DFG Sets Record With 20.2 Million Young Salmon Raised, Trucked, Acclimated and Released into San Pablo Bay
The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) has completed a record-breaking year by placing 20.2 million young salmon in acclimation pens for release. The number released is the most ever by any state agency on the West Coast for a single stock of salmon in one year. The young salmon were released this spring into San Pablo Bay and are expected to return to the Sacramento river system in two to four years.
“Ramping up the effort to raise, transport and acclimate 20.2 million smolts was an all-hands effort involving three major hatcheries and acclimation pens operated by the Fishery Foundation of California,” said Neil Manji, DFG Fisheries Branch Chief. “We put in nearly twice the normal amount of smolts into the acclimation pens with the goal of increasing both their survival and the return of adult salmon.”
On June 17, the last tanker load of 250,000 tiny Fall Run Central Valley Chinook salmon – called smolts – were released into the Foundation’s acclimation pens in San Pablo Bay and towed out into the bay and released in the out-going tide.
DFG’s increased effort is in response to the collapse of the Fall Run of Central Valley Chinook salmon stocks. The collapse resulted in the unprecedented closure of all commercial and recreational ocean salmon seasons and the closure of most river salmon seasons.
Biologist Kari Burr, Project Manager for The Fishery Foundation of California, said, “An exceptional coordination effort combined with improved net pen design enabled us to successfully receive 100 percent of the fish in acclimation pens this season. We hope for excellent survival rates this year.”
The acclimation pens provide safe haven for the 3 to 5-inch long salmon when they are flushed out of the tanker trucks into the bay waters. The salmon will adjust to their new surroundings inside the safety of the net pens as they are towed out into the bay for final release.
The acclimation net penning is paid for out of the Bay Delta Sports Fishing Enhancement Stamp purchased by sports anglers fishing Bay-Delta waters. The acclimation is done by The Fishery Foundation of California at a cost of $98,000 this year. A new net pen was donated by Bodega Bay Fisherman’s Marketing Association and modified by the Fishery Foundation.
The salmon smolts were raised in hatcheries managed by DFG on major rivers in the Central Valley of California. The hatcheries were constructed to replace the loss of salmon due to dams. Key hatcheries rearing the salmon smolts were the Nimbus Salmon Hatchery on the American River, the Mokelumne River Hatchery and the Feather River Hatchery.
“Rearing and moving fish is expensive and intensive,” said Bob Burks, Nimbus Salmon Hatchery Manager in Rancho Cordova. “Gas costs alone nearly doubled. We rent tanker trucks at $500 a week and filling those big gas tanks cost over $500 each. It costs $1,250 a week just for pallets of ice to cool the waters inside the transport tanks when the fish are transported from Nimbus.”
The careful planning and coordination between the hatcheries, The Fishery Foundation of California and the utilization of two release sites combined to make this year’s releases successful. In previous years only one site was used for release of 8-12 million smolts. The addition of a second site made additional releases possible on different tides and decreased potential losses to predatory fish and birds.