Truckloads of Baby Fish Hauled to River in Restoration Plan

Efforts continue to reintroduce coho to the Snake River system with the release of a half million juveniles into Oregon’s Lostine River, where the fish has not been seen in more than 30 years.

(from KOIN Channel 6)

LOSTINE, Ore. (AP) — These speckled, rose-tinted fish haven’t been spotted in this bubbling river in remote northeastern Oregon for more than 30 years — until now.

But this week, the waters of the Lostine River suddenly came alive as hundreds of the 4- and 5-inch-long juvenile coho salmon shot from a long white hose attached to a water tanker truck and into the frigid current. The fish jumped and splashed and some, momentarily shell-shocked, hid along the bank as onlookers crowded in for photos.

“All of us are speaking from the heart and our gladness for these fish coming back into this river, bringing something that has vanished, but has come back,” Nez Perce tribal elder Charles Axtell said. “We take care of each other and that’s what we are doing — taking care of this fish. We are the circle of life.”

The cohos’ baptism in this far-flung river marks the end of one journey and the beginning of another — an attempt to restore a lost species to a tribe and to a region.

The fish, raised by state wildlife officials in a hatchery outside Portland, were trucked 300 miles inland in nine water tanker trucks equipped with highly sensitive oxygen and temperature sensors and a bubbling system that mimics a river’s current. Now in the Lostine River, they must turn around and swim 600 miles to the Pacific Ocean over the next month and then swim home after a year and a half in the Pacific Ocean feeding and growing.

Biologists expect to see the adult fish returning to this remote corner of the state next fall.

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