Another Climate Wake Up Call For Agriculture

The Lempert Report
August 17, 2021

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife issued a statement warning that nearly all juvenile chinook salmon in the Sacramento River could die due to abnormally hot underwater conditions as heat waves continue to bake the West.

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They said that there could be a "near-complete loss" of the young endangered species of salmon because temperatures above 100 degrees for extended periods of time are overheating the river, making it uninhabitable for the fish to grow beyond their egg stage. CNN reports that according to the US Drought Monitor, California, Oregon and Washington states has been experiencing extremely high temperatures in recent weeks. And drought conditions in the Golden State are especially taxing, with much of the state under severe or exceptional drought. As temperatures near and surpass triple digits here in California, many reservoirs in California's Central Valley which grows many crops, have diverted more water to cities and farmers during the drought, making rivers shallower and too hot for the fish to develop from eggs, a process which can take at least 60 days to complete.

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials, water is more insulated when it is deep. However, they say, since more water is heating up and evaporating, the salmon are losing their insulation blanket, which normally makes it colder at the bottom of the river. The eggs will die when the water temperature rises above 56 degrees, officials said, warning only a few thousand of winter-run Chinook are left. So what to do? Give them a ride! Millions of salmon are now being transported, by trucks, to San Pablo Bay, San Francisco Bay and fish farms. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife also reported they have relocated over 1 million juvenile salmon from the Kalmath River in Northern California. John McManus, president of the Golden State Salmon Association was quoted as saying "We could lose salmon here in California if we continue with business as usual and the climate continues to warm. There's a very real possibility we could lose salmon forever here." On Monday the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made it very clear in their landmark report that time is running out for the world to take immediate action – in their words – we are in a “code red for humanity”.