California Is So Dry Right Now, The Salmon Are Hitching A Ride To The Ocean On Trucks

When you think of young salmon rushing to the ocean in that yearly ritual, you probably picture rushing mountain streams of the purest, crystalline water, droplets splashing here and there and everywhere as the fish joyously leap and swim hard to make it where instinct tells them to go. Maybe there are are happy bears in your vision, feasting and frolicking. Now change that all to a truck filled with fish.

California has been hit so hard by drought, the state is helping Chinook salmon with their yearly commute, packing up the fish in trucks to help the young swimmers on their way, reports the Associated Press.

Millions of six-month old fish will be traveling by tanker trucks because the state’s rivers and streams are simply too dry for them to make their trip to the Pacific Ocean successfully.

“The drought conditions have caused lower flows in the rivers, warmer water temperatures, and the fish that would normally be swimming down the rivers would be very susceptible to predation and thermal stress,” said a fishery biologist with the Fishery Foundation of California.

This kind of thing is old hat for hatchery-raised salmon, but this year state and federal wildlife agencies are trucking about 50% more smolts (as the young fish are called) than usual because of the drought.

The fish are given some time to acclimate to the water in net pens before they’re taken out to the open water north of the San Francisco Bay, where they’re released and pulled to the ocean by the tides.

The problem with doing things this way is that it’s harder for the fish to make it back to their hatcheries in the three years to spawn, in this case the Coleman National Fish Hatchery.

“Because that imprinting cycle is broken, it’s unlikely that many fish will make it back to Coleman. In other words, they stray. They won’t find that scent to where home is,” said the manager of the hatchery.

But if this works, it could provide a better chance for more salmon to grow into adulthood and become the tasty fish consumers want to eat.

“I actually make my living just trolling for salmon, so it’s pretty important for me,” said one commercial salmon fisherman. “We need the help.”

Salmon Migrate by Truck During California Drought [Associated Press]