Disturbing new underwater video shows fish that were scorched by soaring river temperatures during the heat wave in the Pacific Northwest.
Sockeye salmon in Washington’s Columbia River are seen with sores and puffy patches from a fungal infection caused by exposure to hot water in video that was released Tuesday by group Columbia Riverkeeper.
“The sockeye salmon in the Columbia River are dying,” Don Sampson of the Northwest Tribal Salmon Alliance says in the video, filmed July 16.
“As you can see, they’re in lethally hot water. We’re in a salmon crisis.”
The salmon have spent years in the ocean and are migrating north to spawn, the group says in an FAQ. But the hot waters can kill them or force them into colder tributaries where they’ll likely to die of disease without spawning, the group states.
Dams and climate change are a potentially lethal combination for the fish, the group says.
“They’re suffocating, they’re weakened,” Sampson said in the video. “And they just want to come to their home, their beautiful home.
“The reservoirs these dams create are just stagnant cesspools that are heating up.”
What the current heat will mean in total casualties is yet to be seen, but the group said in 2015 a quarter of a million sockeye died due to hot water or because they swam off into tributaries from the overheated rivers.
Snake River sockeye are on the endangered species list, Riverkeeper said in the video.
The mercury-busting temperatures in the West have also led to low water levels, which could be deadly for young salmon of certain species, the Associated Press reported. Losing young salmon could have a devastating effect on the fishing industry and the crisis has already sent the price of salmon skyrocketing, the AP said.