NOAA Fisheries this week released its final plan to recover California
coastal salmon and steelhead “by addressing the threats they face and restoring
the ecosystem on which they depend.”
Millions of wild salmon and steelhead once returned to
California’s north and central coastal watersheds. Development over the last
100 years and the conversion of forestlands to urban and agricultural use led
to the decline of these populations.
From 1997 to 2000, California Coastal chinook salmon,
Northern California steelhead, and Central California Coast steelhead were
listed under the federal Endangered Species Act as species threatened with
The recovery plan, says NOAA Fisheries, “strategically
targets restoration efforts to the needs of salmon and steelhead throughout
each of their life stages, from their time as juveniles in freshwater habitat,
through their maturation in the ocean, and their return to streams to spawn.
Using this framework, the plan seeks to improve estuarine and riparian habitat
conditions, restore floodplains and stream channels, enhance stream flows and
improve fish passage across 8 million acres of California’s north and central
With science at its foundation, says the agency, “the plan
provides for the biological needs of fish.”
A technical team of scientists, led by NOAA’s Southwest
Fisheries Science Center, developed criteria that will ensure the species
persists over the long-term. The criteria address such attributes as population
size and reproductive success rates, as well as sufficient geographic
distribution and genetic diversity. The idea is to target on-the-ground actions
to the needs of fish throughout their life cycle to restore robust populations
across the landscape.
Many stakeholders, organizations and agencies commented on
the draft recovery plan, and NOAA Fisheries says it “took those comments into
account to fine-tune several sections including recovery actions and criteria.
The plan notes that continued public engagement and partnerships will be
essential in the recovery of the north and central coast’s salmon and steelhead
“Fully restoring the region’s salmon runs will be
challenging, but salmon and steelhead recovery will provide significant
economic, social, and ecological benefits,” says the agency. “California
commercial and recreational salmon fisheries, for instance, are estimated to
generate $118 to $279 million in income annually and provide roughly 2,000 to
3,000 jobs. A revived sport and commercial fishery would support substantial
economic gains and job creation across the species’ entire range, most notably
in the state’s river and coastal communities.
“In addition, many of the actions identified in the plan
will improve the natural processes of the watersheds. Not only do these actions
benefit native plants and animals, but they also improve surface and groundwater
supplies, reduce the cost of streambank stabilization or flood control
activities, and limit the frequency of high severity fires.
“Partnerships and collective action are the key to achieving
recovery. Recovery plans are voluntary, and their success depends on federal
agencies, resource managers, local governments, interested citizens, and
private landowners coming together to implement the actions identified in the
View the recovery plan and associated materials at http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/protected_species/salmon_steelhead/recovery_planning_and_implementation/north_central_california_coast/coastal_multispecies_recovery_plan.html