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“It is a local weather disaster”: Most salmon in California’s second largest river are lifeless or dying

According to SFGate, hundreds of thousands of baby salmon die as a result of the C. shasta parasite. The Yurok estimate that around 70% of baby salmon are infected with the pathogen. This is a devastating killing that has far-reaching effects on the species as a whole, because the fewer fish that mature, the fewer fish can return to complete the life cycle and revive.

The Yurok Tribe Reserve covers a 40-mile stretch of the Klamath River. The tribe monitors the fish by catching both live and dead salmon, testing what they have caught, releasing the live salmon back into the river, and reporting what they find. According to the statement, most of the fish are either dead or die from the parasite, “Killing juveniles will limit salmon production for many years. It will also negatively affect many other native species, from orcas to ospreys, as salmon play such an important role in the overall ecosystem. “

Yurok Fisheries Director Barry McCovey Jr. told SFGate that while C. shasta has thrived earlier, for example during the 2014-2015 drought, its impact this year is far worse than anything it has ever seen. “It’s a climate catastrophe. The effects are very real to the people here on the Klamath River. We know these fish will not return in the numbers we need when they come back as adults to feed the tribe and support local businesses and fishermen. There’s a whole industry up here that depends on these fish. “

The statement was not least a reaction to the response US Bureau of Reclamation Announcement to reduce California’s water allotments due to worsening drought conditions. The cuts harm farmers, and in the case of Klamath River, the ability to create a “river elevation” that can help reduce the spread of deadly pathogens such as C. shasta. Vice Chairman Frankie Myers brought his plea and that of other Klamath groups to the government: “What the communities in the Klamath Basin are currently experiencing is the definition of a disaster. It’s the new normal too. Significant water scarcity is a predicted symptom of climate change. There is an urgent need for a just federal disaster relief law that addresses the immediate needs of our communities and creates a basis for building a more resilient ecology and economy in the Klamath Basin. We owe it to future generations that such a juvenile fish is never again killed in this way. We must act now, before it is too late for the Klamath salmon. “

Unfortunately, this is the new normal. Climate change is real and these types of events – those we call “historical” – will continue to happen. The federal government and states are between a rock and a hard place. Without building better infrastructure systems and worsening drought conditions, there will be limited water.

WEITCHPEC, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 09: A dead young salmon is inspected after being removed from a Yurok Fisheries Department screw trap on the Klamath River on June 09, 2021 in Weitchpec, California.  The Yurok Tribal Fisheries Department has monitored drought-induced fish deaths in young salmon caused by an outbreak of Ceratonova shasta (C. Shasta) along the Klamath River.  Due to the extreme drought, the Klamath River's water flows have declined significantly since the beginning of the year, causing the river to flow more slowly and water temperatures to rise, an environment where C. Shasta thrives.  Representatives of the Yurok tribe expect C. Shasta to kill almost all juvenile Chinook salmon in the Klamath River, which will not only negatively affect fish production, but also the Yurok tribe, California's largest officially recognized tribe, their culture, ceremonies and traditions associated with the annual fish runs.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

“The drought is worse than people expected a month or two ago because this spring was really dry,” said Ellen Hanak, vice president and director of the Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center.

“You usually get a little help with some storms in late spring and we didn’t,” Hanak said. “In addition, it was dry and warm, so the snow cover simply disappeared.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom has proposed a $ 5.1 billion investment in drought preparedness and declared drought emergencies in 41 California counties. Many people suspect that Newsom will announce a reduction in urban water use in the coming months, although it has not yet done so. Newsom’s position at this point appears to be that local authorities should have the right to make decisions about conservation in their areas. Part of it is the disparity in local investment after the last drought which has exacerbated the economic imbalances we’ve seen over the years. It’s also not hard to imagine a conservative movement combined with political theater following a historic health and economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the incoherently toxic anti-mask and public health mandate an upcoming recall election, Newsom’s political ambivalence.

It’s hard to say and there are no easy answers, but one thing is clear: climate change and environmental disasters affect us all.

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