CA Fish & Wildlife on the Massive Salmon Fry Die-Off & Plans for Future Releases on Klamath River

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The Klamath River
The Klamath River

The dams dotting the Klamath river are finally coming down. And that means an increased effort to restore wildlife habitats. California Fish and Wildlife plans to plant more than 17 billion native plant seeds and return salmon to the river. But that doesn’t always go to plan.

Jordan Traverso of the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, spoke to Redwood News. “On Monday, February 26, we had all of the partners who are involved with the fall creek hatchery, take a look at the fish.” she begins. “We have this fish pathologist up there. The fish were healthy. They did river conditions. The water was suitable for releasing fish into it. The water conditions actually looked really good there.

The dissolved oxygen levels were suitable, the turbidity levels were suitable. And so it was decided amongst this group of folks to put fry into the river at fall creek. And fall creek is a tributary that then goes into the klamath above iron gate dam. What ended up happening with these particular fry is that they succumbed to gas bubble disease.

Gas bubble disease is a physical trauma that happens when fish go through water flow plus drop, sort of like the effect of coming up from very deep water too quickly on humans.

“Unfortunately, we think there was possibly all of the fry that we put in, which was 830,000 succumbed to gas bubble disease at the iron gate tunnel, which is a tunnel that is part of the old infrastructure of iron gate dam.”

From now on, the fish will be released downstream of iron gate, in another tributary called bogus creek, a location where they also released salmon fry.

“Those fish are doing great. The same place downstream where we found we discovered the dead fry, they also discovered a number of really healthy smolts and fry that were coming through from a different release.” Jordan explains. “So the water conditions are great, the river conditions are great. Unfortunately, we had a large mortality event from this diversion that is still part of the old infrastructure of iron gate.”

Jordan says that the conditions in the river are finally perfect for salmon to thrive, after years of that not being the case.

“I spend my days with people who have dedicated their entire lives to making sure that these fish stay alive and that the salmon runs remain viable. So it’s really hard to stomach the idea that there’s good news to come out of this, but there is some good news, and that is that this infrastructure will be gone by next year.” Jordan says. “When we’re doing these releases, the dams will be removed, the Klamath will be an undammed river and the releases will be, you know, they won’t have this to contend with.”