Rare good environmental news from California — salmon back

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/jan/19/coho-salmon-california-spawning-rain-drought

‘Haven’t been seen for 25 years’: rains bring salmon back to California streams

Endangered coho salmon spotted returning to spawning grounds after well-timed precipitation

The rain and snow arrived in time for the Coho salmon spawning season.
The rain and snow arrived in time for the Coho salmon spawning season. Photograph: Courtesy Noaa Fisheries/Reuters

ReutersWed 19 Jan 2022 15.30 EST

The heavy rains that soaked California late last year were welcomed by farmers, urban planners – and endangered coho salmon.

“We’ve seen fish in places that they haven’t been for almost 25 years,” said Preston Brown, the director of watershed conservation for the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (Spawn).

California received more precipitation from October to December than in the previous 12 months, according to the National Weather Service.

An endangered coho salmon swims during spawning season in Lagunitas Creek in Marin County, California.
An endangered coho salmon swims during spawning season in Lagunitas Creek in Marin County, California. Photograph: Nathan Frandino/Reuters

The abundance of rain and snow arrived in time for the November-to-January spawning season in the resource-rich Tomales Bay watershed north of San Francisco, enabling some fish to reach tributaries to the Lagunitas Creek, at least 13 miles inland in Marin County.

Some fish have been spotted a mile upstream from where the San Geronimo Creek had been dammed until little more than a year ago, experts say.

Water rushes through Lagunitas Creek, where endangered coho salmon spawn from November to January.
Water rushes through Lagunitas Creek, where endangered coho salmon spawn from November to January. Photograph: Nathan Frandino/Reuters

The rain could easily be a mere pause in the state’s epic, 20-year drought, which has complicated efforts by water officials to keep fish, farms and growing cities supplied. Experts say the state needs several wet years in a row to replenish reservoirs.

In the meantime, the fish are benefiting, laying eggs in nests where babies will hatch and spend most of their juvenile life. They will then swim out to the ocean as adults, later returning to the same area to spawn.

“They like these really tiny small streams, and that’s where their survival is the highest,” said Todd Steiner, executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network, the parent group to Spawn. “If we give the fish a fighting chance at survival, they will come back.”

Todd Steiner, Executive Director of the Turtle Island Restoration Network, speaks with Preston Brown, Director of Watershed Conservation for Salmon Protection And Watershed Network (SPAWN), about the coho salmon spawning season, in the Tomales Bay watershed.
Todd Steiner, Executive Director of the Turtle Island Restoration Network, speaks with Preston Brown, Director of Watershed Conservation for Salmon Protection And Watershed Network (SPAWN), about the coho salmon spawning season, in the Tomales Bay watershed. Photograph: Nathan Frandino/Reuters

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