Bay Area/ Oakland/ Parks & Nature
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Published on June 15, 2024
California Pioneers Salmon Revival: A Million Chinook Released in San Pablo Bay by CDFW and Cal MaritimeSource: California Department of Fish and Wildlife

In a bid to boost fall-run Chinook salmon populations, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has upped its game and churned out close to a million young salmon into the shimmering dusk waters of San Pablo Bay on June 10, an initiative not seen from this spot near the Bay Area in about 40 years. The event, which unfolded at the California State University Maritime Academy (Cal Maritime) based in Vallejo, featured CDFW staff in conjunction with the academy's faculty and students, all handling the task, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

This salmon release marks a critical phase in the Department's attempt to rebound the salmon population from the latest setbacks, including drought and other stressors that are pressing on the species, in particular, thiamine deficiency. This, combined with past years' environmental challenges, facilitated the decision to increase hatchery production, explained CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Jason Julienne in a statement, as per the California Department of Fish and Wildlife that "Expanding our partnerships with organizations like the California State University Maritime Academy is critical in ensuring fall-run Chinook salmon populations continue to rebuild from the recent drought years and other stressors such as thiamine deficiency.”

Indeed, the scope of CDFW's efforts is reflected in the staggering number of salmon propagated at its four Central Valley anadromous fish hatcheries, jumping from the 24 million released in 2023 to nearly 28 million in 2024. Notably, the Feather River Fish Hatchery in Oroville is the birthplace of these particular smolts, who were ushered into the bay waters post-sunset to dodge predation. Furthering the scientific prowess of this project, 25% of these juvenile fish sport coded-wire tags and neatly clipped adipose fins to signal their hatchery origin, assisting CDFW scientists and hatchery managers in tracking their survival and success out in the open waters and, at some point, during their life cycle when they return.

Cal Maritime's interim president, Mike Dumont, emphasized the synergy between the academy's educational pursuits and the joint project, stating that "At Cal Maritime, we offer an exciting array of degree programs that engage the largest estuary on the West Coast," and adding that "This project lends perfectly to our oceanography curriculum and our upcoming fisheries course," he said, as cited by California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The academy, known for its focused programs on professions facing the ocean's vastness, positions itself as not just an educational institution but now also a consequential stakeholder in California's ecological well-being, in the transformative process, it is fostering a new generation both of salmon and ocean-facing experts.