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River has been able to reintroduce salmon thanks to clean-up efforts

The Chinook salmon who have recently returned has given a glimmer of hope to the McCloud River. We offer prayers as ancestors around the world watch over the last remaining salmon to return home.



Since the construction of Shasta Dam in 1942, California’s Chinook salmon have been unable to reach the McCloud River, preventing them from spawning in the cold mountain waters near Mt. Shasta.

For the first time in 80 years, winter-run Chinook salmon will be able to return to the river.

Near Redding, state and federal wildlife officials gathered 20,000 winter-run salmon eggs and drove them three hours to a campground on the McCloud River’s banks this week.

An ancient ceremony was performed as the eggs arrived in a cooler for the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, which has been working for years to restore salmon to the river where their ancestors lived.


Caleen Sisk, the tribe’s chief and spiritual leader, said, “This is history for California that we’ve done this.” “It’s a real blessing,” he said.

Sisk and others sang as two women carried the cooler containing the salmon eggs, leading a procession around a fire as several children accompanied them.

Sisk explained, “We’re requesting that the river accept these eggs. To give them a fighting chance, we’ve recorded that song.

In the Winnemem Wintu’s cultural and spiritual traditions, salmon play a pivotal role. The Winnemem Waywacket River runs through their ancestral homeland, which was submerged when the reservoir was built.


Sisk said, “Whatever happens to the salmon affects us.”

She claimed that the salmon were prayed for by the tribe. The eggs were welcomed by the women and children because they gave them a “female mothering kind of vibration,” according to her.

On the riverbank, two biologists carried the cooler down a rocky slope to a set of incubator tanks where water from the river was flowing.

The hatchery’s manager, Taylor Lipscomb, retrieved a cup of salmon eggs from the cooler and handed it to one of the children.


It was up to each child to lower a cupful into the water and then tilt it so that the eggs fell out onto a metal screen.

Sisk said she was “talking to the eggs about their ancestors,” the salmon that swam there long ago, as she carried a cupful to the tank.

To give them the courage and support, she said, “that we’re here for them and we’ll do the best we can,” she added.

Winter-run As droughts and heat waves worsen due to climate change, Chinook salmon populations are collapsing.


Last year, the Sacramento River was so warm that the eggs of winter-run salmon could not survive. Almost all of the eggs and young fish died. Only 2.56 percent of the eggs hatched and survived to swim downstream, according to state biologists, the lowest estimate yet of “egg-to-fry” survival.

Efforts to reintroduce the endangered fish to the McCloud River have been underway for some time. A third year of severe drought has prompted this summer’s effort to be described as more of an emergency response than a full-fledged reintroduction.

By moving some of the eggs to cooler waters, the idea is that the eggs will have a better chance of surviving this summer.

Salmon eggs hatch into salmon fry, which swim out of the incubator and into the river through a pipe.


Early in August, another delivery of 20,000 eggs will be made to the riverbank incubators.

The juvenile salmon will be collected by traps in the river and transported further downstream by truck, according to the plan of the biologists. The fish can travel to the Pacific Ocean after being released into the Sacramento River.

Together with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Winnemem Wintu Tribe is contributing to this effort.

As the eggs hatch, tribal members and state wildlife officials camped out nearby to keep an eye on their progress.


Fish and Wildlife Director Chuck Bonham thanked the Winnemem Wintu Tribe for their input, which he said had shaped the project. “Historic and healing,” Bonham said in a statement, describing the return of the eggs to the McCloud River.

In order to reintroduce salmon, the Winnemem Wintu Tribe has long advocated building a “swimway” to allow fish to move upstream and downstream independently of Shasta Dam.

They also want to use Sacramento River salmon that was reintroduced to New Zealand more than a century ago after being exported to the country. The Winnemem Wintu believe that the salmon eggs that have thrived in New Zealand’s mountain rivers should be brought back to the United States.

After initially opposing the introduction of hatchery-raised fish into the McCloud River, she has since changed her mind. “Otherwise they’re going to disappear,” she said, referring to the eggs that run during the winter months.


He said, “It’s the first step,” Sisk. Our New Zealand eggs are still being worked on, as we have a working agreement in place for that. Within the next three years, we should be able to accomplish this goal.”

According to her, the tribe is still interested in creating a fish passage route because they don’t want the salmon to be transported by truck to their spawning grounds.

Nonnative brown trout in the McCloud River and bass in Shasta Lake, both of which eat baby salmon, are Sisk’s immediate concerns. She expressed her hope that the young Chinook will be able to flourish in the McCloud and provide them with a fighting chance of survival there.

When young salmon are present in the McCloud River, scientists will be able to observe how they do in their natural habitat.


Is there any hope?” Sisk asked. This is a dream come true for me.”

She was astounded to see the children, including her 5-year-old granddaughter Maya, putting the eggs into the blue barrels, saying the effort came together quickly.

She asserted, “They now have that connection.” This is a moment they will remember for the rest of their lives.

Run4Salmon, a 300-mile odyssey on foot, bicycle, horseback and boat from the McCloud River to San Francisco Bay, kicked off this year with the arrival of eggs.


On Friday, Sisk and others were on a houseboat at Lake Shasta for the first leg of the journey. According to her, the group’s current plan is to paddle to Red Bluff, then bike to Colusa before paddling to Sacramento in kayaks.

They plan to reach the Pacific coast on July 31 like the salmon.

The Los Angeles Times first published this story.