Adult coho killed by ich outbreak during the 2002 fish kill. Photo: Yurok Tribe.

Press release from the Yurok Tribe

Yurok Fisheries crews conducting routine fish disease monitoring have found that salmon in the Klamath River on the Yurok Reservation are infected with a potentially deadly disease. Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, which is known as ich (pronounced “ick”), is capable of causing large fish kill events, and was the primary pathogen in the 2002 fish kill in the Klamath River that killed over 35,000 adult Chinook salmon and steelhead in the Klamath River. Last year, an outbreak of ich reached high levels, stopping just short of causing a catastrophic fish kill.

This year’s outbreak occurred a month earlier than last year’s. “This is an early warning sign for the fall migration of salmon in the Klamath River. It means that the risk of a catastrophic fish kill, such as happened in 2002, is high.” said Michael Belchik, Senior Fisheries Biologist for the Yurok Tribal Fisheries Program. Fish diseases such as ich are exacerbated by low flows and water temperatures that currently exist in the lower Klamath and Trinity Rivers.

The Yurok Tribe will be working closely with Federal, State, and Tribal partners to determine what management actions to implement to protect the main portion of the fall Chinook salmon run which has not entered the river as of yet.

“We take this threat to our fish very seriously, and we’re looking at every option to protect our fish. We don’t want to go through another catastrophe like the fish kill in 2002, and we will do anything we can to avoid that outcome this year.” said Thomas P. O’Rourke, Chairman of the Yurok Tribe.