Fish Recovery Solutions on the Salton Sea: A Pilot Study of an On-water Fish Recovery System

Publication Date


Committee Chair

Karen K. Kemp, Ph.D.

Committee Members

Timothy Krantz, Ph.D.
Kenneth Althiser


The Salton Sea is one of the world’s largest inland lakes. The Sea and its immediate vicinity provide a place for rest, replenishment, and breeding for millions of birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway. Over the years, the Salton Sea has been both sustained and tainted by agricultural runoff high in nutrients and phosphates, and its salinity levels are gradually increasing. The over-nitrification of the Sea leads to frequent, large-scale fish die-offs, and the presence of large masses of fish carcasses on the Sea produce unpleasant odors and contribute to the perception of declining conditions at the Sea.

In order to respond to these fish mortality events efficiently, the Salton Sea Authority (SSA) is collaborating with a number of government agencies, private entities, and the academic sector, the latter of which includes the Redlands Institute (RI) at the University of Redlands. “Fish Recovery Solutions on the Salton Sea” is a pilot project designed to deploy a fish recovery team on the Salton Sea and to assist in the recovery of fish carcasses for recycling. The components of this study include data collection, storage, analysis, and distribution. In addition, the project provides data exploration and management support applications.

The data is collected and stored in the fish recovery data library using Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) technology, and their database management package, Geodatabase. The data exploration application performed proximity analysis and calculated average fish measurements per event based on numbers of fish by species and total weight. The data was distributed using the Internet web mapping service, ArcIMS. ArcIMS was one of the key tools used to communicate with other agencies during the project, and to ensure exchange of the most current data. To accomplish the pilot study, support was required from the Salton Sea Database Program (SSDP) at the RI, and the other agencies involved in this project. In the future, the “Fish Recovery Solutions on the Salton Sea” can be enhanced by integrating the use of satellite imagery and aerial reconnaissance, by adding a regular chemical sampling of the waters of the Salton Sea, by more closely integrating the results of circulation models with other observed or measured data, and by analyzing the population dynamics of the fish biota in the Sea and their overall impact on the chemistry of the Salton Sea.

Full text is available at the University of Redlands


Article Location