Salmon Essentially Being Cooked to Death in Hot Rivers

Video shows them looking poorly in Washington
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 27, 2021 3:16 PM CDT

The heat isn't just brutal on the human residents of Washington state. The non-profit organization Columbia Riverkeeper made the case, via video footage, that salmon in the Columbia River are suffering mightily too—experiencing heat nearly to the point of death. The video was taken on July 16, a day when water temperatures exceeded 70 degrees (the Guardian reports that under the Clean Water Act, the river's temps are supposed to be capped at 68 degrees). The salmon are shown covered in red lesions and white fungus, a physical response to stress and exposure to high temps. More:

  • Another impact: Columbia Riverkeeper head Brett VandenHeuvel says the temperature altered the fish's behavior, too, causing them to alter their path and move out of the Columbia River and into a tributary.

  • Two metaphors: VandenHeuvel likened their swerve into the Little White Salmon River as their attempt to "escape a burning building." In human terms, it would be like running a marathon on a 100-degree day, he says. But that's recreation; these salmon are traveling upstream to spawn. "They have no choice. They either make it or they die," he says. These won't and will be unable to spawn in the tributary.
  • Another river: They won't be the only ones to perish. The AP reports hundreds of thousands of baby salmon are dying in the Klamath River in Northern California. The culprit there is also climate-related: Drought has led to low water levels in which a parasite has been able to take hold.
  • And another: The Sacramento Bee reported in early July that drought is also wreaking havoc on the Sacramento River, turning it so hot that "nearly all" young Chinook salmon could die in it this year.
(More salmon stories.)

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