http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/environment/young-chinook-salmon-hitching-rides-to-pacific-ocean-this-year/article/380585

California salmon start hitching rides to Pacific Ocean

Posted Apr 11, 2014 by Nathan Salant
Millions of young Chinook salmon will be catching rides to the Pacific Ocean this year because a severe drought has left Northern California's extensive river system too dry for them to get there on their own.
FISH: Mature chinook salmon swim upstream in the Lower Tuolumne River in California s Central Valley...
FISH: Mature chinook salmon swim upstream in the Lower Tuolumne River in California's Central Valley in 2008.
Dan Cook USFWS/Wikimedia Commons
Millions of young Chinook salmon will be catching rides to the Pacific Ocean this year because a severe drought has left Northern California's extensive river system too dry for them to get there on their own.
State and federal wildlife officials plan to truck as many as 30 million young salmon from hatcheries in the Central Valley to rivers and streams near the ocean, where they can grow until they return to spawn in a few years.
The plan is being undertaken over the next two months to preserve the historic salmon runs that feed California's $1.5 billion commercial and recreational fishing industry, according to the Los Angeles Times newspaper.
Nearly 300 truckloads of tiny salmon smolts -- juvenile fish just a few imches long -- will be transported to the ocean this year at a cost of $800,000, the newspaper said.
“It is a Herculean effort to avoid disaster in three years,” said Andrew Hughan of Calfornia's Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“By disaster, I mean a collapse of the fishery industry; no commercial fishing and no recreational fishing,” he said.
The fish rides are fairly common -- Hughan said the state transports millions of salmon to shorten their migration by hundreds of miles every year.
But this year, the drought is so serious that the US Fish and Wildlife Service has joined the effort, the newspaper said.
Federal wildlife officials have already started trucking some 12 million juvenile salmon from the Coleman National Fish Hatchery to a point on the lower Sacramento River near Rio Vista in northern San Francisco Bay.
For the trip, the salmon will be kept in climate-controlled tanker trucks filled with river water, then kept in pens for a few days to acclimate to their new river locales.
After that, the salmon get released into outgoing tides.
Hughan told the newspaper that the effort helps save 3,000 jobs in businesses that benefit from California's fishing industry, including workers at hotels and gas stations.
“If we didn’t do it, there would be no fish,” he said.
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency in January after three consecutive years of below-average rainfall in the state.
Last year was the state's driest year on record, the newspaper said.