California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Coho Salmon Recovery Implementation

Photo of culvert with text reading, Replacing road culverts imporves upstream access for spawning adult coho Photo of tree stump in stream with text reading, Underwater snags provide good cover for juvenile coho

Restoration Projects

The causes for the decline of coho salmon are many and complex. In general, coho salmon require adequate, year-round stream flows, cold water, streamside shade, instream and off-stream shelter and pools, and access to spawning gravels with a low fine sediment component. Protection of the best remaining habitat, especially in areas where coho salmon are still present, and improvements to degraded habitat are both necessary to recover coho salmon.

The Recovery Strategy for California Coho Salmon (2004) includes recommendations to guide habitat improvement throughout the state.

  • 85 range-wide recommendations
  • 320 watershed recommendations for Southern Oregon/Northern California
  • 205 watershed recommendations for Central California Coast
  • 145 watershed recommendations for the Shasta-Scott watershed

Since 1981, the Fisheries Restoration Grant Program (FRGP) has invested over $180 million to support projects throughout coastal California. The Coho Recovery Strategy helps guide the development of Coho projects. For more information about restoration projects, please visit the following links.

Coho Salmon Conservation Hatcheries

Two coho salmon conservation hatcheries are currently in operation, including Warm Springs Hatchery, located on the Russian River system in Sonoma County, and the Kingfisher Flat Hatchery, located on Big Creek in Santa Cruz County.

The coho salmon captive rearing program at Warm Springs Hatchery is a conservation/recovery effort. Since 2004, this program has steadily increased its production and has improved the condition of fish produced. The program carries out intensive genetic stock management, including minimization of inbreeding using genetic spawner pairing, and careful outbreeding to mitigate inbreeding effects. (See also, Redwood Creek Coho Salmon Rescue and Captive Rearing Project.)

There is also a substantial field monitoring effort in the Russian River system, lead by University of California Cooperative Extension, which guides adaptive management of the program.  This program has contributed substantially to the abundance of coho salmon juveniles and adults in the ESU.

South of San Francisco Bay, the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project (MBSTP) continues to produce relatively small numbers of coho salmon annually at the Kingfisher Flat (Big Creek) hatchery for stocking into Scott Creek in Santa Cruz County. Since the listing, coho salmon propagation in this program has steadily shifted to include captive broodstock housed at Warm Springs hatchery, in cooperation with NOAA Fisheries Southwest Regional Science Center. 

California Coastal Monitoring Program

In 2011, the Department and NOAA Fisheries have cooperatively worked to develop the Coastal California Salmonid Monitoring Program (CMP). The CMP is a comprehensive monitoring strategy for coastal California populations of salmon and steelhead.

The CMP will enable tracking of the status, trends and recovery of coho salmon and other anadromous salmonid populations in both the SONCC and CCC ESUs. The CMP is designed to provide a comprehensive monitoring program for anadromous salmonids in coastal basins to inform recovery, conservation, and management activities. Monitoring is necessary to provide data that will be analyzed to inform management decisions, and those data must be made available in a timely manner to managers in a usable form.

The scientific foundation of the CMP is made up of a rigorous sampling design incorporating standardized field protocols to allow for valid evaluations of status and trends of fish populations across spatial (within a basin, among basins, independent populations, diversity strata) and temporal (annual variation, short-term trends, long-term trends) scales.

Life Cycle Monitoring (LCM) stations will provide estimates of freshwater and ocean survival, essential to understanding whether changes in salmonid numbers are due to recovery from improvements in freshwater habitat conditions or changes in ocean conditions.

Coho HELP Program

In September 2012, the California State Legislature passed Assembly Bill AB 1961. This bill, until January 1 2018, will enact the Coho Salmon Habitat Enhancement Leading to Preservation Act (Coho HELP Act). The Act requires the Department to approve habitat enhancement projects for coho salmon when those projects meet specific conditions. The intent of the Act is to expedite and increase habitat restoration for coho salmon (which occur in coastal streams and rivers from Santa Cruz to Del Norte counties). The primary purpose of the Act is to facilitate implementation of voluntary habitat restoration projects by agencies and other stakeholders.

The habitat enhancement projects will focus on eliminating fish passage barriers, modifying road crossings, replacing culverts, restoring streambanks and riparian areas, and placing wood in streams. By eliminating barriers to fish passage, stabilizing banks, increasing stream channel complexity, and otherwise restoring and enhancing habitat, these projects will result in a net benefit to coho salmon and other species. For more information about the program and application process, please visit the Coho Help page.