For the past three years, volunteers with a local conservation organization have counted the local fall run of king salmon by reviewing footage caught on underwater cameras that run 24 hours a day. New technology is making that task far more efficient.
Historically, the Sacramento River had huge populations of salmon that make their way to the Pacific Ocean and back to their spawning grounds in their life cycle. Those numbers have seen a sharp decline due to human-constructed dams and levees that have impacted the natural environment. In an effort to reverse that impact and bring salmon numbers back up, conservation organizations like Friends of Auburn Ravine (FAR) are documenting the numbers and behaviors of fall run salmon.
The Salmon Counter Project operates underwater cameras for volunteers to view the footage.
In the past, volunteers have pored over hundreds of hours of footage from underwater “fish cams” placed in the Auburn Ravine in Lincoln. Often, hours would go by without a single salmon to count. A new software called FishSpotter uses advanced imaging technology to recognize salmon and other animals in clips from the underwater cameras. Those clips are isolated for volunteers to review, cutting down the hours of browsing and video storage space. Volunteers began using this technology to document the fall run in 2018, and will continue to use it this year.
Friends of Auburn Ravine board member Brad Cavallo joins Insight to discuss FishSpotter. He’ll also describe the history of the Sacramento region’s fall salmon run and efforts to restore salmon habitats.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story was unclear about how the image above was taken and who is involved in counting the salmon. It has been clarified.