The Future of California’s Unique Salmon and Trout: Good News, Bad News
A new report issued by the Center for Watershed Sciences and California Trout has found that nearly 75% of the state’s salmon and trout (salmonids) could be extinct within the next 100 years.
The good news is that the report shows that most of these fishes can continue to persist if appropriate actions are taken.
Looking at this another way, 71% of anadromous salmon and trout and 74% of inland trout in California scored as critical or high concern, indicating a high likelihood of extinction in the next 100 years.
Behavioral and life history diversity contribute to population and species resiliency under changing conditions.
Over the last century, however, the ability of most of these salmonids to adapt to changing conditions has been greatly reduced due to rapid and extreme habitat degradation and interactions of hatchery salmonids with wild salmonids.
The State of the Salmonids II report makes it clear that many native salmonids in California are on a trajectory towards extinction, if present trends continue.
The report outlines a set of solutions, termed “return to resilience,” the central tenet of which is improving behavioral and life history diversity of salmonid species.
These include the following, which are not mutually exclusive: 1) Stronghold Watersheds, or the remaining fully functioning aquatic ecosystems in California such as the Smith River, Blue Creek, and the Eel River, so that they may continue to protect and enhance salmonid diversity, 2) Source Waters such as mountain meadows, springs, and groundwater, which will be vitally important in buffering the effects of climate change and providing cold water during the late summer and drought, and 3) Productive and Diverse Habitats including floodplains, lagoons, coastal estuaries, and spring-fed rivers—these are some of the most productive aquatic systems in California which have been shown to increase salmonid growth rates, alter migration timing and life history diversity, and improve adult returns.
4) Endemic Trout Waters.
Access to historical spawning and rearing habitat may enhance population diversity and resilience to change.