Climate Chaos: UC Davis reports die-off of 21,000 winter Chinook salmon, sturgeon and other fish

  • Published on August 14th, 2022

As Klamath River communities continue to recover from a massive fish kill caused by a mud slide spurred by heavy rains and the McKinney Fire in northern California, UC Davis on August 11 issued a statement that they were “devastated to report” that a catastrophic failure has resulted in the loss of about 21,000 fish at the UC Davis Center for Aquatic Biology and Aquaculture, or CABA.

UC Davis reports die-off of 21,000 winter Chinook salmon, sturgeon and other fish at CABA facilityBy Dan Bacher

The loss appears to be due to chlorine exposure, to which fish are especially sensitive, according to UCD.

“We are in the process of:

  • Investigating where our process failed
  • Notifying regulatory and funding agencies, and collaborators
  • Caring for the surviving fish
  • Reviewing processes in other similar facilities
  • Initiating an independent external review
  • Developing mitigation plans for research programs that were directly affected
  • Supporting our students, staff and faculty

“An example of research that was being conducted at CABA involved the investigation of bioenergetics and environmental stressors on fish species, which included green and white sturgeon, as well as endangered Chinook salmon.

“There are many other facilities where UC Davis conducts aquatic research that were not impacted by this situation. While many of these facilities do not have similar potential for chlorine exposure, there are some that do, and we are going to evaluate risk at those facilities.

“We know that many researchers, regulatory agencies, Native American tribes and other partners trust us to care for their aquatic species.  We will work hard to earn that trust by conducting a thorough review of our facilities, holding ourselves accountable for what happened, and taking steps to prevent it from happening ever again.

“We share the grief of the faculty, staff and students who worked to care for, study and conserve these animals. The people who conduct and support the research at this facility are conservationists, ecologists and veterinarians whose life work is devoted to understanding and supporting these species.  We recognize that this loss is particularly devastating to our community. We commit to understanding what happened and making changes to the facility so that we can ensure that this does not happen again.”

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About the Author

Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento who focuses on California's water issues, a healthy environment for the salmon fishery of the Northwest, and the attempts by big agriculture and big oil to hog all the water.

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