California Hopes Storm Runoff Will Carry 612,000 Baby Salmon to the Ocean This Week

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife service is releasing 612,000 winter Chinook salmon that hope to make their way to the San Francisco Bay this week. According to USFWS, the fish will be released from February 4 through Friday, February 6. All of the fish will come from the Livingston Stone National Fish Hatchery.

Golden Gate Salmon Assocation Director John McManus says he hopes the fish will replace an almost total loss of wild-run salmon this year that were zapped because of California’s drought:

“State fish and wildlife experts tell us we lost at least 95 percent of the wild winter run baby salmon last summer due to elevated river temperatures caused by drought combined with mismanagement of major reservoirs.  The baby salmon released this week are truly a precious cargo.  If we’re lucky, the storm runoff will carry them down the Sacramento River, through the Delta and bay, and out to the ocean.  It’s important they safely make this trip and aren’t pulled off their migratory path by the huge pumps in the Delta that make rivers run backwards.  The pulse of water carrying these last surviving 2014 winter run can’t be diverted once it hits the Delta or else these fish will die.  The survival of the sport and commercial salmon fishing industries is linked to the survival of these baby salmon. Even though we don’t fish for them, fishing restrictions force us to tie our boats up and sit on the beach when winter run numbers are small.  In 2017 fish that survive will return as adults to the Sacramento Valley.

Winter run salmon are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.  We hope that water and fishery officials don’t repeat mistakes made in 2013 and 2014 which killed far too many winter run and other salmon.

Some of the baby winter run released this week will carry small tags that signal stationary receivers mounted on the river bottom allowing them to be tracked as they move downriver.  We’ll be watching as they get closer to the Delta to see if they safely cross the death zone created by the diversion pumps.”

USFWS marks each salmon with coded-wire tags and an adipose-fin clip just in front of their tail fin. Final release information will be available at the Regional Mark Processing Center database (www.rmpc.org).