Endangered salmon relocated to ancestral waters

California’s Chinook salmon have not been able to access the McCloud River since 1942, when the construction of the Shasta Dam prevented fish from swimming upstream and sealed off their breeding grounds in the frigid mountain waters near Mount Shasta.

After 80 years, the endangered winter-running Chinooks are about to swim in the river again.

State and federal wildlife officials this week collected about 20,000 winter-run trout eggs from Livingston Rocks National Fish Farm near Redding and delivered them to a campground on the McCloud waterfront in three hours.

A close-up of salmon eggs at Livingston Rocks National Fish Farm before the eggs are placed in the fridge.

A close-up of salmon eggs at Livingston Stone National Fish Farm before the eggs are loaded into the cooler during the more than three-hour ride to the McCloud River. Livingston Stone National Fish Farm is located at the foot of Shasta Dam near Redding.

(Brandon S. Honig / US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Members of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, who have long sought to return the salmon back to the river where their ancestors lived, held a ceremony when the eggs were placed in the refrigerator.

“It is the history of California that we have done this,” said Caleen Sisk, tribal chief and spiritual leader. “It was a real stroke of luck.”

During this week’s ceremony, Sisk and others sang as two women carried the cold with salmon roe, leading a procession around the bonfire as several children followed.

“We asked the river to receive these eggs,” Sisk said. “And we put that song down so they have a fighting chance.”

For Winnemem Wintu, salmon is central to their cultural and spiritual traditions. They call the river Winnemem Waywacket, and it is the heart of their traditional homeland, which the tribe lost when the reservoir was filled.

“Whatever happens to salmon happens to us,” Sisk said.

She said the tribe prayed for the salmon to survive. Women and children welcome the eggs, she said, to give them a “kind of motherly vibe”.

The two biologists dragged the cooler down a rocky ridge to the riverbank and set it down next to specialized hatcheries, where river water is circulated through the system.

Taylor Lipscomb, the hatchery’s manager, reached into the refrigerator and pulled out a cup filled with orange caviar, then handed it to one of the children.

Each child participating, lowers a cup into the water and turns it upside down until the egg falls out and settles on a metal shield.

When Sisk brought a cup into the tank, she said she was “talking to the eggs about their ancestors,” the salmon that had long swam there.

“And just trying to give them courage and support,” she said, “that we are here for them and we will do the best we can.”

Chinook salmon that run into winter are increasingly struggling to survive as global warming increases droughts and extreme heat.

Winnemem Wintu dhief and spiritual leader Caleen Sisk

Spiritual Leader and Team Leader Winnemem Wintu Caleen Sisk with environmental scientists Matt Johnson and Taylor Lipscomb from Livingston Stone National Fish Farm on the banks of the McCloud River as winter Chinook salmon eggs are returned for the first time since the construction of the Shasta Dam in the 1940s.

(Brandon S. Honig / US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Last year, the water flowing from the Shasta Dam was so warm that the Sacramento River became deadly because of the salmon roe run in the winter. Most of the eggs and fry died. State biologists estimate that only 2.56% of the eggs hatch and survive swimming into the river, one of the lowest estimates of the survival of the “egg into fry”.

Federal and state officials have been working on plans to return the endangered fish to the McCloud River. They say this summer’s effort is not yet an official re-emergence but an urgent response to help salmon in their third year of severe drought.

The idea is that by moving some of the eggs to cooler water, they’ll be more likely to survive this summer.

When the eggs hatch, small salmon, called fry, exit the incubator system through a pipe and swim into the river.

Another shipment of 20,000 eggs will be delivered to incubators on the riverbank in early August.

The biologists plan to use river traps to collect juvenile salmon and transport them downstream of the dam. Once released into the Sacramento River, the fish can migrate to the Pacific Ocean.

The Winnemem Wintu tribe is participating in the effort along with officials from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

Tribal members and state wildlife officers camped out by the incubators to monitor the eggs’ development.

Chuck Bonham, director of the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, thanked the Winnemem Wintu Tribe for their guidance, which he credits helped shape the effort. In a statement, Bonham called the return of the eggs to the McCloud River “history and healing”.

For years, the Winnemem Wintu Tribe has advocated an approach to salmon farming, which involves developing a “swimming track” so that the fish can travel upstream and downstream on their own around the Shasta Dam.

A person stands near the Shasta Dam.

Shasta Dam is 602 feet high. Since its completion in 1945, this dam has prevented Chinook salmon from returning upstream to return to a cold stream near Mount Shasta where they once spawned.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The tribe also wants to use salmon that used to live in the Sacramento River but was transplanted to New Zealand more than a century ago. Salmon have thrived in New Zealand’s mountain rivers, and Winnemem Wintu says those eggs should be brought back.

Until recently, Sisk said she would oppose bringing hatchery-raised fingerlings to the McCloud River. But she said the eggs raised in the winter are now “in dire need” of improved conditions, “otherwise they will disappear.”

“I think that’s the first step,” Sisk said. “We had a working agreement to work to get our New Zealand eggs back. And we will be able to do that within three years.”

She said the tribe still wants to develop a route for the fish, as they don’t want the salmon to be constantly being hauled by trucks to their spawning grounds.

For now, Sisk says she’s concerned about the non-estrous brown trout in McCloud and the sea bass in Lake Shasta, both of which eat juvenile salmon. She said she hoped the little Chinook would be able to grow enough in McCloud to give them a chance to survive.

Farming young salmon in the McCloud River will allow scientists to track how the fish are doing in their historic habitat.

“It was a glimmer of hope,” Sisk said. “It really is a dream come true.”

She said the effort came quickly and she was stunned to see the children, including her 5-year-old niece, Maya, put the eggs in the blue crates.

“They have that connection now,” she said. “It’s something they’ll never forget for the rest of their lives.”

The eggs come at the start of the tribe’s seventh annual Run4Salmon, a 300-mile hike, bike, horseback, and boat journey that follows the old trout trail from the McCloud River to the San Francisco Bay.

On Friday, Sisk and others joined the first leg of the journey on a houseboat in Lake Shasta. She said participants plan to kayak to Red Bluff, bike to Colusa and then kayak to Sacramento.

On July 31, they plan to end their salmon-like journey to the Pacific coast.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-07-16/endangered-salmon-relocated-to-ancestral-waters Endangered salmon relocated to ancestral waters

Edmund DeMarche

USTimesPost.com is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – admin@ustimespost.com. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button