Hope for Salmon

Toby McLeod – May 9, 2023


Chief Sisk watches Chuck Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife sign the Co-Management Agreement, along with Cathy Marcinkevage of NOAA Fisheries. Photo by Jessica Abbe.

On May 1, our global salmon emergency met serious hope on the McCloud River below sacred Mt. Shasta in northern California. The Winnemem Wintu Tribe stepped up to overcome a century of government hostility and violence as Winnemem Chief Caleen Sisk signed co-management agreements with government officials who are equally committed to restoring endangered winter run Chinook salmon back in the cold mountain waters above Shasta Dam.

I was honored to be asked by Chief Sisk to MC the signing ceremony, a truly inspiring event, that generated national news coverage. I’ve been working with the tribe as Media Coordinator, and am also part of the growing team that is working to bring salmon back from New Zealand—where fish expert Livingston Stone exported eyed eggs more than a century ago.

Last summer, salmon scientists worked with the tribe to bring 40,000 fertilized winter run Chinook salmon eggs to the river, where they were hatched and released. A few months later and 14 miles downstream,1,600  fingerlings were caught in rotary screw traps and then released below the dam into the Sacramento River. Those mountain climbers will hopefully return in three or four years and find a volitional passage around Shasta Dam so they can spawn where they were born in the McCloud River. Perhaps they will swim alongside cousins from New Zealand.

The emergency action will be repeated with 80,000 eggs this summer. Stay tuned.

Filmmaker Jessica Abbe (left) with Chief Caleen Sisk and Toby McLeod after the signing ceremony.

Check out the media coverage of the May signing ceremony:

KPIX (CBS) TV – San Francisco –  “Historic partnership penned to help save endangered salmon” by Wilson Walker

Los Angeles Times – “Tribe signs pact with California to work together on efforts to save endangered salmon” by Ian James

Redding Record Searchlight — “California, federal agencies and Native tribe sign ‘historic’ agreement to aid salmon” by Damon Arthur

California Department of Fish and Wildlife — Press Release

RELATED VIDEO: Reintroductions: A Lifeline for Salmon in California’s Central Valley (5:00)