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Improving Conditions Calls for the Release of Two Million Chinook Salmon

CALIFORNIA — On Nov. 19, The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced they have begun releasing juvenile fall-run Chinook salmon into the Klamath River in Oregon. The progress comes after watching river conditions improve with cooler temperatures and increased flow. The river’s improvement will give the young salmon the best opportunity for survival on their journey to reach the Pacific Ocean. In addition, the release of these fish will ultimately benefit commercial, tribal, and recreational fisheries and preserve the innate value of the fish and their genetics for the Klamath River population.

More than two million baby Chinook salmon were hatched in 2021 at the CDFW’s Iron Gate Fish Hatchery in Siskiyou County in Northern California. The baby salmon were held at three different facilities throughout California, including one million fish which were trucked to the Trinity River Hatchery through Redding. All three groups of fish did exceedingly well over the triple-digit heat waves that took place over the summer.

According to scientific projections, drought conditions impacting the Klamath River, including a disease outbreak of the parasite Ceratonova shasta from earlier this year, were projected to kill about 90 percent of the young fish if the young salmon had been released into the river.

So far, the CDFW has released 1.1 million of the juvenile Chinook salmon that were raised in the Iron Gate Fish Hatchery into the Klamath River. The release of those salmon provided room and sufficient water quality for the one million salmon that were relocated to the Trinity River Hatchery that will now return to Iron Gate Fish Hatchery. These fish have spent several weeks at Iron Gate to begin reacclimating to prepare them for the Klamath River.

Four different Klamath River dams are being targeted for removal in the upcoming years, the largest dam removal project in U.S. history. The elimination of these dams is predicted to restore fish access to historic salmon habitat in multiple rivers and tributaries that connect to the upper Klamath River above the dams. As a result, it is possible that the juvenile fish that have been released this year could be the first salon to return to a new Klamath River after their time spent in the ocean. In addition, these fish are likely to find miles of additional spawning habitat and contribute to future wild fish generations.

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