HomeOutdoorsWATCH: Salmon Nearly Boiled Alive in Devastating Pacific Northwest Heat Wave

WATCH: Salmon Nearly Boiled Alive in Devastating Pacific Northwest Heat Wave

by Jon D. B.
(Photo by Yuri SmityukTASS via Getty Images)

“We are in a salmon crisis.”

To be an Outsider is to have a strong stomach for the brutality of nature. But this footage is, admittedly, deeply upsetting to watch. It isn’t overtly gory – but it is utterly tragic.

The underwater footage was shot by Conrad Gowell. Together with Modoc Stories, their release “shows heat-stressed sockeye salmon dying because the Columbia River is too hot.”

Within, conservation icon Don Sampson of the Northwest Tribal Salmon Alliance narrates. “Imagine the heat we’re feeling… They’re feeling it ten-times hotter in that river,” he offers. As this article is written, another devastating heatwave is taking hold of the United States. And the Pacific Northwest hasn’t even had time to recoup from the last one.

“We need people to wake up to see what it is,” Sampson says. Several dams keep the Columbia River from flowing freely – and as the climate continues to warm and scorching heat waves cripple North America – wildlife within will continue to die in untold numbers. The future of salmon species, specifically, is suffering immensely.

New underwater video footage shows heat-stressed sockeye salmon dying because the Columbia River is too hot. Narrated by Don Sampson of Northwest Tribal Salmon Alliance. (Sockeye footage by Conrad Gowell, video produced by Modoc Stories.)

Columbia Riverkeeper

Salmon Migration and Habitats Withheld by Humanity’s Dams

“It’s heartbreaking to watch animals dying unnaturally,” adds Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper, for the Guardian. “And worse, thinking about the cause of it. This is a human caused problem, and it really makes me think about the future.”

The many dams along the Columbia River system create multiple, devastating problems. Chiefly, they do not allow adult salmon to return from the ocean and migrate upstream. Then, as they are held up by dams, the salmon become stuck in stagnant, crippling water that’s over 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

“I see this as a deeply sad vision for our future,” VandenHeuvel continues. “But I also see it as a call to action. There’s mitigation measures we can take to save the salmon, to cool our rivers. And if this video doesn’t inspire some serious reflection, then I don’t know what will.”

The footage shows the stagnant salmon unable to spawn. The fish stay put until red lesions, burns, and fungus claim their lives – all a result of the heat – and the stress it causes.

“It’s really appalling that we have solutions to save salmon, but we’re not doing it,” Don Sampson adds. His people live in an intimate cycle with the local salmon. And this footage is, for him “akin to watching relatives dying.”

“We don’t have the political will, our members of Congress in the north-west don’t have the political strength or will to stand up to protect salmon for future generations.”

Congruently, baby salmon are “dying by the thousands” in California rivers– more fallout from the regions’ crippling heat waves and drought. If it keeps up, entire runs of endangered salmon species could disappear forever – which holds dire consequences for nature and man.

And this Outsider would argue those two are one and the same.