Search OCA:
Get Local!

Find Local News, Events & Green Businesses on OCA's State Pages:

OCA News Sections

Organic Consumers Association

California Drought Threatens Coho Salmon with Extinction

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Environment and Climate Resource Center page and our California News page.

The lack of rain this winter could eventually be disastrous for thirsty California, but the drought may have already ravaged some of the most storied salmon runs on the West Coast.

The coho salmon of Central California, which swim up the rivers and creeks during the first winter rains, are stranded in the ocean waiting for the surge of water that signals the beginning of their annual migration, but it may never come.

All the creeks between the Golden Gate and Monterey Bay are blocked by sand bars because of the lack of rain, making it impossible for the masses of salmon to reach their native streams and create the next generation of coho. The endangered coho could go extinct over much of their range if they do not spawn this year, according to biologists.

"It may already be too late," said Stafford Lehr, chief of fisheries for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. "The Central Coast coho could be gone south of the Golden Gate."

The situation is bad even in the one place fish can get upstream, in West Marin County. Very few coho have been seen in Lagunitas Creek, long considered a bellwether of salmon health in the region, according to Eric Ettlinger, the aquatic ecologist for the Marin Municipal Water District.

Attempt to lure the coho

The dire situation prompted the district to release 29 million gallons of valuable drinking water from Kent Lake early this month in an effort to lure the coho into the watershed, which winds 33 miles through the redwood- and oak-studded San Geronimo Valley on the northwest side of Mount Tamalpais.

Watershed biologists in Marin have counted only 57 coho redds, the word scientists use for the clusters of pink eggs that salmon lay in the gravel. That's "exceptionally low for mid-January," Ettlinger wrote in his weekly spawning update. More than 100 redds were counted last January in Lagunitas Creek, where hundreds of thousands of fish once spawned until seven dams were built in the watershed to supply Marin with drinking water.     


>>> Read the Full Article

For more information on this topic or related issues you can search the thousands of archived articles on the OCA website using keywords: