In the summer of 2021, the Pacific Northwest braved one of the hottest summers on record, the effects of which are still being measured today. During the heatwave, we covered instances of mature salmon being “cooked alive” in the unseasonably warm water in estuaries and lower rivers. During that time, conservationists and biologists feared the worst: that precious 2021 runs of Pacific salmon would be lost as they tried to brave the warmth and make it upriver to spawn. However, thanks to a new study and survey results, there is a wave of hope in the cold waters of the Pacific.
Thanks to favorable upwellings of cold, off-shore water, the juvenile salmon that found their way downstream during last summer’s heat were welcomed into the ocean by more than favorable conditions. The upwellings brought with them a wealth of protein-rich copepods (tiny crustaceans less than a third of an inch in size), which young salmon rely upon for food early in their lives at sea.
“The [net] samples were just pink with them. So that was really exciting,” said Jennifer Fisher, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration biologist who helped conduct the monthly surveys aboard an Oregon State University research vessel.
These signs all point to strong returns of coho and chinook salmon over the next few years, which is a small victory worth celebrating in the long fight to free the PNW’s salmon rivers from dams.
You can read the full article with an in-depth analysis of the survey and its results, here!