About two million coho salmon once stormed the rivers of the Oregon Coast. Industrial-strength fishing and leave-nothing-behind logging through the 1900s would be their downfall, underscored by dismal returns in the 1980s—with total numbers of spawning adults dropping below 15,000 fish. NOAA Fisheries listed the lingering coho as threatened in 1998. Last week the same federal agency revealed a plan for the embattled salmon that would have them become “the first of the threatened and endangered species of salmonids on the West Coast to recover to the point they can be delisted from the ESA.”
That’ll be a raging party. But it may have to wait.
NOAA’s newest recovery plan for the species stresses public-private partnerships to conserve habitat for the ESA-threatened species. The agency also notes the plan positions coho for possible removal from the knotty list of threatened and endangered species within the next 10 years. Says NOAA, “we recognize that the time needed to recover the species under the ESA depends on near-term conditions (marine and freshwater), the types of actions and rate of implementation, and how effectively the actions address remaining limiting factors and threats.”
Recovering coho salmon to self-sustaining levels is also spendy. NOAA estimates the cost of recovery for the next five+ years to be approximately $55 million. And maybe a lot more.
“We can see that recovery is in reach for Oregon Coast coho, which is a testament to the hard work by the state, coastal communities and landowners to restore habitat and reduce threats from hatcheries and harvest,” says Barry Thom, Regional Administrator of NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region. “Strong partnerships have brought us this far, and they will be critical to get the rest of the way to delisting.”
Oregon coast coho numbers have ranged from more than 350,000 spawning adults in 2011 and 2014, dropping back to 57,000 in 2015. For now the species remains one of 28 threatened and endangered species of salmon and steelhead on the West Coast.
View the recovery plan, here.