As California becomes more dehydrated from long droughts and the lack of sufficient groundwater, California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife is taking desperate, unprecedented measures to rescue salmon from disappearing riverbeds. For the millions of salmon that will migrate to the San Francisco Bay, transporting them by road and air will be needed to get the fish to their spawning site.
This rescue will be the largest artificial migration mission ever undertaken in California. The state has been suffering for over four years from the harsh, extended period of drought. Within the last few years, the nearly 30 million salmon that swam to San Francisco Bay have had to change their travel route to a tributary that runs along Highway 99 near Lagunitas, California, rather than using the San Joaquin River, which they have used for millions of years.
Stafford Lehr, chief of fisheries for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife stated the plan is to put the baby salmon in four to eight 35,000-gallon tanker trucks to get them to the bay. “It’s huge,” he said. This is a major step in the right direction after the drought massacred 95 percent of California’s winter-run Chinook salmon. Currently, the water levels in some areas of the river are less than five inches. Therefore, the fall-run salmon, which are also protected under the Endangered Species Act, should fair better in a few feet of water.
Don Portz, a fish biologist at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, has been attempting to organize a restoration of the river for over six years. He said one of the most important rivers for salmon in the U.S. is the San Joaquin Rover in California’s Central Valley. Portz stated he has been very disappointed about relief efforts that have led to the further destruction to the riverbeds, which are, “Bone dry,” he said.
Although fish rescues by trucks have been beginning to happen more along the West Coast, not all of them are successful. Earlier this year, an Oregon truck driver was under the influence of alcohol when he crashed a tanker truck carrying 11,000 young salmon, all of which died.
In just over two weeks, the Salmon Protection group, a local grassroots environmental group, and Watershed Network will begin to collect all of the baby salmon to take to the bay to spawn. Furthermore, they will not be the only fish being saved. Other California wildlife agencies and group will attempt to save coho and steelhead in Southern California to take them to deeper waters. Last year, scientists said that many salmon that were locked in shallow pools of water were often eaten by woodland predators.
Since the metropolitan areas have used nearly all of the groundwater under the West Coast, extreme measures are now being taken to save one of California’s biological assets. According to wildlife officials, if the river no longer has any places for the fish to live, they will be taken to a hatchery to wait out the terrible drought.
By Alex Lemieux
Herald Net: For California Salmon, Truck Rides and Bucket Lifts
Yibada: Drought-Stricken California Trucking Salmon to the Pacific Ocean in Massive Rescue Mission
Tech Times: California Salmon Get Free Truck Rides Down River Due To Drought
Photo Courtesy of Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Photo Courtesy of Pacific Southwest Region USFWS’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License