Species in the Spotlight Action Plan Accomplishments
Learn more about the work we are doing with our many partners to help each Species in the Spotlight recover.
Species in the Spotlight
The Species in the Spotlight initiative brings greater attention and marshals resources to save the species most highly at risk of extinction. The ten “Species in the Spotlight” are:
- Atlantic salmon Gulf of Maine distinct population segment (DPS)
- Central California Coast coho salmon evolutionarily significant unit (ESU)
- Cook Inlet beluga whale DPS
- Hawaiian monk seal
- North Atlantic right whale
- Pacific leatherback sea turtle
- Rice's whale (added in 2023 - Action Plan pending)
- Sacramento River winter-run chinook salmon ESU
- Southern resident killer whale DPS
- White abalone
As you will see below, we have taken some significant steps towards helping these species recover since the initiative launched in 2015.
- Worked with dam owners to make operational and structural changes to protect migrating Atlantic salmon. We have secured commitments for the construction of five new fishways at hydro dams in Maine since 2015.
- In 2018 and 2019, 70 aquatic connectivity projects were completed in Maine, improving access to approximately 250 miles of streams and rivers.
- Worked with parties of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization to successfully negotiate new regulatory measures that reduce the catch of salmon by 15 metric tons in the mixed stock fishery at West Greenland for 2018, 2019, and 2020.
- Partnered with the Atlantic Salmon Federation, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Association of Fishers and Hunters (Greenland) to increase knowledge of habitat use by satellite tagging and releasing Atlantic salmon captured at Greenland. This study will increase our understanding of Atlantic salmon migrations by providing detailed migration maps of habitat preferences and predators of Atlantic salmon as they migrate from Greenland to natal rivers to spawn.
Central California Coho Salmon
- Although well below the recovery target, spawning in the 2017-2018 Russian River coho salmon run was the highest recorded over the last two decades. During the 2018-2019 spawning season, 85% of the returning adults were age 3. This is the highest return rate of age-3 coho salmon since adult monitoring began.
- More than 200 miles of streams restored within 5 years.
- Released more than 106,000 smolts from Scott Creek captive rearing program over 4 years (2013-2017).
- In 2017 and 2018, 597 in-stream habitat structures consisting of over 1,464 pieces of large woody debris (including whole trees and rootwads) were added to coho salmon core habitat throughout the Albion River, Big River, Garcia River, Navarro River, Noyo River, and Ten Mile River systems.
- In 2018, a new partnership formed between NOAA Fisheries, the Army Corps of Engineers, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, The Nature Conservancy, The Conservation Fund, and the Mendocino Redwood Company to give a boost to coho salmon rearing in the Garcia and Navarro Rivers. The group captured Garcia and Navarro River coho salmon and brought them into a hatchery for rearing. This program is in its pilot phase and will increase the juvenile survival rates.
- In 2019, the Butano Creek Reconnection and Resiliency Project was completed, restoring 10.1 miles of fish passage. Water quality in Pescadero Lagoon is expected to improve, and flooding is expected to decrease.
Cook Inlet Beluga Whale
Continued supporting partner's long standing research project to catalog this cryptic population via non-invasive photo ID methods
Continued support for biennial summer aerial surveys to assess abundance and population trends (which we estimate to be between 250 and 317, with a median estimate of 279), and began working with BOEM to conduct aerial surveys of winter habitat use
Continuing biopsy sampling study initiated in 2016 which resulted in six biopsy samples to gain insight into genetics, sex, reproductive status and contaminant loads.
Garnered support of more than 20 active partner organizations to carry out the annual large-scale Cook Inlet beluga whales community outreach effort “Belugas Count!” held annually in September. This effort educates thousands of Cook Inlet residents and visitors as they learn to count and appreciate beluga whales migrating through the inlet.
Deployed 132 unmanned aircraft flights to identify individual whale's body condition, and health.
Hawaiian Monk Seal
Population increased by 2% annually between 2013-2018, and now estimated to be ~1,400 seals.
Launched first ever effort to vaccinate a wild population for morbillivirus in 2016, vaccinated over 700 monk seals.
Between 2017 and 2018, performed 154 interventions
such as de-hooking and disentanglement to improve individual seals' survival prospects.
More than 9,000 sightings of monk seals called into public hotlines in a single year.
In commemoration of 10 years since the publication of the revised Recovery Plan or the Hawaiian Monk Seal and news of population increase, worked with partners to declare 2017 the "Year of the Monk Seal."
Pacific Leatherback Turtle
Supported conservation management and research projects to understand and reduce leatherback bycatch in coastal fisheries of six countries (Panama, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Philippines, Indonesia).
Supported conservation efforts at key nesting beaches and at foraging areas in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and California.
Implemented conservation management measures in U.S. pelagic longline fisheries to reduce Pacific leatherback bycatch.
Strengthened international cooperation with several governments, particularly Indonesia and Mexico.
Host celebrations of California Pacific Leatherback Day and conduct outreach activities annually with the public and stakeholders in California.
Sacramento River Winter-run Chinook Salmon
Improved Shasta Reservoir cold water management to maximize salmon egg survival.
Reintroduced approximately 380,000 winter-run Chinook salmon into Battle Creek.
Completed the Wallace Weir Fish Rescue Project, preventing adult salmon from straying into agricultural ditches and allowing them to be rescued from the Yolo Bypass so they can be returned to the Sacramento River.
Used real-time data from acoustically tagged winter-run
Chinook salmon juveniles annually since 2015 to minimize water export impacts.
Southern Resident Killer Whale
Identified and prioritized Chinook stocks that are essential to the Southern Resident Killer Whale’s diet to ensure pregnant whales and their calves have important prey for their health.
Expanded enforcement and outreach impacts of vessel noise and improve compliance with whale-watching rules and guidelines in Puget Sound.
Proposed expansion of designated critical habitat to include coastal waters.
Worked with Killer Whale Tales and others to expand education program: in two years, Killer Whale Tales reached over 16,000 students at 263 schools and events.
Began the first ever experimental outplant of juvenile white abalone to the wild. The outplanting event will involve the release of ~3,200 juvenile white abalone during the first phase of restoration. In subsequent years, we anticipate that the total number of outplanted juvenile abalone will increase to ~9,600 per year until 2024, at which time we will have outplanted a total of ~51,200 white abalone to the wild.
- Increased captive production by several orders of magnitude: from thousands to millions over the last two years.