Mendocino Land Trust

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Conservation Spotlight - Salmon and El Nino

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Will El Niño hurt or help the Salmon?

After an exceptionally dry summer, the rushing water and winter waves have broken through river mouth sand bars and opened our blocked coastal streams to the ocean. Once again, it is time for the salmon waiting off shore to swim the final leg of their epic journey upstream.

A Changing Climate
While the predicted rainfall in an El Niño year can be a blessing for the drought parched earth, how might it effect the salmon coming back up stream to spawn?

Well, the answer is: it's complicated.

The warming ocean temperatures El Niño brings do not favor the cold loving salmonids. Fish that thrive in warmer temperatures, like Tuna, can pose a greater threat to young salmon as their territories collide. Surging streams can destroy the newly spawned eggs, while mudslides and clogged culverts can also take their toll on this critically endangered species.

Good News
Early fish counts show that this year's spawning run is off to a good start and Coho numbers in Mendocino are up. Since this fish has a 3 year life cycle, it's important to recognize that the success of this year's numbers relies on the environmental conditions of the previous 3 years.

Thanks to the support of our members, many outdated culverts have been removed or replaced, allowing more salmon to complete their migration. Several old logging roads have been decommissioned, removing heavy sediment that might smother eggs in a mudslide, and countless woody structures have been installed to provide a safe nursery for the young fish to grow and thrive.

It can take a long time to see the positive effects of these efforts, but this winter's numbers are very promising. In the years to come, You can continue to support our native fish conservation efforts so that Coho Salmon will thrive for generations to come.

Without You, this good news would not be possible. Thank You.

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