Sharing Water with Endangered Species
The rite of passage for young coho salmon is a glorious rendezvous with
the sea, but three years of drought have left many migrating fish
marooned in the drying tributaries of Marin County's San Geronimo
Valley, according to a recent study.
Many of these trapped juvenile fish, commonly known as smolts, have
either been plucked out of isolated pools by birds and other predators
or died from lack of nutrients, biologists with the Salmon Protection
and Watershed Network said.
The stranding of smolt trying to reach the ocean is one of a litany of
problems facing the endangered Central California coho population,
which registered the lowest number of egg-laying adults in the normally
bountiful Lagunitas watershed in recorded history last winter.
It is unique in that the primary spawning grounds are in the middle
of developed communities. Some 40 percent of the coho in the watershed
are hatched in tributaries surrounded by homes, golf courses, roads and
horse corrals in the 9-square-mile San Geronimo Valley, according to
It is estimated that between 3,000 and 6,000 coho swim down the waterway back to the ocean every year. The plummeting coho numbers exacerbate a near-catastrophic decline in
the overall population of salmon along the West Coast. The coho
population around the state has declined precipitously over the years
and so few chinook salmon returned to spawn in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin River system the past two years that ocean fishing had to be
banned in California and Oregon.
Edited by Carolyn Allen, Managing Editor of Solutions For Green