Salmon release hopes to revive population

May 12, 2008 6:56:09 PM PDT
For all the bad news this salmon season, with low numbers and a state ban on catching them, California's Department of Fish and Game is now doing all it can to increase the annual return.

It's a perfect place to begin the first day of the rest of 350,000 million lives at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo.

Once beneath the keels of warships, salmon made their way to the sea. Now, they arrived by truck.

This month, it's not so much of a salmon run as a salmon splash for 18 million Chinook.

At one point, they would have made their way 150 miles from the Central Valley, but now these hatchery fish now receive a free ride to Vallejo from the Department of Fish and Game to the bay.

Of every ten, how many will come back?" asked ABC7's Wayne Freedman.

Less than one. The return is less than one percent," said Harry Morse from the California Fish and Game.

By the laws of nature, a typical fish never had a good chance, even in the best of times.

"In Lieu of turning all of the streams to their natural state, we've got to do something," said biologist Keri Burr.

But now, with streams dammed and conditions less-than-natural, these are extraordinary measures

As burr told ABC7 news, the nets into which they dump these fish, are the latest adjustment.

"I see these fish schooling. They have good color. They swim against the current as they do naturally," said Burr.

And we saw the importance of that about one hour later, as seagulls appeared to prey on the young salmon, just as Burr and her partners set them free.

Before Fish and Game began using those nets, the carnage from the birds used to be even worse. Now the fish have time to adapt to the new water, they are not floating targets.

"Normally, maybe half of them or one-third or half are eaten immediately by predators. And this way, five percent of them or so that we lose, that's not a bad deal as far as nature goes," said Burr.

Five percent of 350,000 in just a few minutes of one day. If it's a victory, we will know in three years, when these salmon return.


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