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Extinction in Our Lifetime

Less than one percent of the tens of millions of salmon that once filled the rivers along the West Coast still exist. In recent years, fewer than 5,000 coho returned to California, down from historic runs estimated at 300,000. Our scientists state that if something is not done now, California’s coho may disappear in our lifetime.

“This is one of the most urgent environmental issues we face,” says Lisa Hulette, our salmon project director in California. “From forest headwaters all the way to the ocean, salmon, and the communities of fishermen who rely on them, are facing devastating challenges.”

The salmon life cycle is filled with danger. Today, it is much worse. Many salmon start life in forest streams that are now too warm and filled with sediment from logging. From the headwaters to the river mouth, stream water is diverted to farms and fields, which may use agricultural chemicals that flow back into the stream.

At the coast, our degraded estuaries no longer provide the respite salmon need before heading to sea. And once in the ocean, salmon face the obvious risk of getting caught. If a salmon survives all this, it turns around and begins the difficult journey home to spawn.

“We must restore the salmon runs,” says Hulette, “not only for wildlife, but also for the people who depend on salmon fisheries. In California alone, it’s estimated that wild salmon are the basis of a $1.5 billion commercial and recreational fishing industry, a vital resource for many communities.”

The Conservancy is taking effective action now. We’re restoring streamside vegetation that keeps water temperatures cool. We’ve protected important spawning grounds and are working with our partners to develop sustainable timber practices. We’re working on removing dams and other barriers that prevent the salmon from returning to their original home.

“With every project we know the key is to accelerate the pace of salmon recovery,” says Hulette.

Your support is critical not only in saving salmon but in all our conservation work throughout California. Please continue partnering with us to expand our scientific research, protect more habitat and increase our efforts to create public policy that protects these fish and the families they support. Please send your gift today.

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