The drought's hidden victim: California's native fish


Last summer, a narrow, rock-rimmed stretch of the Sacramento River near here turned into a mass graveyard for baby salmon. Upstream releases of water from Shasta Dam were so warm that virtually an entire generation of endangered winter-run Chinook was wiped out. The eggs never hatched, or if they did, the emerging young soon died.

A similar disaster could unfold this summer. And if the drought drags on for another year or two, wild populations of some of the state's most prized fish are likely to vanish.

"We're going to be losing most of our salmon and steelhead if things continue," said UC Davis professor emeritus Peter Moyle, a leading authority on California's native fish. Also in danger are the long-suffering delta smelt, whose numbers have plunged to what he called "the last of the last."

"It would be a major extinction event," Moyle warned.

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