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Fish kill consumes the Klamath River

The Yurok Tribe are calling the event a 'catastrophic' event, affecting most of the juvenile salmon in the river.

Tim Trainor (Herald and News, Klamath Falls, Ore.)

Alex Schwartz

Published: 9:26 AM PDT June 3, 2021
Updated: 9:26 AM PDT June 3, 2021

As it enters the Yurok Reservation, the Lower Klamath River is as picturesque as it gets. Clear water rushes over gentle rapids, framed by verdant hills and a cerulean sky. An untrained eye would never notice the devastation beneath the surface — save for the tiny fish floating lifeless in the water.

Over the past several weeks, an outbreak of the parasite Ceratonova shasta has ripped through young salmon throughout the lower reaches of the Klamath watershed. Driven by high temperatures and low flows out of Iron Gate Dam, the disease is resulting in what the Yurok Tribe is calling a “catastrophic” fish kill.

Last week, nearly every single juvenile salmon trapped by researchers and fisheries staff was infected with C. shasta, and a majority of them were dead.

“This feels like failure,” said Yurok Vice Chairman Frankie Myers. “It feels like some real, deep failure.”