Coho Salmon numbers improve slightly in Marin Co.

February 3, 2010 8:09:47 PM PST
The spawning season for Coho salmon is usually over by this time of year. Sadly, they have now had three disastrous seasons in a row, pushing the breed closer to extinction. But, in the last few days, a few more Coho arrived in Marin County, a little late.

ABC7 went out with an expert looking for the hard-to-find ambassadors of their species.

Megan Isadore is a naturalist with the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN). Recently, she went searching for Coho salmon in Lagunitas Creek in West Marin County.

"If they know there are people here, they'll hide," she told ABC7.

The recent rain has created a fairyland full of natural beauty. But, scattered all over the salmon's spawning area is development, homes, roads, drain pipes and a series of dams.

Coho salmon used to fill the creeks in the San Geronimo Valley by the thousands. Now, the only place to see them that plentiful is in a captive breeding program, but on this trip, went looking for wild Coho laying their eggs in gravel.

Last year, biologists counted just 26 Coho salmon nests on the creek, the lowest number in the fifteen years they have been keeping records. This year things are better, but just a little

"We've had about 50 salmon nests," Isadore said. "Our average population of nests is about 250. So, they are obviously very endangered."

Pink plastic ribbons mark the spots where gravel nests have been spotted. The spawning season should be over now, but a few last fish are still appearing.

"Now, this female has only one thing left to do on this Earth and that is spawn, drop her eggs into holes, cover them, and then keep them as safe as she can," Isadore explained.

Isadore shared the good news with anyone who happened by.

"Oh, I see her. I see her. You can see her tail moving pretty clearly," one woman joined in.

There were also two males lurking around, waiting to fertilize the eggs. The female would stay in that spot for several days and lay about 2,000 eggs, each one a critical opportunity to keep her species from going extinct.

"Any extra salmon who can make it upstream to spawn, even this late in their spawning season, are so precious," Isadore said.

Marin County has had a building moratorium along Lagunitas Creek for the past two years, to protect the salmon. It expires next week and the board of supervisors is now considering a new plan for the future.

Written and produced by Jennifer Olney


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