Water Woes - A New Report about Endangered Species and Water
Posted November 14, 2012
Salmon Index Blog Series
The new report Water Woes, by the Endangered Species Coalition, reveals how water management has affected a wide range of species listed under the Endangered Species Act. It’s appropriate for this ESC report to focus on water issues, after all, in North America, fish are moving more rapidly toward extinction than birds or mammals.
An analysis by the U.S. Geological Service reveals that, between 1989 and 2006, 57 fish species went extinct in North America – a pace that is 877 times the previous, background rate of extinction. It also found that, if the current rate continues, an additional 53 to 86 species will be lost by 2050.
It’s also appropriate that salmon were among the species highlighted in this new report, including salmon in the Bay-Delta ecosystem. In the San Francisco Bay-Delta, there are six species listed or proposed for listing under state and federal law – winter-run Chinook salmon, spring-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, green sturgeon, delta smelt and longfin smelt. Of those, the salmon species are perhaps most imperiled.
The Salmon Doubling Index that NRDC released yesterday presents a snapshot of how all runs of salmon in the Central Valley are faring. Not surprisingly, the listed runs are at a particularly precarious point. For example, the federal doubling goal for Central Valley Spring-run Chinook salmon is 68,000 wild fish. Yet in 2011, only 3,060 wild fish returned to Central Valley streams. The Winter-run is in even more trouble, despite a doubling goal of 110,000 naturally reproducing fish, only 739 wild fish returned in 2011, including a single lonely salmon in Battle Creek. The additional life-support efforts of hatcheries don’t add many more fish to these runs. In 2011, just 88 Winter-run returned to hatcheries, and just 1,969 Spring-run.
The new ESC report highlights the need to protect rivers and streams across the nation. And the report’s focus on salmon highlights how important protecting these aquatic ecosystems is to Californians.
Fortunately, there is some good news in the effort to restore California’s salmon. My colleague Monty Schmitt will write about that tomorrow.
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