The human impact on the Chinook salmon runs of Northern California are on full display in San Lorenzo Creek near Hayward, California, where the fish are attempting to spawn in the graffiti-filled channel of the urban waterway.
Following the category 5 atmospheric river that drenched NorCal at the end of October, Bay Area residents began witnessing salmon attempting to navigate the urban creek, eventually meeting their demise. The fish are trying to reach their historic spawning grounds through the engineered channel from the San Francisco Bay to downtown Hayward, but are eventually blocked by the many manmade concrete obstacles in the waterway.
According to the Friends of San Lorenzo Creek, 28 salmon were seen on the creek during a visit on November 6, a shocking revelation. Since the concrete channel was built in the 1960’s, salmon sightings have been infrequent and are typically limited to individual fish.
A local fisherman shared a video of a salmon attempting to swim up the creek, only to beach itself and eventually die:
The various salmon runs of Northern California have declined at an alarming rate in the past decade, with human influence proving to be a death sentence for the fish that once flourished in the region. Some salmon runs on the North Coast have been designated as endangered species and fish hatcheries throughout NorCal have continuously increased their spawning numbers in an attempt to help revitalize the revered fish.
Chinook salmon have an innate GPS system in their bodies, allowing them to go out into the ocean for 3-5 years and return to the natural freshwater spawning habitat at the end of their lives. Some salmon travel hundreds of miles to reach their historical spawning grounds, with many being stopped or diverted by manmade structures or due to drought. It’s the unfortunate reality of human influence on the fish.
In 2006, officials conducted a study at San Lorenzo Creek to potentially establish a fish ladder and passage for salmon and steelhead to return to their natural spawning grounds. Nothing materialized from the study.
See the images and videos of the fish from the Friends of San Lorenzo Creek: