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Salmon May Migrate On The Freeway Rather Than Shallow Sacramento River

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Coho Salmon

A coho salmon being tagged and released. (Chris Wilson/ Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — Millions of young California salmon may end up bypassing their migration down the Sacramento River to the ocean and instead take a road trip because of the drought.

State and wildlife officials have come up with a plan to move hatchery-raised salmon in tanker trucks if the river and its tributaries are too shallow and warm to sustain them trying to migrate on their own.

The trucks could be making the three-hour trip from Redding to San Pablo Bay where millions of hatchery salmon would be released.

The shallow, warm waters of the river leave the juveniles vulnerable to predators.

John McManus, executive director of the Golden Gate Salmon Association, said the young fish imprint by smell when they leave the rivers where they’re born.

“They use this as a smell map, essentially to find their way home two-years later when they come back as adults. If you put them in a tanker truck, there’s a concern that at least a portion of their smell map will be absent and they may have trouble finding their way home,” he said.

In 2008-2009 salmon season was closed, delivering a sucker punch to the $1.5 billion industry.

Unless California gets record-setting rain in the next month, the fish freeway convoy will begin in April and last through June.

An earlier generation of young fish, whose migration happened during the drought of 1991 and 1992, were also taken to the ocean via trucks.

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