California officials are raising concerns that the intense heat waves across the state may cause nearly all young endangered salmon in the Sacramento River to die.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) told CNN that there could be a “near-complete loss” of juvenile chinook salmon because temperatures have reached higher than 100 degrees for prolonged periods of time, which causes the river to overheat.
Those conditions, according to the department, create an environment where the fish are not able to grow more than their egg stage.
“This persistent heat dome over the West Coast will likely result in earlier loss of ability to provide cool water and subsequently, it is possible that all in-river juveniles will not survive this season,” CDFW said in a statement to CNN.
California is one of a number of western states that has experienced extremely high temperatures in recent weeks, according to the network.
A study out last week determined that the heat wave and drought are continued symptoms of climate change. The study suggested that such a heat wave would not be possible if human activity did not play a role in Earth’s temperatures increasing.
As temperatures continue to rise, a number of reservoirs in California’s Central Valley have rerouted water to cities and farmers, according to CNN. That move, however, has caused rivers to become more shallow and too hot for fish to develop from eggs, which can on average take at least 60 days to happen.
The salmon are losing their insulation layer because the temperature of the water is increasing, which leads to evaporation, according to CNN. The insulation blanket usually makes the bottom of the river colder.
Officials said the salmon eggs will die if they are in water that has a temperature higher than 56 degrees.
Authorities are now saying that only a few thousands winter-run Chinook remain, according to CNN.
“It’s an extreme set of cascading climate events pushing us into this crisis situation,” CDFW spokesman Jordan Traverso said, according to the network.
The CDFW announced on Tuesday that it successfully relocated 1.1 million juvenile, fall-run Chinook salmon from its Iron Gate Fish Hatchery in Siskiyou County.
The fish were transported to a nearby satellite facility and to the Trinity River Hatchery, where they will stay until conditions in the Klamath River improve.
“Due to warm water temperatures, low water flow and an exceedingly high probability of succumbing to disease in the river, CDFW decided to retain these salmon within its hatchery system over the summer until Klamath River conditions improve,” the department wrote.
The Hill reached out to CDFW for additional information on the salmon in the Sacramento River.