Sacramento, California - On February 26, the San Joaquin River Restoration Program will release approximately 54,000 hatchery-produced juvenile spring-run Chinook salmon into the San Joaquin River. The release effort will provide an opportunity to carry out fisheries studies while contributing to the long-term reintroduction of spring-run Chinook salmon to the San Joaquin River as called for in the San Joaquin River Settlement.
The juvenile salmon are from the Feather River Hatchery and are being released near the confluence of the Merced and San Joaquin rivers near Newman, California. The juveniles will be transported from the hatchery to the San Joaquin River below Friant Dam on February 18 where they will be held in pens to acclimate to San Joaquin River water. After the acclimation period, the juvenile spring-run salmon will be transported to the release site for a short holding period before they are released into the river. The release will happen at night for optimal conditions for the fish, including temperature.
As part of this effort, some of these juvenile spring-run salmon are anticipated to return to the river as adults beginning in spring 2017. The SJRRP is prepared to trap and transport the returning adults up-river if conditions are such that they cannot make it on their own. The returning adults will then be monitored to determine what parts of the river they use, their survival during the summer and where they spawn. This information will help further inform future spring-run salmon reintroduction efforts.
This release of spring-run salmon represents a significant milestone for the SJRRP and the restoration of spring-run salmon populations in California. Spring-run salmon were historically abundant in the San Joaquin River, but were extirpated from the system in the 1950s. This year’s release of spring-run salmon marks only the second time in more than 50 years that juvenile spring-run salmon will be in the San Joaquin River; an equivalent number of fish were released in April 2014. These releases are early steps in the long-term commitment to bring spring-run salmon back to the San Joaquin River.
The released spring-run salmon are considered an experimental population under the Endangered Species Act and are exempted from the take prohibitions by the Central Valley Project and State Water Project consistent with the ESA rule package issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service on Dec. 31, 2013. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, in March 2014, concurred with the federal regulations using special provisions of the California ESA that the California Legislature enacted specifically for the SJRRP. The release will not impact the water supply for any water user nor will any additional water releases be made for the benefit of these fish.
The SJRRP is a comprehensive long-term effort to restore flows to the San Joaquin River from Friant Dam to the confluence of the Merced River, restoring self-sustaining Chinook salmon populations in the river while reducing or avoiding adverse water supply impacts from those flows.