The historic reintroduction of Chinook Salmon to a California creek this spring will help ensure another generation of this iconic species.
State and federal biologists have been busy moving endangered adult chinook salmon to upper Battle Creek and spring-threatened chinook salmon to Clear Creek in northern California, where colder temperatures will better promote spawning and help their eggs survive. persistent drought.
Together, scientists will return approximately 300 overwintering adult chinook salmon to their natural habitat above Eagle Canyon Dam on North Fork Battle Creek, about 20 miles east of Cottonwood, Shasta/Tehama counties for the first time in over 110 years.
It is part of a series of urgent actions to help native fish survive another year of long-lasting drought, high temperatures and other stressors.
Agencies join forces
Various agencies including CDFW, USFWS, NOAA Fisheries, Bureau of Reclamation, California Department of Water Resources, and water users work closely with the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, whose culture is closely tied to salmon in the area.
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Actions to help the salmon population include managing the release of limited water stored in the Shasta Reservoir into the Sacramento River, where additional spawning gravel has been placed, to improve the chances that the water released will be cool enough to allow some Chinook salmon eggs in the river to survive.
Scientists are also expanding production of juvenile overwintering Chinook salmon at the USFWS-operated Livingston Stone National Fish Hatchery at the base of Shasta Dam.
The offspring produced at the hatchery in recent years have helped save the species as most of their eggs in the wild have died. Juvenile fish will be released into the river in stages when conditions are more favorable in late fall and winter.
They will move spring adult chinook salmon traveling up the Sacramento River to upper Clear Creek in Shasta County to cooler waters and increased chances of egg survival.
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Strengthening the resilience of transported adult salmon with thiamin (vitamin B) injections is also managed.
There are also plans to track the survival and reproduction of transported fish as part of a science-based plan to learn from these actions to promote the climate resilience of Chinook Salmon. Research includes field studies to understand the productivity of historic habitat where winter-run Chinook salmon will be reintroduced.
The transport of adult Chinook salmon wintering uphill to upper Battle Creek builds on the “jumpstart” reintroduction program that began in 2018 with annual releases of juvenile salmon into the lower reaches of the creek.
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Many released fish migrated to the ocean and returned as adults to spawn, demonstrating that Chinook salmon can recover in habitat cool enough for their eggs to survive the summer.
The resilience of an emblematic species
State and federal salmon recovery plans also call for the return of wintering Chinook salmon to historic spawning habitat on the McCloud River above Shasta Dam and Reservoir. This requires a way to collect the juvenile salmon that hatch and try to swim downstream to the ocean and must safely cross the 600ft high Shasta Dam. The agencies plan to test a pilot juvenile collection system this fall.
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These efforts are part of a comprehensive program in the Sacramento Valley to address all stages of the freshwater life cycle for the benefit of the region’s four Chinook salmon runs.
Work will continue this year to advance science through the Sacramento River Science Partnership and to implement projects in the downstream reaches of rivers and streams to create additional spawning habitat, habitat for side channel rearing, fish food and removal of migration barriers.
These efforts are also part of a longer-term recovery effort underway to address and provide greater resilience to salmon by expanding access to important habitat and landscapes, including reintroduction for spawning and l breeding above Shasta Dam and Reservoir, spawning in upper Battle Creek, and food sources and safe refuge in bypasses, backwaters, and the historic floodplain in the lower part of the system.
Source: US Fish and Wildlife Service
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