmon, but the plan hit major snags: in 1991, the salmon were unloaded took closely to the river banks, which made them an easy target for predators, and in 2008, poor Sacramento River conditions, prompted restrictions on salmon fishing for two years.
Some wildlife experts also worry that the ride to the river will corrupt the salmon’s ability to “imprint”– or remember its way back in three years when it’s time to spawn.
“While we know that our hatchery systems in California need ultimately to move away from trucking to reduce the adverse biological effects that trucking causes, this drought and what we are predicting for in-river conditions in the next few months for out-migrating fish requires us to consider exceptions to the preferred approach,” said Dan Castleberry, Assistant Regional Director for the USFWS.
Trucking the fish is not an ideal situation, however, the emergency drought situation provided conservation officers with few other options.
On Tuesday, the 400,000 salmon were trucked to the Sacramento River. Once there, a 100-foot pipe was used to unload the fish.
“Trucking of smolts from CDFW’s Sacramento basin hatcheries is regarded as the best management option at this time based on projected water flows and conditions during the outmigration of smolts. Up to 18.4 million Sacramento fall-run Chinook smolts will be evaluated for potential trucking during April, May and June 2014,” a CDFW press release states.
The fish are here! pic.twitter.com/v5oC2V319E
— Cal Fish & Wildlife (@CaliforniaDFW) March 25, 2014
— Cal Fish & Wildlife (@CaliforniaDFW) March 27, 2014