The northern third of the California coast is home to some of the most important salmon and steelhead rivers and watersheds in the state:
- The Smith River – one of the most wild and pristine rivers in California, a Salmon Stronghold, with significant conservation protections in place.
- Redwood Creek – the heart of Redwood National and State Parks, a watershed experiencing modest recovery from decades of restoration efforts.
- The Mad River – despite the hatchery and Matthews Dam, this river offers abundant opportunities for fishing and restoration.
- The Trinity – one of California’s best-known steelhead rivers, currently on a strong recovery trajectory from the significant investment in state and federal restoration efforts.
- Elk River and Humboldt Bay Tributaries – providing good habitat for a critically important population of coho salmon.
- The Eel River – California’s third largest river (essentially seven rivers linked into one), a natural resource of state-wide importance, with unlimited potential for recovery.
- The Mattole River – a wild and remote river, and always a leader and innovator in community-based approaches to restoration.
Many of these coastal watersheds used to support large populations of fall Chinook and coho salmon, winter and summer steelhead, and coastal cutthroat trout. In addition, there were small populations of chum and pink salmon, and spring Chinook salmon. Pacific lamprey and green sturgeon were also important native species to the North Coast region.
These fish populations have seen severe declines in during the past century, resulting from commercial and recreational fish harvests and cannery operations, several periods of large-scale timber harvest, land conversions for agricultural activities, water developments and diversions, rural and urban residential development, and from the introduction of non-native fish species.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has listed Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast (SONCC) coho salmon (1997), California Coastal Chinook salmon (1999), and Northern California steelhead (2000) as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. NMFS had prepared a SONCC Coho Salmon Recovery Plan (NMFS 2012) and is currently preparing a similar plan for Chinook salmon and steelhead. The California Fish and Game Commission also listed coho salmon as threatened in 2005
CalTrout is leading recovery efforts at many levels. We identify underlying causes of habitat and population impairments, build programs and develop projects to secure resources, match those resources with project partners, and lead projects to completion. We also help create and sustain funding sources, and advocate for programs we think are most effective for accomplishing our conservation mission.