The state’s recent drought has blocked the annual salmon migration for coho and steelhead in central California, leaving both species with a very real threat of extinction.
If the salmon are not able to make it to their native streams to spawn, the next generation of both species in central California could be wiped out, which, along with several other environmental consequences, would negatively impact the region’s commercial and maritime fishing operations.
SFGate.com reported that all the rivers and creeks between the Golden Gate and Monterey Bay are currently blocked by sand bars, which has prevented the salmon migration for coho and steelhead back to their native streams. The salmon are currently trapped in the ocean waiting for the wintertime surge of water that lets them know its time to begin their salmon migration. If they don’t make it back to spawn, the next generation of salmon could be decimated.
“Fish need water. If they don’t have water, they can’t go walk somewhere else.” Jonathan Ambrose of the National Marine Fisheries Service told SFGate.com. “So we are in somewhat of a crisis mode right now, and we don’t have a whole lot of options.”
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In an effort to help the salmon migration earlier this month, regional officials decided to release 29 million gallons of drinking water from nearby Kent Lake into the San Geronimo Valley watershed to help lure the salmon back into the creeks and rivers. So far the results have not been promising. Biologists are seeing low numbers for coho egg clusters known as redds. They’ve counted only 57 redds this January, compared to more than 100 redds they found in the same location this time last year.
Both steelhead and coho are considered endangered species in California. The drought doesn’t seem to have any end in sight, which is concerning to both wildlife officials and the commercial fishermen who rely on the natural order of their migration.
To ensure both species do not die out, the Scott Creek hatchery in Santa Cruz has been breeding coho and steelhead.