The federal government unveiled a sweeping plan to try and restore west Marin County's dwindling Coho salmon population, one of the last watersheds in California where the endangered fish return to spawn.
Officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration described the recovery plan as a long-term roadmap toward restoring the Coho's numbers, which have declined sharply since the 1940s when California's population was estimated at around a half-million. Despite years of dangerously low numbers, state leaders were encouraged by a slight rebound of Coho in Marin County.
"We've come a long way in Lagunitas Creek in Marin County," said Chuck Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. "It's known up and down the state as a stronghold of salmon effort."
The Lagunitas Creek watershed, a warren of winding creeks and streams in West Marin, is considered one of the few successful Coho spawning grounds left in California. Still, the already low number of returning salmon there dropped even further several years ago. Todd Steiner of the environmental group SPAWN said the numbers are slowly rebounding. He said the group recorded more returning Coho this year, than three years ago.
"It's a good sign," Steiner said. "We have to keep reality in mind though that we only have a couple hundred fish. It's not enough to sustain a run."
The new federal plan, a requirement of the Coho's addition to the endangered list, calls for restorative actions stretching from Mendocino to Santa Cruz. The actions are aimed at restoring and protecting critical Coho habitat.
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