California: One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Dead Fish

bp -1Since 2011, millions of Californian fish have died due to rising water temperatures associated with the water loss from the ongoing drought.

Nimbus Hatchery has been forced to evacuate the fish and relocate them to the Feather River Hatchery Annex until the water temperatures subside.

Staff evacuated the American River and Nimbus hatcheries due to low flows making water temperatures reach dangerously unsustainable heights for the fish there. Nimbus Hatchery has already begun relocating some 330,000 steelhead to the Feather River Hatchery Annex to be held through the summer.


In addition to the Feather River Hatchery Annex, many trout and other Californian fish are being transported to the American River Hatchery. Here, a new hatchery building uses advanced technology such as water filters, ultraviolet sterilization techniques, and large water chillers to idealize water quality and temperature for the fish.

Although many state-of-the-art technologies are currently in use, they are not enough on their own to save all of the fish. “This year, conditions are forecasted to be dire with little flexibility in operations.” Due to the arid and sweltering climate during summer months, the water temperature will continue to rise. If fall and winter rains are received in sufficient amounts, the water temperature will cool enough for the hatcheries to resume operations.

In June of 2015, environmentalists sued state and local governments for giving humans “billions of gallons of water…earmarked for salmon” and other species of fish, bringing several species of fish “to the brink of extinction.”

“Most ecologists believe the species, [winter-run Chinook], is not going to blink out because of the drought of 2015,” said Tom Gohring of the Sacramento Water Forum. “But it moves us closer to that possibility.”

The state is also dealing with a drought-related fish disease in two north state hatcheries where up to 3 million golden and brown trout may have to be killed to stop the outbreak.

The declining population of salmon creates problems for California’s $1.4 billion-a-year salmon fishing industry, as well as for the farmers who grow crops that are essential to California’s agriculture industry.

A portion of the water allotted to the farmers has been redirected to the fisheries to help with the survival of the threatened fish populations. Such a move, however, during planting season “is devastating to agriculture,” said Mike Wade of the California Farm Water Coalition. “There’s water in Shasta that farmers throughout California have been depending on. Now the rug has been pulled out from under them.”

If this drought is not more heavily addressed, California’s fish industry will be immensely damaged, the availability and price of fish everywhere will be affected, and California’s environment will continue to deteriorate.

Written by: Abby Watts, Anna Carver, Shaleen Haque, Pallavi Samudrala

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