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January, 2003

Record # Of Coho Rescued In 2002 From Drying Creeks
More Than 6,000 Fish Saved In Past Four Years

Marin County, CA-SPAWN, the Salmon Protection And Watershed Network, reported today that a record number of juvenile coho salmon were rescued from drying creeks this year in the San Geronimo Valley, located in west Marin County. SPAWN staff and more than 50 volunteers, rescued and released 2,043 baby coho and 571 steelhead trout from drying pools in six tributaries of San Geronimo Creek, bringing the total rescued in the past four years to more than 6,000 fish. Both species are listed as 'Threatened' under the US Endangered Species Act, and coho from this region were officially listed as 'Endangered' under California's Endangered Species Act in August 2002.

"These fish would die if they had not been rescued by our trained volunteers," said Reuven Walder, Watershed Biologist for SPAWN. He continued, "Creeks go dry here, in part, because of the impact of development, which causes rainfall to run off impervious surfaces instead of soaking into the ground and recharging our shallow aquifer." He continued, "We see this as a short term remedy, until such time that we can reduce runoff."

The largest number of coho, 876, were rescued from Larsen Creek, which runs through the campus of Lagunitas School in San Geronimo, followed by 462 in Arroyo Creek in Lagunitas and 250 in Woodacre Creek in the village of Woodacre.

In a reversal from previous years, the fish rescued were mostly coho, representing 78 percent of the total. In previous years the vast majority (75-90%) of fish rescued were steelhead. Todd Steiner, the Director of SPAWN, hypothesized on the reason for the large number of coho this year, "Though rainfall was similar to the past few years, the majority of it fell during the peak of coho migration, allowing these fish to pass through culverts under roads that are normally barriers to migration. Under more normal rainfall patterns, the fish probably cannot make it into these small tributaries where they prefer to spawn. In contrast, little rainfall fell later in the winter, which is the peak of the steelhead migration."

Walder said, "Replacing these culverts with more fish-friendly passages will open more habitat for salmon spawning and this will be important to their recovery, since nearly half of their historic range in this watershed has been lost behind the dams that supply Marin's drinking water supply." This past year, SPAWN assessed culverts and other barriers in the watershed and has developed a priority list for restoration projects that will improve fish migration. Walder added, "We are investigating ways to capture runoff from our roads and buildings and allow it to percolate into the ground to recharge our aquifer."

SPAWN's fish rescue and relocation program are conducted under permits issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service and California Department of Fish & Game,

Note: Photographs and video of fish rescue efforts are available by contacting SPAWN 415 488 0370 ext. 102.

The Salmon Protection And Watershed Network (SPAWN) works to protect threatened coho salmon and steelhead and the environment on which we all depend. The protection of these keystone species leads to the protection of all the wildlife of our community, and indeed the protection of our communities and ourselves.

SPAWN uses a science-based, multi-faceted approach to accomplish our mission, including research and monitoring, habitat restoration, policy development, environmental education, collaboration with other organization, and media campaigns. SPAWN is a project of Turtle Island Restoration Network.

 

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