About 500,000 Chinook salmon, which started the day in a state hatchery, are finding themselves in San Francisco Bay Tuesday.
They were released at Fort Baker in Sausalito to minimize drought-related losses and to ensure a salmon season in the future.
“It’s basically to get the fish as close to the Golden Gate Bridge as we can get them, so that they can go right out into their natural habitat and hopefully come back as 20 or 30 pounders for our commercial and sports anglers,” said Harry Morse, from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The salmon are 3-6 inches long now, but could be 20 inches by next year and full grown by 2023.
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The Golden Gate Salmon Association has been pushing for Tuesday’s release because the salmon were never going to make it to the bay by themselves.
“They’re real lousy swimmers,” said John McManus, president of the Golden State Salmon Association. “They can’t swim out to the ocean from the Central Valley; they get carried by a river that functions like a conveyor belt but in drought the conveyor belt is broken.”
That delivery system is also broken by a much longer term problem -- climate change.
“We had to do an adaptive management plan adapt to the climate, adapt to the climate that seems to be changing so that our fish can make it out and we can sustain a fishery,” said Morse.
Tuesday’s delivery is just part of a larger effort that will bring 17 million salmon from fish hatcheries to the bay, utilizing about 150 round trips, and traveling more than 30,000 miles.
Of those 17 million fish released to the bay, a Fish and Wildlife spokesman says they would be happy if half a million return to spawn.