For the first time in about 2 decades, almost extinct salmon spawn in Bay Area

3 mins read
A coho salmon swims underwater.

In a sudden occurrence, the bright red tail of a coho salmon emerged from the waters of Montezuma Creek in Forest Knolls after being hardly seen underneath. It splashed along the shallow as it made its way upstream, SFGATE reported.

Spotting the creature was considered an important event for the Bay Area as it became the first time since the nearly extinct fish was sighted in San Geronimo Valley’s little tributary in 2004.

The Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN) biologist Ayano Hayes made the recent sighting. In a statement, Hayes said: “This is extremely exciting and is the result of big storms that have let coho salmon maneuver through culverts under roads that are a barrier to migration under lower flows,” said Hayes in a statement. 

Adding to the milestone was the discovery of the creature in Woodacre Creek, Arroyo Creek and Larsen Creek, where the salmon had not appeared since 2006.

Several factors including habitat loss, climatic threats, overexploitation, and interaction with other fish raised in hatchery have contributed to the “serious decline” of the species since the middle of the 20th century, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said.

A coho salmon swims underwater.

The coho salmon that usually bred in water bodies between the Golden Gate and Monterey Bay in recent years were congested by sand bars due to the drought.

Extinction became a threat over most of the species’ range.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife chief of fisheries, Stafford Lehr, told the Chronicle in 2014 that: “It may already be too late.”

“The Central Coast coho could have gone south of the Golden Gate,” Lehr said.

SPAWN said that the usual spawning period takes place in December and January.

While there are a thousand coho salmon that came to the Bay Area, it said only “a couple hundred” make their way back each year.

But those numbers are promising, it said.

“Endangered coho salmon are on the brink of extinction, yet one of the largest populations left in California occur within 35 minutes of the Golden Gate Bridge,” SPAWN said in a statement.

The milestone happened partly because of the dam removal on the former San Geronimo Valley golf course last year, which made it easy for the salmon to migrate into the higher watershed.