Global Populations & the Importance of Local Protection
Salmon are keystone species of coastal
streams and rivers of the West, and their protection is intimately
tied the health of the watersheds where they spawn. Solutions
to ensure their recovery must address the root causes of environmental
degradation. The Salmon Protection And Watershed Network (SPAWN),
a community-based watershed organization, uses existing science-based
research as the foundation for its grassroots education and action,
hands-on conservation, innovative media strategies, and conservation-research
Worldwide, important oceanic fishery
stocks are collapsing due to overfishing, destruction of coastal
and ocean habitats, and pollution. Salmon are under additional
assault as they migrate into freshwater streams and rivers to
spawn and complete their life cycle. Here these species also face
threats from dams and other barriers to migration, logging, agriculture,
land-use planning decisions, development, and disruption of natural
genetic populations through intentional (hatcheries) and unintentional
(salmon farms) releases of captive bred salmon.
While crashing marine fish populations
has received a great deal of media attention, a solid grassroots
approach to involving the public in solutions has been lacking,
largely because what happens out at sea remains out of sight
and out of mind. Salmons unique anadromous life history
also allow for a unique grassroots organizing strategy to educate
and activate the public to come to their defense, first by protecting
spawning and nursery habitats in the fishs watershed, where
the public has chance to see and witness these animals amazing
migratory and spawning behavior. This naturally leads to citizen
interest and involvement in ensuring their protection at sea so
that watershed protection is not in vain.
In the 1940's, the California coho
population was estimated at 50,000 to 125,000 spawning fish a
year. Today the population numbers only 6,000. The Central California
population of coho salmon was listed as "threatened"
under the US Endangered Species Act in October 1996, and steelhead
was listed as threatened in 1997. The listing of these species
under the Endangered Species Act came only after a lawsuit was
filed to compel the government to act. Presently, the State Fish
and Game Commission to considering listing coho as endangered
on Californias Endangered Species List.
Furthermore, the public remains confused
about the idea of salmon being threatened, when more
and more restaurants and supermarkets are adding this ever-more
popular food to their menus and seafood counters. Of course, most
of this available salmon is farm-raised, a growing industry whose
environmental impacts on wild salmon populations and coastal habitat
are just beginning to be recognized. SPAWN will work to integrate
this issue in its educational outreach.
Last of the Coho in Lagunitas Creek Watershed
Central California coho are a dying
breed. They have been attacked by over-fishing at sea; the insatiable
thirst of dams that turn once-beautiful creeks pools into dry
lifeless patches of dirt; and the impacts of logging and runoff
from roadways that cloud their waters with silt. As their natal
watersheds vanish, so do the coho, the steelhead trout, the red-legged
frogs, the freshwater shrimp, and all the creatures that depend
on a healthy watershed.
The Lagunitas Creek Watershed (LCW),
located in west Marin County, has been identified as the most
important waterway left for wild California coho. This watershed
is also the home of threatened steelhead trout. Lagunitas Creek
Watershed coho, though greatly reduced in numbers, represent 10
percent of all wild California coho surviving today.
Estimates of the annual coho and
steelhead population in the Lagunitas watershed were 6,000 about
sixty years ago. Now the annual population of coho is 500 spawning
fish, an extremely low number. Yet this represents the most robust
wild population extant today in California! Specific current threats
to the Lagunitas coho include loss of habitat caused by dams and
other barriers to migration, sedimentation and riparian habitat
destruction caused by development, improperly designed roads,
improper landowner practices, inadequate water supplies caused
by water diversion and changes in hydrology from development and
land-use practices, and pollution of the streams.
Several scientists and agency personnel
have expressed the view that protection and restoration of the
LCW coho salmon population is critical to recovery of the entire
Central California coho ESU.B. Objectives
SPAWNs 2001 Lagunitas Watershed
Coho and Steelhead Project objectives include 10 programs that
fall into three categories: (1) habitat and fish restoration,
(2) public education and involvement, and (3) conservation research.
These activities will provide long-term on the ground benefits
protecting and enhancing the present salmonid populations of LCW,
and will educate, motivate and activate large numbers of local
residents in watershed protection. Furthermore, data collected
and disseminated by SPAWN will provide needed information to government
agencies to help develop successful policies and help restore
salmonid populations in the LCW.
The successful completion of the
objectives below is predicated on the further development of a
StreamKeeper program that will recruit and train many volunteers,
and encourage the involvement of local landowners, agencies, businesses
and the local school district to assist in the following activities:
and Fish Restoration
Rescue and Relocate salmonids stranded in tributaries that go
dry. Thousands of juvenile salmonids become trapped and die as
small tributaries go dry, at least partially caused by a lowered
water table caused by runoff associated with urbanization.
Rescue activities involve training
of StreamKeeper volunteers to work with staff to monitor summer
stream conditions, and when necessary dip-net juvenile salmonids
and relocate them to the confluence of the tributary and the main
stem of San Geronimo creek. Work is conducted under approved methodologies
required by permitting agencies (National Marine Fisheries Service
(NMFS) and California Department of Fish & Game (CDF&G).
This program builds on two previous years of fish rescue, which
has saved approximately 3,000 fish to date and has utilized more
than 75 volunteers.
In 2001, SPAWN will monitor and conduct
rescue and relocation on six to ten streams and expects to rescue
more than a thousand individual salmonids.
Fish migration barrier survey and repair. Spawning and nursery
habitat for salmonids has been greatly reduced in the LCW through
the creation of barriers that block migration. Two dams (Peters
on Lagunitas Creek and Seegers on Nicasio Creek), that provide
the majority of drinking water for Marin County, have reduced
available habitat to salmonids by almost 50 percent, thus highlighting
the need to make all other potential habitat available for LCW
salmonids. Obviously, the loss of habitat is considered to be
a major impediment to salmonid restoration in LCW. Below these
dams, road culverts impede upstream migration into tributaries,
further restricting access to needed spawning and rearing habitat.
To date, there has not been a systematic
survey to determine the extent and severity of these barriers,
though SPAWN staff has opportunistically recorded some potential
culverts that restrict upstream migration during other monitoring
activities over the past year.
In 2001, all San Geronimo sub-watershed
(SGVsw) culverts will be surveyed, and upstream habitat will be
assessed to determine if it provides or has the potential to provide
spawning and nursery habitat for salmonids. In addition, local
residents will be interviewed to determine if fish has used upstream
areas historically. Winter flows through the culverts will be
monitored and video-documented.
Culverts will be prioritized according
to need for repair and permits will be sought to repair at least
one (already identified) culvert to improve fish passage using
methodology outlined in California Salmonid Stream Habitat Restoration
Manual (Dept. Fish Game, 1998, 3rd edition) or best available
information provided by permitting agencies.
StreamKeeper volunteers will participate
in surveys and local-building contractors will be sought to help
with construction activities.
3. Unpaved road sedimentation
survey and research into funding repairs. Sedimentation is believed
to be a major impediment to survival of redds (nests) and also
reduces the quality of nursery habitat for juveniles in the LCW.
One major factor contributing to sedimentation is from rain run-off
on unpaved roads.
The San Geronimo Valley sub-watershed
has many unpaved roads and driveways that are contributing to
sedimentation of streams. In 2001, SPAWN in consultation with
experts, will develop a methodology to evaluate and prioritize
individual unpaved roads according to their potential contribution
of sediment load to streams. With the help of SPAWN StreamKeepers,
we will then survey all unpaved roads in the SGVsw and prioritize
them according to their need for repair. Lastly, in 2001, SPAWN
will begin to research funding opportunities to hire experts to
engineer road repair solutions, develop mechanisms to involve
partnerships with local landowners and agencies, and identify
competent contractors to make repairs. In 2002, SPAWN expects
to begin repairs on high priority roads.
Development of riparian habitat restoration projects with local
landowners. SPAWN will work with local landowners to identify
sources of sediment caused by erosion and will choose good demonstration
project(s) for repair in 2001. Permits for and completion of at
least one riparian habitat restoration is expected to be completed
in 2001 using approved techniques described in California Salmonid
Stream Habitat Restoration Manual or best available information
provided by permitting agencies. StreamKeepers will participate
in doing the work, and local contractors will be approached to
provide additional expertise and provide free or reduced costs
for use of equipment that may be needed. Local residents will
be encouraged to participate and observe the project.
Public Education and Involvement
Creation of an in-depth local educational outreach program. SPAWN
recognizes that public education and involvement is critical to
successful fish restoration in LCW. In addition to the activities
listed below as Numbers 6 & 7, in 2001, SPAWN will:
A) Create a monthly public forum
series with invited guest speakers;
Distribute copies of our newsletter A Creek Runs Through
Us to all San Geronimo residents and all public participants
in our programs;
Create an informative and educational web page;
Develop block parties of residents who live along
various creek stretches to educate them to their special resource;
E) Create and publish a brochure
on how to View Spawning Salmon Gently;
Provide consultations to local landowners on fish-friendly management
Create interpretive signage in the LCW;
Provide news angles to media to publicize the plight of the salmon
and positive activities to protect the resource; and
Provide, maintain and publicize a Coho Phone Hotline to learn
about restoration and education activities; andJ) Update and maintain
6. Docent training and outreach
program to view spawning salmon and educate the public about salmon
and watershed conservation.
SPAWN staff will utilize classroom
and in-the-field course programs to train approximately 25-50 volunteers
to present naturalist programs for the general public to view spawning
salmon, learn about their natural history and how individuals can
live fish-friendly lifestyles and become directly involved in restoration
activities. We expect those volunteer naturalists to lead over 800
individuals to view spawning salmon. Depending on interest, we will
also use trained naturalists to provide classroom presentations
to students throughout the Bay area.
As part of the training program, SPAWN
will improve on its docent training manual written in 2000, and
make it available to other watershed organizations, teachers, etc.
that may wish to use it. We also hope to make it available as a
down-loadable PDF on our web site.
SPAWN will also create publicity to
locate docents and advertise the creek walks to the general public
through press releases, flyers, its WWW page, etc.
This program will build on the success
we realized in 2000, when 40 docents were trained and 700 people
participated in creek walks (thanks to a NFWF grant).
Development of a public fish-viewing area at Roys pool site.
In 1999, working with the San Geronimo Valley Golf Course and many
government agencies, community organizations, and businesses, SPAWN
transformed a barrier to fish migration, Roys Dam
into Roys Pools, allowing the fish to continue
their upstream migration.
In 2001, SPAWN will organize a local
committee consisting of various professionals (including an architect,
park manager, museum developer, carpenter, biologist, teacher, etc.)
to develop a written plan and proposal to build a fish viewing area
and interpretive exhibit at the site, and work with the golf course
to secure the permanent protection of the site.
It is our hope that the creek habitat
and surrounding area will be donated to SPAWN. At such time SPAWN
will begin to secure additional funding to construct the Roys
Pools Fish Viewing Interpretive Center. This has the potential to
educate thousands of visitors per year and help create a constant
and consistent pool of volunteers.
Regular monitoring, consultations, and creation of a report for
Samuel P. Taylor State Park personnel on fish-friendly administration.
Several problems have already been identified (destruction of redds
by horse creek crossings, construction of weirs by visitors, fish
barriers, trail erosion, etc.) and a very constructive dialogue
has begun. The park superintendent has requested that SPAWN personnel
provide monthly meetings for Park personnel and present them with
a formal report on issues. The Park Superintendent has also been
interested in securing the help of SPAWN staff to make recommendations
on interpretive signage. Additionally, SPAWN StreamKeepers will
present salmon conservation programs for park visitors.
9. Water quality monitoring. In
2000, SPAWN staff worked with the Regional Water Quality Board to
collect samples to test water quality, primarily for fecal coliform.
In 2001, SPAWN will expand water testing using its StreamKeepers
to look at additional pollutants that may be impacting salmonid
Spawning and juvenile surveys of tributaries. Two agencies (National
Park Service, Marin Municipal Water District) and SPAWN have divided
up creek systems and conduct weekly coho spawning surveys of creeks
in LCW. SPAWN efforts concentrate on upper watershed tributaries.
The information gathered is critical to monitor population status
of coho, identify critical habitat, and to determine if restoration
efforts are working. Furthermore, weekly surveys allow for regular
monitoring of the creek systems for potential problems in need of
To date, SPAWNs contribution
has increased the knowledge base by surveying a number of tributaries
and documenting spawning and nursery grounds that had not previously
been reported. This has resulted in an increase in the known spawning
population by nearly 10% in some years. With the use of StreamKeeper
volunteers and staff in 2001, SPAWN will expand these activities
to include more tributaries in the San Geronimo sub-watershed and
also in Samuel P. Taylor State Park. Information will be published
in a report made available to government agencies, local residents
and the media.