The Klamath River salmon die-off was tragic. Was it predictable?


recent large die-off of young salmon released into the Klamath River shocked and dismayed state biologists, reinforcing that human efforts to restore nature and undo damage can be unpredictable and difficult  to control. 

The tiny Chinook salmon turned up dead downriver just two days after they were released from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s brand new Fall Creek Fish Hatchery, built to supply the Klamath River as it undergoes the largest dam removal in history.  

The $35 million state hatchery, on a tributary just upstream of Iron Gate dam in Siskiyou County, was constructed to help the river’s threatened coho and dwindling fall-run chinook salmon, a mainstay of commercial and recreational fishing and tribal food supplies.

The hatchery’s first release ended with an unknown number of the 830,000 young Chinook salmon found dead, their eyes bulging, in a federal sampling trap about 9 miles below the dam.

State officials called it “a large mortality,” but said there’s no official count yet and released no additional details about the size of the die-off.