Salmon fish in the Columbia River have been exposed to scorching water temperatures due to a record-breaking heatwave causing them to break out in painful red lesions and white fungus, a conservation group said.
The non-profit organization, Columbia Riverkeeper, released a video on Tuesday showing a group of sockeye salmon swimming all of which were covered in injuries, which the group says is due to stress and overheating.
The fish had been traveling upstream in the Columbia River, coming from the Pacific Ocean, to eventually return to their natal spawning areas but had unexpectedly changed course, the group’s executive director Brett VandenHeuvel was quoted as saying by United Kingdom-based online news media The Guardian.
VandenHeuvel reportedly described the salmon as “escaping a burning building.”
The Columbia Riverkeeper recorded the video after a heatwave caused the water’s temperature to rise above 21 degrees Celsius, a temperature that is particularly lethal for these fish, if exposed for long periods of time.
When comparing the situation to a person attempting to run a marathon in hot weather over 38 degrees Celsius, he said: “The difference is that this isn’t recreation for the salmon. They have no choice. They either make it or die.”
He added that the salmon in the video would not be able to reproduce under such circumstances and might die from disease or stress for the heat.
The video is one tragic example of many when it comes to the impact of global warming on the environment, showing what the heatwave- that has killed thousands across Canada and the Pacific northwest- can do to millions of animals that are unable to survive in the heat.
“It’s heartbreaking to watch animals dying unnaturally. And worse, thinking about the cause of it. This is a human caused problem, and it really makes me think about the future,” said VandenHeuvel.
He said that it was still too early to determine the exact number of salmon fish that were killed due to the hot water and cautioned that there are thousands of sockeye salmon still in the Columbia River and Lower Snake River that could die if the water continues to get hotter over the next two months.