On Sunday evening, officials from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife transported two tankers full of 200,000 juvenile Chinook salmon from the Feather River Fish Hatchery in Oroville to release them into the San Francisco Bay at Richmond Harbor’s Brickyard Cove. The move is just another example of the desperation of salmon populations during Northern California’s prolonged drought.
The release took place under the dark sky at 9 pm in order to help save the smolts from predators, especially birds flying above. Officials hope that the tide would pull the fish under the Golden Gate Bridge and into the ocean.
In the past, juvenile salmon have been released directly under the fish hatchery they were spawned and had to attempt the arduous journey down the river into the Pacific Ocean. Due to worsening drought issues, the survival rates of these fish have been abysmal in recent years. Now, wildlife officials are attempting to revive NorCal’s salmon runs by giving them a head start on their journey.
Salmon are spawned in the waterways of NorCal and make the long journey to the ocean, where they live for 3 to 5 years. After they’re fully grown, they’ll make the long journey up the river to their spawning grounds, where they’ll spawn baby salmon of their own. The local rivers were once crowded with these massive fish, but due to the construction of dams and drought, the fish have dwindled to a small amount of survivors.
The release was part of a larger effort to truck approximately 19.7 million fall-run Chinook salmon to locations in the San Francisco Bay, San Pablo Bay and lower portions of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Sunday night’s release was a collaboration with the City of Richmond, Golden State Salmon Association and Richmond Police Athletic League.
The drought has caused the rivers to slow down and heat up, making the journey for these salmon much more difficult. Juvenile salmon have many obstacles on their journey, including avoiding the giant striped bass in the Delta, and now heated waterways that literally cook them alive. Trying to understand the survival rate of these salmon, they have all been tagged to track their journey.