More than a quarter million sockeye salmon are in hot water – literally. As they return to the Columbia River to spawn, many of these fish are dying due to warming water, according to the Associated Press.
According to local and state fishery biologists, water is 5 to 6 degrees warmer than it was in years past. The temperature rise is decimating half the population of salmon returning from the ocean, according to the AP.
Record-breaking heat and limited snowmelt are factors that make life for these salmon unsustainable, according to the Seattle Times. The rise in temperature kills these salmon by weakening their immune systems, ultimately leading to death by infection.
In this area alone, 13 species of salmon and steelhead are listed as endangered or threatened, according to the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office.
Officials are trying everything they can to cool down the waters along the Columbia River, releasing cold water from surround reservoirs, according to the AP.
Rain could offer some relief by bringing temperatures down drastically. If the river doesn't get some relief soon, the temperatures will continue to rise and more salmon will die before making it to their destination in Canada, according to the Seattle Times.
Long-term climate change raises concerns for salmon in this area, and safe migration may be threatened for years to come.