[env-trinity] Marin Coho Crisis

Linda Ach achhome at pacbell.net
Sat Jan 10 08:32:28 PST 2009

trout unlimited mentioned big in this article! linda
On Jan 10, 2009, at 8:25 AM, Byron Leydecker wrote:

> Well, for me it’s close to home, or rather it is home.
> Byron
> San Francisco Chronicle
> 'Crisis situation' for Marin's coho salmon
> Peter Fimrite, Chronicle Staff Writer
> Saturday, January 10, 2009
> (01-09) 17:00 PST SAN FRANCISCO --
> The lack of rain this winter has contributed to what fisheries  
> biologists say is, so far, the worst return of coho salmon in the  
> recorded history of MarinCounty's Lagunitas Creek watershed, one of  
> California's most critical ecosystems for the endangered fish.
> View Larger Images
> Only a smattering of coho were spotted and only 20 egg nests, or  
> redds, were seen in the two main tributaries - Lagunitas and San  
> Geronimo creeks - during the annual winter survey of fish, watershed  
> biologists said this week.
> The paltry showing of redds represents an 89 percent drop in the  
> number of returning offspring of parents that gave birth in the lush  
> western Marinwatershed three years ago. Last year at this time, 148  
> redds had been counted, then the lowest number in the 14 years that  
> records have been kept, said Paola Bouley, the conservation program  
> director for the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network, or SPAWN.
> "It's just frightening, actually," Bouley said. "We were expecting  
> 70 redds, which is still a 63 percent decline. It's definitely a  
> crisis situation."
> The waterway, which winds its way through the picturesque San  
> Geronimo Valley on the northwest side of Mount Tamalpais, typically  
> supports the largest wild run of salmon left in the state,  
> historically about 10 percent of California's coho population.
> During the first winter rains, the spawning fish swim 33 miles from  
> the open ocean into Tomales Bay and up the creek through the redwood- 
> studded valley to lay their eggs and die. The females lay their eggs  
> only after they've found the place where they were born three years  
> before. The decline this year is alarming given that 190 redds were  
> counted in 2005 when the parents of these coho laid their eggs.
> The plummeting coho numbers exacerbate a near catastrophic decline  
> in the overall population of salmon along the West Coast. So few  
> chinook salmon returned to spawn in the Sacramento-San Joaquin river  
> system last year that ocean fishing had to be banned in California  
> and Oregon.
> The number of coho eggs throughout the state declined about 70  
> percent last year. The low number of coho in the Lagunitas watershed  
> in 2007 was shocking given that a record 496 redds were counted in  
> 2004, the year they were born.
> "We had our best year class in 2004," Bouley said. "What happened is  
> our best year class turned into our worst year class."
> This year is looking even worse.
> Fisheries biologists believe the primary cause is the unusually dry  
> weather in Northern California, which has prevented salmon from  
> swimming up the creeks. The rains in December were barely enough to  
> breach sandbars on most beaches, forcing salmon up and down the  
> coast to circle in the open ocean where they are vulnerable to sea  
> lions and other predators.
> "It's not looking good," said Sean Hayes, a National Marine  
> Fisheries Service biologist who monitors salmon in Scott Creek, the  
> southernmost coho run in California, north of Davenport (Santa Cruz  
> County). "The fish have been hammered a couple of years in a row  
> now. If it doesn't rain, there could be a spawning failure this  
> year, which would be catastrophic."
> Threat of extinction
> Bouley said a big rainstorm could turn things around, but hardly any  
> rain is expected in the next two weeks. If things don't improve, she  
> said, this year's cycle of fish may go extinct.
> The lack of salmon in Lagunitas Creek is a major concern, she said,  
> because the watershed is a statewide model for fisheries  
> restoration. The first winter rains normally bring schools of coho  
> wriggling up the creeks, drawing tourists, schoolchildren and  
> naturalists to watch the fish leap from the foaming rapids.
> "The Lagunitas population is critical to the viability of the entire  
> central California coho population. It is the keystone watershed  
> along the coast," Bouley said. "Fisheries agencies look to Lagunitas  
> as the key to the recovery for neighboring watersheds. We won't have  
> any streams left to seed them if this one is gone."
> The watershed is unique in that the primary spawning grounds are in  
> the middle of developed communities. Since coho were listed as  
> endangered in 2005 under the Endangered Species Act, many residents  
> have taken a proprietary interest in the fish. Schools have become  
> involved, organizing work parties and teaching children about the  
> historic coho migration.
> More than a century ago, about 6,000 coho spawned in the system of  
> streams every year. At that time, the salmon swam from Tomales Bay  
> virtually to the top of Mount Tamalpais, spawning in tributaries all  
> along the way. But industry started taking a toll almost from the  
> day Joseph Warren Revere spotted the valley in 1846 and saw "a  
> copious stream, fed by mountain brooks."
> The redwood forests surrounding the creek were logged between 1860  
> and 1900. Subsequent homes and roads built along the waterway  
> removed about 60 percent of the original riparian habitat.
> The first major dam, which created Lake Lagunitas, was built in  
> 1873. Six more dams were constructed over the next century, the  
> largest being Peter's Dam at Kent Lake, finished in 1953 and then  
> raised 42 feet in 1982. The dams blocked 50 percent of the historic  
> salmon habitat, reduced the amount of gravel and increased  
> sedimentation in the creeks.
> But the decline was slow. Old-timers told how they used to spear  
> fish from decks or garage hatches overlooking the creek. In 1959,  
> when the habitat was already in serious decline, the largest  
> recorded coho in state history, a 22-pounder, was fished out of  
> Lagunitas Creek.
> Lobbying the county
> The restoration effort began in the early 1980s when a group called  
> Trout Unlimited began lobbying the county to stop the decline of the  
> fishery.
> SPAWN, which was created in 1996, sponsors salmon-watching creek  
> walks during spawning season and has saved more than 15,000 juvenile  
> salmon and steelhead from drying pools during the summer. The Marin  
> Municipal Water District, which is required by the state to help the  
> coho as mitigation for raising Peter's Dam, started counting coho  
> redds in the early 1990s and now works with SPAWN to monitor  
> releases from the dam, install woody debris in the creeks and  
> replant vegetation.
> "This is the beacon of hope for the California watershed," Bouley  
> said, but "the fish are missing. They are gone."
> Byron Leydecker, JcT
> Chair, Friends of Trinity River
> PO Box 2327
> Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327
> 415 383 4810 land
> 415 519 4810 cell
> bwl3 at comcast.net
> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org (secondary)
> http://www.fotr.org

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