Rising Temperatures Could Cause the Extinction of California’s Chinook Salmon


Today in California the warming of streams could end the salmon spell. According to the Stockholm Environment Institute and the National Center for atmospheric research the salmon spell could end by the end of the century. The warming of water was not the right environmental temperature for the adult salmon.

There are different things California could do to protect the salmon runs although the hydroelectric power generation would be affected.  The warming of streams is coming from the building of dams and hydropower installations. A group of scientists worked out scenarios to control the warming of these California streams up to the year 2099. In almost every scenarios thought of, the adults would die because of the warming of the streams.

California scientists have come up with goals to control the water temperature to save the salmon. One of the scientist’s goals is to identify regulatory regimes to meet ecosystem objectives through minimal impact on the production of hydropower. Some major options have not been tested yet. One of the options not tested yet is to store the cold water upstream while dumping it into a river during a major heat wave. This would be a win- win option which would help fish while creating surges of hydropower. The only way for adult salmon to make it to their spawning grounds is if there is a rainstorm which will create major river flows, giving the fish the right amount of water and the right temperature water to swim in.

Many studies have taken place at the University of California Davis on the topic of salmon living in California streams . Also, a group of scientists have gathered at the Stockholm Environment Institute and the National Center for Atmospheric Research to come up with ways to help California salmon live longer. The research taking place has to do with cooling down streams efficiently but also using the rivers to create hydroelectric power while keeping the streams cool. Many options are available and ready to look when the Study became published in the Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management in July.

There are many threats that are put on salmon that live in California streams. The whole salmon species if nothing is done to cool down the California streams will die off within the next ten years. The streams will become too warm for the adults to spawn throughout the fall season. The heating up of streams is being caused by the hydroelectric power conversion which is being turned into renewable energy which is designed to reduce the amount of greenhouse emissions. Salmon are under stress all the time from many different causes. Some of the causes are pollution, predators ike bears, and competitors for a source of food which is salmon.

David Thompson from the University f Davis said, “I swim with these fish, they’re magnificent. We don’t want to give them up. Salmon are a major part of wildlife around California. They are a key component for fisherman and with the Chinook salmon being extinct in a decade; the fishing will not be half as good.”

Another possible harm to the lives of California Chinook salmon is the idea of building more dams than there already are to create more efficient energy. This idea would take away space or the salmon and create higher water temperatures throughout the streams. This idea blocks access for the salmon to their natural water habits which create even less room for the bigger adult salmon and baby salmon swimming with their parents. Earlier this year a bond proposal of $9 million dollars was proposed by the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  This will allow two new dams to be built in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Every year the California Wildlife Refuge and Service stocks California streams with baby Chinook salmon. The problem with stocking is the water temperature is too high for the baby’s too live in unless they are put in a cool spot controlled with inserted water. Adult fish move very swiftly up the stream to find and swim too their spawning grounds.

Many of California’s streams are beginning to become too shallow for the adult salmon to swim in. Also, many of the streams are rocky which does not leave enough room for the adults to swim and maneuver. A scientist from the Duke Wildlife and Habitat Research Center said, “Many fish bodies are being found on the banks of streams and floating upside down dead. The only way to keep the salmon population from dying is to create a cool water stream or remove all dams and find another source for hydroelectric power. With the thinning water in streams salmon are not allowed to swim half the distance they can swim in two weeks. On average a group of salmon can swim 215 miles in two weeks and the salmon are not allowed to swim half the distance in two weeks because of heated water temperatures and shallow streams. These studies were performed at the University of UC Davis and Duke University.

The streams of southern California support some of the biggest groups of salmon runs along the west coast. California Chinook Salmon have had a history of movement patterns which allows them to live in many different types of water but today water temperatures are not fit for their environment. As baby salmon start to mature and become adults, they will swim downstream to ocean to finish their stages into adulthood. As the water temperatures warm up these salmon do not make it to the ocean which they then dye off. There are many types of salmon today but the California Chinook Salmon are taking a toll with the hydroelectric power conversions. The only thing we can do today is work on a plan that will benefit both the salmon and the humans.

California Chinook Salmon is one of the most prized fish by fly-fishers. In a survey taken in California in 2005, the California Chinook Salmon was the number one fish to fish for. Within the next year over 20 public hearings are scheduled to advise ideas for management options and stocking options of salmon for the next five years. These management meetings will be held in Sacramento, CA. The CA Wildlife Management is one of eight wildlife management companies in the state of CA working on keeping the salmon population up.


To keep fish alive on a short term scale right now, the salmon are being taken to hatcheries to swim in proper water levels and have more space with cooler water temperatures. Farmers are taking away water from the salmon to irrigate their land. If the salmon would have the right amount of water for three weeks, they would have no problem getting to the Pacific Ocean in time for the fall spawn. There are many ways we can save these fish, like being very careful with the water usage at your home. Also, you could use the lowest power of water pressure on your household appliances. If everybody did this the energy coming from the hydroelectric creation would eventually not be needed. Today you can go online and sign a petition to help the CA salmon even if you are a non-resident. The salmon issue has turned from a problem to a crisis within the past years, and many people are working to fix it.

Will the CA Wildlife Management find a way to cool streams to keep adult salmon alive? Will the CA streams be cool enough for the adult salmon to spawn in the fall and spring? Will the water levels be too low for the adult salmon to make it to their spawning grounds?

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