One million state and federally-listed threatened spring-run Chinook salmon that were evacuated from the Feather River Hatchery in Oroville on Feb. 9 were released Monday into the Feather River.
The fish were removed from the hatchery when the water became dangerously murky following the failure of the Oroville Dam spillway, according to a California Department of Fish and Wildlife news release. They were moved to the Feather River/Thermalito Annex Hatchery and held there until conditions improved.
Monday’s release was conducted by the Department of Fish and Wildlife in cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service.
“Based on the weather forecast and current reservoir storage, we are anticipating high flows in the Feather River for some time,” Colin Purdy, senior environmental scientist with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, said in a written statement. “Releasing these fish now should allow them to imprint on Feather River water and move downstream before flows drop back down to normal levels.”
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Central Valley spring-run Chinook are a state and federally listed species and their numbers have declined considerably with the recent drought, according to the department. The Feather River Hatchery is key to the state’s effort to propagate the fish, the news release said.
This was the first group of fish evacuated from the Feather River Hatchery to be released. Of the fish that were evacuated, another million spring-run Chinook and three million fall-run Chinook remain at the Annex Hatchery. The Department of Fish and Wildlife and NOAA fisheries staff members will continuously evaluate the remaining salmon and begin planting them in Northern California rivers when the fish are mature enough, the news release said.