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More than 17 million salmon to be released into San Francisco Bay in massive bid to save species

For the second year in a row, dry conditions fuel fears of another devastating forest fire season. Lack of rain and snow also threatens the survival of salmon.

Captain Sarah Bates has been fishing salmon off the coast of California for almost a decade. It’s something she can’t wait to do whenever she’s out on the water.

“Catching fish never gets old, no matter how many times you’ve done it. Even when you catch a hundred fish a day or more, catching the next fish is always fun every time,” Bates said.

Commercial and recreational salmon fishing generates more than $ 900 million a year for California. But with much of the state in a punish drought, the fishing industry is feeling the stress.

“No one can survive an entire season that looks like this. I mean, we’re looking at a reduction of over 50% from our traditional commercial fishing season,” Bates said.

Because the state experienced one of the driest years on record, the streams that would normally carry young salmon to the sea are now hotbeds of dirt and dust. California Governor Gavin Newsom said a emergency drought of a cracked lake bed in April.

The iconic chinook salmon need cold running water to survive. They hatch in rivers, then migrate to the sea to mature. After a few years, they return to the place where life began to reproduce or spawn. But this year, studies show that fish born in the wild are likely to die.

“Survival has been shown to be very temperature dependent as well as flow. And the temperatures we are seeing now should have fairly low survival for fish released into the river,” environmental scientist Jason Julienne told CBS News. Jonathan Vigliotti.

That’s why hatcheries are bustling with activity. To save the species, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has launched a massive operation that includes 700,000 juvenile salmon sucked into a tube and placed in one of seven tankers. The fish hitchhike on 146 trucks, covering over 100 miles to the Pacific. In total, more than 17 million salmon will be released into San Francisco Bay. None of this is natural, but it is their best chance for survival.

John McManus heads a fishermen’s association that campaigns for the protection of salmon and ecosystems. He said the efforts to move the salmon bring a silver lining.

“Well, actually in the short term it gives us hope. And we’re happy that they’re moving these fish. But it’s also a very sad testament to what’s going on with our rivers in the middle of. this state, ”McManus said. mentionned.

What happens to California rivers became a concern nearly a century ago, when dams were built to distribute water to crops in the Central Valley. It is believed that the construction of dams has destroyed up to 95% of the habitat of wild salmon. The hatcheries helped offset some of the losses, but this year Drought means they now have to make up for all of that. To prevent the small fish from becoming a buffet for seabirds, the release sites are alternated.

It is estimated that about 80% of young salmon taken for a round will reach maturity. Bates said she appreciates the work done to protect the fish and preserve a way of life.

“Every fish looks like a small victory,” she said. “In reality, they are only one part of a much larger ecosystem. This ecosystem depends on the water flows in California rivers.”


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