Salmon Struggle to Survive Amid Drought

Rising water temperatures in the Pacific Northwest put a strain on the fish population.


Current drought conditions in Washington and Oregon have put a strain on the usually resilient salmon populations as the combination of high temperatures meeting low fresh water levels has proven to be deadly. Additionally, a gill rot disease that thrives in warm water has caused an estimated quarter million fish to die. “There’s no question in my mind if you have a serious drought, thousands and thousands of salmon will die,” Robert Lackey, professor of fisheries at Oregon State University at Corvallis, said. “As the climate warms, whether it’s human-caused or natural, a lot of salmon in the southern range will die off.” Having five types of salmon—chinook, pink, coho, sockeye, and chum—typically helps their survival rate due to differences in each population, gaps in their migration, and behavioral variations of hatchlings. Despite these survival techniques, salmon populations have been declining for years and the current conditions pose a greater threat. Hatchlings are especially at risk because they cannot survive in warm water. The drought only seems to get worse as the demand for water only increases. “So many people, so much competition for the water,” Lackey said.

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