Story at a glance

  • Large numbers of salmon are dying off in the Klamath River due to a pathogen known as Ceratonova shasta.
  • Typically, sufficient water flows rushing down the river kept the parasite population in check.
  • The river is experiencing low water levels due to historic drought.

Hundreds of thousands of juvenile Chinook salmon are dying off in a large Northern California river, threatening tribal communities in the region that depend on the fish for their livelihoods and traditions, according to SFGate

The deaths of the fish in the more than 250-mile Klamath River is a consequence of the state’s historic drought. 

Low water levels in the river have allowed a deadly parasite known as Ceratonova shasta to thrive in the waterway and infect large numbers of salmon. Typically, sufficient water flows rushing down the river kept the parasite population in check. 


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The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation also decided against releasing water from a dam on the Upper Klamath Lake to increase water flow.  

The Yurok Indian Reservation is located on a 44-mile stretch of the river, and the tribe’s fishery department monitors salmon populations. 

Last month, the tribe warned that the massive disease outbreak has put the salmon on a path to extinction. 

“Right now, the Klamath River is full of dead and dying fish on the Yurok Reservation,” Frankie Myers, the Yurok Tribe’s Vice Chairman, said in a statement

“This disease will kill most of the baby salmon in the Klamath, which will impact fish runs for many years to come. For salmon people, a juvenile fish kill is an absolute worst-case scenario,” he said. 

Each year the Yurok Fisheries Department monitors the river for the deadly parasite. Officials said more than 70 percent of the juvenile Chinook salmon it recently trapped were dead. 


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The tribe said the Klamath fish runs have been some of the lowest on record over the last five years. 

“It’s a climate catastrophe,” Barry McCovey Jr., Yurok fisheries director, told SFGate. 

“The impacts are very real to the people here on the Klamath River. We understand these fish aren’t going to return in the numbers we need them to be when they come back as adults to feed the tribe and to support the local businesses and the local fisherman,” he told the outlet. 


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Published on Jun 17, 2021