Parasite-driven disease hits Klamath salmon hard

Some spring Chinook salmon adults returning to the Willamette and Deschutes river basins have been found to be infected by Ceratomyxa shasta (c. shasta), a parasite-driven disease that is contracted by the fish while in the river and that can kill adults before they spawn.

While it’s not unusual for the parasite to reside in rivers of the Columbia River basin– such as the Lewis, Cowlitz, Willamette and Deschutes rivers and up through the Snake River basin –this year with warmer water and lower flows, the damage to spring Chinook is more severe.

Since 2002, c. shasta has devastated salmon in the Klamath River in southern Oregon and Northern California, where this year, due to extremely low flows and warm water, the parasite has invaded more than three quarters of juvenile out-migrants.

While the severity does not match that of the Klamath River, researchers are still finding infected adult fish in at least two Columbia River basin streams, according to Craig Banner, senior fish health specialist, Fish Health Services, Department of Microbiology, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

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