Hunter’s Moon – Action Needed to Save Central Valley Salmon

October has just ended, and the spawning of spring-run Chinook salmon should be nearing completion.  The winter-run have already finished spawning, and their eggs are now hatching.  The fall-run salmon are in the rivers and beginning their spawning on the Hunter’s Moon.  The fall-run are often neglected after the two endangered runs are complete.  There are actions needed now to protect this biggest and most important run.  After all, the California Fish and Game Commission sacrificed the commercial and sport salmon fishing this year to let the fall-run recover from record lows.

The first signs of trouble in 2023 came with the the low number of returning Central Valley spring-run Chinook Salmon this year.  The decline was indicative of a sudden drastic collapse in all the salmon runs around the Central Valley.

In the northern Sacramento Valley, there are the Clear Creek and Battle Creek spring-run populations.  In the middle Sacramento Valley, there are the Mill and Deer Creeks populations with their remnant counterparts in nearby Big Chico and Antelope Creeks.  There is also the relatively robust (until 2023) Butte Creek population.  Then there is the Feather-Yuba population in the lower Sacramento Valley.  Finally, there is the new population being restored in the upper San Joaquin River near Fresno.  An October 11, 2023 joint news release from NMFS and CDFW describes the numbers of returning spring-run this year as drastically low, to the point that fishery agencies have begun capturing the wild yearlings still residing in the spawning creeks and transporting them to a UC Davis conservation hatchery to preserve the species.

An immediate need is to focus attention on the fall-run Chinook that normally pour into the rivers and begin spawning with the Hunter’s Moon.  Water year 2023 was a wet year, and salmon fishing has been closed in anticipation of predicted low numbers in this year’s spawning run.  It turns out drought years 2021 and 2022 had worse-than-predicted effects on the Valley salmon.

The news release from NMFS and CDFW says, “While other year-classes (or cohorts) will return in coming years, the 2019-2022 drought impacted multiple cohorts, increasing risks for extirpation.”  Actually, 2019 was a wet year and 2020 was a below-normal water year.  It is brood-years 2020, 2021, 2022, and now 2023, that the 2021-2022 drought damaged from many different directions.  Looking ahead, there is a bad forecast for the coming years.  Poor brood years 2020-2023 will lead to poor brood years in 2024-2027, and so on, unless we pay attention now to this year’s fall run.

The Actions Needed Now – Starting the First of November:

1. An intensive monitoring program to assess the damage.

2. Remaining wild and hatchery salmon need maximum protection – this includes a temporary conservation hatchery.

3. This year’s production, no matter how minuscule, must be protected. A substantial portion of the juveniles should be rescued and preserved.  If water year 2024 turns dry this winter, fry, fingerling, and pre-smolt salmon from all races should be captured and eventually transported to the Bay unless significant strategic, coordinated flow pulses can be provided or occur naturally.

4. All hatchery smolts should have at least an adipose fin-clip mark. As many as possible should be released to the Bay or coast for maximum survival.  The marks will be important to differentiate between hatchery and natural-born salmon in the coming years.

5. At locations where migrating adult spring-run salmon potentially originating from Clear, Battle, Mill, Deer, and Butte creeks are clearly stuck or off-course during fall-winter-spring of water year 2024, and where it is possible to collect them, fish agencies should attempt to capture them and return them to their natal stream or to the conservation hatchery. Locations include weirs, dams, ladders, or traps, as well as hatcheries.  This will require Genetic Stock Identification (GSI).

6. Juvenile salmon salvaged at south Delta export facilities this winter and spring should be handled as follows: pre-smolt and smolt salmon should be transported to Golden Gate pens for release. Salvaged fry and fingerlings should be hatchery reared or pen reared to smolt size for eventual pen release at the Golden Gate.

7. The fish agencies and water managers must provide prescribed streamflows and water temperatures in spawning streams and in rearing and migratory reaches. They should not even consider Temporary Urgency Change Petitions for water supply.  Given the current storage in reservoirs across the state, they should prioritize fall and winter flows for salmon over reservoir storage.

8. Fall-run salmon hatcheries will be short of eggs this year. Some hatcheries may need to ship eggs to other hatcheries.  The American River Fish Hatchery in the past sorted adult strays from the Coleman Hatchery on Battle Creek and transported their eggs back to Coleman.

9. Hatcheries should increase the proportion of smolt production trucked to the Bay or coast, where survival rates are up to ten times higher than river releases.

Site-Specific Actions:

10. Yuba River – In the lower Yuba River downstream from Englebright Dam to Marysville streamflow should be immediately increased for spawning and incubation.  Target minimum streamflow should be at least 700 cfs from Englebright Dam to Marysville gage – through spring.

Chart of New Bullards Bar Reservoir

Figure 1. New Bullards Bar Reservoir has never been fuller at this time of year.

11. American River – Water temperatures should be lowered to 55oF to protect spawning salmon in this fall’s spawning season. This will require greater power bypass releases from the reservoir as begun in mid-October (Figure 2).  Folsom Reservoir is also “full.”

12. Upper Sacramento River – Streamflow should be maintained at a minimum of 7000 cfs (Figure 3) through the fall-winter-spring at Bend Bridge gage to provide good spawning, rearing, and emigrating conditions for salmon. Shasta Reservoir is also “full.”

13. Deer and Mill creeks – Streamflow from February through May should be maintained at a minimum of 100 cfs or higher to provide a clear migration corridor with water temperatures in the optimal range. Diversions should be disallowed when flows drop below 100 cfs in these months.

14. Butte Creek – Streamflow from February through May should be maintained to conform with the recommendations in the 2017 Draft Instream Flow Regime Recommendations Butte Creek.

15. Lower river migration corridors to and through the Delta – Water temperatures in winter and spring should be maintained below 60-65oF (see Figure 4), the lower the better. Striped bass still eat a lot of salmon at 65o

In conclusion, it is time for action.

chart of Water temperature in the lower American River at Watt Ave gage in September-October 2023 and 6-year average.

Figure 2. Water temperature in the lower American River at Watt Ave gage in September-October 2023 and 6-year average. Water temperatures need to be 55F by November 1. They should have been no higher than 60F in October.

Chart of streamflow in the upper Sacramento River at Bend Bridge gage in September-October 2023 and 59-year average.

Figure 3. Streamflow in the upper Sacramento River at Bend Bridge gage in September-October 2023 and 59-year average. Flows should be maintained near 7000 cfs through the fall.

Chart of water temperatures in spawning areas: Feather River at Gridley (GRL), Sacramento River from Keswick Dam (KWK) to Bend (BND), Stanislaus River at Ripon (RPN), American River at Watt Bridge (AWB), and Clear Creek at IGO (IGO).

Figure 4. Water temperatures in spawning areas should be below 55oF, while rearing and migration corridors should be below 60oF through spring. Spawning reaches include Feather River at Gridley (GRL), Sacramento River from Keswick Dam (KWK) to Bend (BND), Stanislaus River at Ripon (RPN), American River at Watt Bridge (AWB), and Clear Creek at IGO (IGO). Migration and rearing corridors include lower San Joaquin River at Mossdale (MSD), upper Sacramento River at Red Bluff (RDB), lower Sacramento River at Wilkins Slough (WLK) and Freeport (FPT). Blue dotted line is spawning temperature limit. Red dotted line is rearing and migration limit.

American River Salmon – Fall 2023

It is early October 2023, and the fall-run salmon are running.  The California Department of Fish and Wildlife expects to open the ladder to the American River Hatchery on or about November 1.  There are already salmon in the lower American River from its mouth all the way to Nimbus Dam.

The run expected this year has a mixed forecast.  There was no ocean or river salmon fishery this year because of poor runs in the Central Valley during the 2020-2022 drought.  The fact that fishing was not allowed will improve the 2023 run size (escapement).  The 2020 run (parents of this year’s run) was pretty good (Figure 1).  But when brood year 2020 was rearing and migrating to the ocean, it was a critical drought year 2021, conditions under which juvenile salmon almost always have poor success in making the journey from rivers to the ocean.

Conditions in 2023 have been a mixed bag for the migration of adult spawners from the Bay to Central Valley rivers.  Summer 2023 started with warm water and low flows.  That changed when the Fall X2 requirement kicked in September (Figure 2).  The September Fall X2 flow pulse helped cool the lower Sacramento River and the Bay-Delta (Figure 3), and provided attraction flows for the adult salmon to move into the Bay and on toward the rivers.

An unforeseen problem has faced the running salmon when they hit the north Delta and mouth of the American River: water temperatures have been stressful for migrating adult salmon (>65oF, Figure 4) despite high flows (3000 cfs) from the American River.  The water quality standard for the lower American River requires water temperatures to be maintained <65oF in summer.  But water temperatures rose through September, with continuing increased water temperatures of water released from Folsom Reservoir (Figure 5).  Water year 2023 was a very wet year with above-average reservoir storage.  So why was the American River so warm?

The answer is that the powerhouse intakes at Folsom Dam had limited access to the cold-water pool, and the supply of accessible cold water was running short.  To ensure colder water for the hatchery and river for the November spawn, the Bureau of Reclamation began operating the powerhouse intakes in September to draw warmer water from the surface layers of the reservoir as the reservoir slowly drained.

The water temperature for spawning needs to be below 56oF.  Getting the temperature down that low by November is a tall order, but it was achieved in the 2020-2022 drought (Figure 6) under much lower reservoir storage levels (the present level is 135% of average for October and is much higher than in 2020-2022).  Reclamation achieved November spawning temperatures in those drier, lower-storage years by releasing substantial cold-water from the lower dam outlets, bypassing the power intakes.   The power bypass measure will likely be needed again in 2023 to meet the November temperature targets in the river.

There is a case to be made that Reclamation should also have used the power bypass in September 2023 to maintain 65oF at the Watt Avenue bridge.  Reclamation’s reluctance to use the power bypass to maintain release water temperature requirements further highlights the need for Reclamation to complete the planned refinements to the Folsom powerhouse intake system that will allow both continuous power generation and greater access to Folsom’s cold-water pool.

How else could this series of events have been avoided or at least improved?

First, summer flows in the lower Sacramento River should have been higher to help keep water temperatures at or closer to the standard of 68oF (see Figure 3) at the Wilkins Slough gage, located  on the lower Sacramento River upstream of the mouths of the Feather and American rivers.  Flows at Wilkins Slough for wet year 2023 were well below the average for water years 1994-2003, when salmon did relatively well (Figure 7).  These low flows in 2023 contributed to poor conditions in the lower Sacramento River, the Delta, and the Bay.

Second, the water temperature in the  lower American River at the Watt Avenue Bridge (AWB) should have met the water quality standard of 65oF until September, and should be kept below 60oF in October (Figure 8).  After November 1, Reclamation should maintain temperatures below 56oF for spawning.

Such improved conditions would improve the health of adult salmon spawning in the American River and its hatchery, as well as in other rivers and streams in the Sacramento River watershed.

Figure 1. Escapement (run size) for in-river spawning fall-run salmon in the lower American river 1952-2022.

Figure 1. Escapement (run size) for in-river spawning fall-run salmon in the lower American river 1952-2022.

Figure 2: Flow and water temperature at the Rio Vista Bridge July 15 – September 30, 2023.

Figure 2: Flow and water temperature at the Rio Vista Bridge July 15 – September 30, 2023.

Figure 3. Air and water temperature on the Sacramento River at Red Bluff (River Mile – RM - 240), and water temperature at Wilkins Slough (RM 120), Freeport (RM 50), and Rio Vista Bridge (RM 25). Also shown is water temperature standard at Red Bluff and Wilkins Slough.

Figure 3. Air and water temperature on the Sacramento River at Red Bluff (River Mile – RM – 240), and water temperature at Wilkins Slough (RM 120), Freeport (RM 50), and Rio Vista Bridge (RM 25). Also shown is water temperature standard at Red Bluff and Wilkins Slough.

Figure 4. Water temperature in the upper Sacramento River below Keswick Dam (RM 300), lower American River at Watt Avenue Bridge (AWB), the lower Feather River at Gridley gage (GRL), the lower Sacramento River at Wilkins Slough (WLK, RM 120) upstream of the Feather and American Rivers, and Freeport (FPT, RM 46) downstream of the American River.

Figure 4. Water temperature in the upper Sacramento River below Keswick Dam (RM 300), lower American River at Watt Avenue Bridge (AWB), the lower Feather River at Gridley gage (GRL), the lower Sacramento River at Wilkins Slough (WLK, RM 120) upstream of the Feather and American Rivers, and Freeport (FPT, RM 46) downstream of the American River.

Figure 5. Daily average water temperatures in the lower American River 9/10-10/3 2023 below Folsom Dam (AFD), at Fair Oaks gage below Nimbus Dam (AFO), at William Pond gage (AWP), and at Watt Avenue Bridge gage (AWB). The water quality standard in all water year types is 65oF maximum (year-round) at AWB.

Figure 5. Daily average water temperatures in the lower American River 9/10-10/3 2023 below Folsom Dam (AFD), at Fair Oaks gage below Nimbus Dam (AFO), at William Pond gage (AWP), and at Watt Avenue Bridge gage (AWB). The water quality standard in all water year types is 65oF maximum (year-round) at AWB.

Figure 6. September through December daily average water temperatures of Folsom Dam releases 2020-2022. Note the sharp drops in water temperatures in middle October from Power Bypass cold-water releases to provide target spawning temperatures (56oF).

Figure 6. September through December daily average water temperatures of Folsom Dam releases 2020-2022. Note the sharp drops in water temperatures in middle October from Power Bypass cold-water releases to provide target spawning temperatures (56oF).

Figure 7. Average daily flows in the lower Sacramento River at Wilkins Slough, upstream of the mouths of the American and Feather rivers in 2023, compared to the average during the decade of strong escapement 1994-2003.

Figure 7. Average daily flows in the lower Sacramento River at Wilkins Slough, upstream of the mouths of the American and Feather rivers in 2023, compared to the average during the decade of strong escapement 1994-2003.

 Figure 8. Water temperatures in the lower American River at Fair Oaks (below Nimbus Dam) June-September 2023 with average from prior eight years that included 5 critical dry years.

Figure 8. Water temperatures in the lower American River at Fair Oaks (below Nimbus Dam) June-September 2023 with average from prior eight years that included 5 critical dry years.

A Report from Puget Sound

Colleagues in the state of Washington write me (in italics below):

Sad to say but the Wild Fish Conservancy teaming with WDFW, using the ESA as a crutch, have eliminated pretty much all of the winter and summer steelhead fishing in Puget Sound streams. The salmon fishing regs are a mess and at the rate they are going, salmon seasons in Puget S. will vanish.

Comment: The salmon season was closed this year here in California to protect future fisheries. Puget Sound fisheries are closed to protect vanishing endangered breeds including Orcas1. Our hope here is that we protect both future fisheries and endangered species. One does not have to preclude the other.

With the massive human population increase in Puget Sound coupled with the anti-hatchery people, coupled with the inability of “habitat improvements” keeping up with habitat destruction, coupled with wildfires, climate change, low river flows/high water temperatures/extraneous bad water quality, things don’t look good for the future. ESA is only used here to eliminate hatcheries. Eventually, it will be just like the Redfish Lake situation where they got down to one returning male and had to go back to hatchery production. The ESU for Puget Sound includes all of the streams plus hatcheries. It seems that with the elimination of hatcheries, the anti’s will eliminate both the commercial and sport fisheries. What is really sad is the 36000 adult Chinook that were “surplus’ last year at the George Adams Hatchery and given to the crab fishermen (according to WDFW). The old WDFW people would have supported the anglers and tried to make things better. The current downward trend is near bottom (i.e., Chinook in Puget Sound declared extinct.)

Comment: It did not have to go this way in Puget Sound. It does not have to in California, either. We in California should learn from the mistakes to the north. There is a different way. More on the “way” in future posts.

Sacramento River 2023 Temperature Management Plan – What is Missing

It is that time of year again for another Sacramento River Temperature Management Plan.  You know, the plan adopted to protect Sacramento River salmon from the operation of the Shasta/Trinity Division of the federal Central Valley Project of US Department of Interior, Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation).  Past plans have failed to protect salmon since they became a requirement in 1990 in the State Water Board’s Water Rights Order 90-05.

The plans have failed even in wet years, including this wet year (four wet years have occurred since 2010).  This year, Shasta Reservoir is full, and there is more than ample cold water to deliver to the salmon below Shasta Dam (a “Tier 1” wet year).  Oroville and Folsom reservoirs are also full this year and ready to help Shasta supply the needs of salmon in the Sacramento River and Bay-Delta.

In this year’s 2023-sacramento-river-temperature-management-plan, Reclamation has committed to providing 53.5oF water in the upper ten river miles (RM) of the Sacramento River downstream of Keswick Dam (RMs 290-300).  53.5ºF is the upper optimal threshold water temperature for adult salmon spawning, egg incubation, and fry emergence.  Reclamation has not always met this temperature in past wet years (Figure 1).

Other important benchmarks are maintaining lower Sacramento River water temperatures at and upstream of Red Bluff (RM 240) at <56oF and at <68oF downstream of Red Bluff (RMs 100-240).  Reclamation has exceeded these temperatures in the three most recent wet years (Figure 2).  Reclamation has not met summer water temperatures in the lower Sacramento River below 56oF at Red Bluff (RM 240) and below 68oF at Wilkins Slough (RM 120), because water diversions leave flows too low in summer (Figure 3).  In fact, Reclamation has given up trying to meet those temperatures.  The 2023 TMP evaluates maintaining 56oF at Balls Ferry, 36 miles upstream of Red Bluff, but concludes, without any supporting data or evidence, that maintaining that objective would be too uncertain and risky.

Analyses of flow and water temperature data for Wilkins Slough indicates it generally takes 6,000 to 10,000 cfs flow at Wilkins Slough to maintain water temperatures below 68oF in June, depending on air temperatures.  Note the water temperature in early June 2023 reached above 68oF (Figure 2) as flows fell below 10,000 cfs (Figure 3).

Table 1 shows optimal temperatures for adult migration, holding, and spawning.  Adult salmon migrating, holding, or spawning are stressed by water temperatures above 60oF.  Water temperature above 68oF are considered “lethal” for migrating salmon – such temperatures occurred in June of three wet years (Figure 2).  Stressful water temperatures occurred during the spring in the lower Sacramento River in all four wet years (Figure 3).  Spawning and egg incubation water temperatures exceeded the target 53oF for spring-summer spawning winter run salmon in all four wet years (Figure 1).

The 2023 Sacramento River Temperature Management Plan

“Significant uncertainties exist within the forecast that will require intensive real-time operations management throughout the summer to achieve the various goals and targets throughout the system.” (2023 TMP, p. 3) 

Comment:  Reclamation’s repeated strategy of staying close to 56º in a limited stretch of the Sacramento River, even in a year like 2023 when there is really no reason to adopt such a conservative strategy, unnecessarily compromises the salmon and sets a course for failure to meet permit requirements.  At the beginning of June, there were still endangered adult winter-run and spring-run salmon migrating up the lower Sacramento River.

As in 2023, Reclamation made overt decisions in 2017 and 2019 to drop flows below 7000 cfs in the lower reaches of the lower Sacramento River, knowing water temperatures would exceed their permitted upper limit and water quality standard of 68oF.  Flows closer to Keswick Dam in Redding also dropped, allowing Red Bluff water temperatures to exceed their limit of 56oF.

“The strategy of meeting 53.5 at CCR will likely result in average daily temperatures at or near 56 degrees F at BSF. Reclamation does not propose to operate the TCD explicitly to meet 56 degrees F at BSF under conditions that may require changes to TCD operations that could risk cold water pool resources for use later in the temperature management season. This would cause an unreasonable risk to other goals and objectives”.  (2023 TMP, p. 4)

Comment:  The TMP acknowledges from the start that Reclamation has no intention of meeting the 56oF standard at Balls Ferry (RM 276), let alone Red Bluff (RM 240).  With CCR maintained at 53oF, it takes more dam releases to keep the 60-mile upper river reach below 56oF and the 100+ miles of lower river below 68oF.  The 2023 Plan thus plainly ignores these other license and water quality standard requirements important to salmon survival.  Lower river water temperatures above 68oF through late summer will also compromise the fall-run salmon migration up the river.

Update

Water temperatures in the Sacramento River downstream of Red Bluff steadily increased through June (Figure 4).  In over 100 miles of the Sacramento River from Red Bluff downstream to the mouth of the Feather River, Reclamation is operating in violation of federal/state water quality standards, the federal/state Endangered Species Acts, and state water rights permits.  Water temperatures have reached lethal levels for migrating adult and juvenile salmon blocking their migrations up and down the river, respectively.  Stress, disease, and predation are compromising two brood years of salmon production in a wet year!  Water diversions from the river below Red Bluff are approaching 6000 cfs (Figure 5) not counting diversions upstream or from tributaries.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, the Sacramento River Temperature Management Plan should cover all of Reclamation’s obligations under its permits and all applicable water quality standards, not just water temperatures in the upper 10 river miles of over 200 river miles used by salmon.

Table 1. Water temperature objectives for adult Central Valley salmon. (Sources: San Joaquin River Recovery Plan). Note that the temperatures cited in this figure are the maximum daily temperatures. The 2023 TMP target for winter-run Chinook spawning is an average daily temperature of 53.5ºF.

Figure 1, Water temperature (daily average) at the Clear Creek gage in the Sacramento River above the mouth of Clear Creek (RM 290) in wet years 2011, 2017, 2019, and 2023.

Figure 2. Water temperature (daily average) at the Red Bluff (RM 240) and Wilkins Slough (RM 120) gages in the Sacramento River in wet years 2011, 2017, 2019, and 2023.

Figure 3. Lower Sacramento River flow at the Wilkins Slough gage (RM 120) in wet years 2011, 2017, 2019, and 2023.

Figure 4. Water temperature and streamflow at Bend Bridge (RM 250) and Wilkins Slough (RM 120) in May-June 2023. Note 68oF water quality standard and critical water temperature for salmon is exceeded.in late June at Wilkins Slough gage. The 56oF standard was exceeded at Bend Bridge for much of May and June.

Figure 5. Streamflow at various gages in the Sacramento River from Keswick Dam (RM 300), Bend Bridge (RM 250) downstream to Wilkins Slough (RM 120) in May-June 2023. Note: tributary inflows in the reach below Bend gage in mid-June were approximately 5000 cfs in mid-May. Keswick Dam releases were increased in late June to maintain deliveries and sustain 5000 cfs at Wilkins Slough gage.

 

California Needs a Wild Salmon Policy

Canada has a Wild Salmon Policy. California needs one. California can develop a better salmon policy by taking a good look at the Canadian policy.

In past posts, I have mentioned the need for a comprehensive California Salmon Plan.1 There are many plans in California, but there are few with real actions like NOAA Fisheries (National Marine Fisheries Service – NMFS) Central Valley Salmon Recovery Plan. The problem is that most plans have no “bite.” NMFS has been given a “bite option” in issuing take permits under the Endangered Species Act, but NMFS rarely uses its full authority in issuing biological opinions for federal projects. NMFS is particularly averse to issuing “jeopardy” opinions with mandated Reasonable Prudent Alternatives (RPAs).

Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy2

“Wild salmon hold tremendous value for natural ecosystems, cultural and spiritual practices, jobs and income, and recreational enjoyment along the coast and inland watersheds of the Pacific Region. They are important for Indigenous people, communities, individuals, groups and businesses.” (Policy, p. 5).

The value of California’s wild salmon public trust resources needs more consideration and recognition. For example: in setting rules for commercial and recreational harvest of the dominant fall-run Chinook salmon stocks, little or no consideration is given to protecting dwindling wild fall-run salmon populations.

While Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy is not exactly a plan with specific actions (the Policy leaves that to local and regional entities), the Policy does outline goals, objectives, strategies, approaches, and what might be called overarching concerns. Chief among the Wild Salmon Policy’s overarching concerns that also apply to California salmon are:

  • Diversity – There were once many salmon stocks located within and among the many rivers and tributary streams in the Central Valley. Preserving this genetic diversity deserves much more consideration.
  • Keystone species – Maintaining the role of salmon that were once important to the entire ecosystem, bringing in marine nutrients and carbon to watersheds, is important.
  •  Declines in specific populations – There is a need to immediately address sudden or unforeseen drops in abundance of any population or subpopulation.
  • Ocean and river conditions – There is a need to recognize and react to sudden or unforeseen changes in habitat conditions that have potential adverse impacts to salmon.
  • Less predictable returns – Accurate predictions are real problems for fishery managers; poor predictions are the norm.
  • Reduced available stocks for harvest – There is a need to anticipate and address stock collapses before and after they occur through aggressive planning and an array of actions; lower fishable stocks threaten traditional uses of public trust resources like salmon.

Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy has three main strategies:

  1. Involve stakeholders – Stakeholders have unique and important knowledge about Pacific salmon, how the local environment functions, and characteristic ecological relationships.
  2. Develop technical methods and tools – To support the status assessment of salmon conservation units, there must be initiatives to assess habitat and ecosystems, and day-to-day fishery and ecosystem management decisions within regional programs that reflect the principles, goals, and objectives of an overall wild salmon program.
  3. Develop and implement a comprehensive management plan – Canada uses a comprehensive plan with a five-year implementation plan and an annual-review process. (Note: the latest 5-Year Winter-Run Salmon Plan in California was dated 2016.)

The general approach of Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy is:

  • Engage partners and stakeholders at the local level to leverage local knowledge and expertise.
  • Facilitate collaboration through salmon governance processes and capacity building.
  • Consider guiding principles and objectives in ongoing management and program activities, both internally and with partners.
  • Adapt and update best practices based on lessons learned.

The strategies for and approaches to assessment in Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy are:

  • Standardized monitoring of wild salmon – To understand the current status of wild salmon stocks, it is important to have regular, standardized, science-based monitoring that identifies benchmarks for Conservation Units (CUs).
  • Determine the current status of Conservation Units.
  • Continue to monitor and assess status of Conservation Units.
  • Set Priorities – Implement prioritization method for assessing and monitoring Conservation Units or groups of Conservation Units.
  • Modify or develop metrics and document new status assessment methods.
  • Consolidate and improve documentation of standards for internal and external monitoring programs and improve data sharing through open processes.
  • Consider guiding principles and objectives in planning annual and multi-year work processes.
  • Continue integrated planning discussions through various mechanisms, including local roundtables.
  • Work on an integrated approach to wild salmon.

The delineation of Conservation Units and their benchmarks does not prescribe specific management actions, but rather is used to inform decision-making. As spawner abundance (escapement) decreases, a Conservation Unit moves towards a lower status, and the extent of management intervention for conservation purposes increases. A low Conservation Unit index is undesirable because of the risk of extirpation and the loss of ecological benefits and salmon production. Changes in status should trigger management actions, which will vary depending on species, geographic regions, and cause of the decline.

The implementation Plan of Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy involves:

  • Assessment of impacts and monitoring habitats.
  • Accountability in completing actions and reporting.
  • Maintaining and rebuilding salmon populations.

In conclusion, Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy provides a good model for a badly needed comprehensive Central Valley Salmon and Steelhead Protection and Recovery Plan or Program, for the entire array of federal and state salmon and steelhead projects that are undertaken in the Central Valley. It should encompass planned and ongoing projects funded by the departments of the Interior, Commerce, Agriculture, Defense, Energy, and by the EPA, as well as those jointly permitted by the California Resources Agency.