Species in the Spotlight: Priority Actions 2016-2020, Sacramento River Winter-Run Chinook Salmon

Short Description
In 2015, NOAA Fisheries announced a new program to focus and redouble our efforts to protect eight species that are currently among the most at risk of extinction in the near future. This 5-year action plan focuses on priority actions for Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon.
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The “Species in the Spotlight: Survive to Thrive” initiative is a concerted agency-wide effort to spotlight and save the most highly at-risk species. This initiative includes targeted efforts vital for stabilizing their populations and preventing their extinction. The approach involves intensive efforts by us and our recovery partners to stabilize these species. Our goal is to reverse their declining trend so that the species will become a candidate for recovery in the future.

The Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon evolutionarily significant unit (ESU) was chosen as one of the eight most at-risk species because it is composed of just one small population that is currently under severe stress caused by one of California’s worst droughts on record. Over the last 10 years of available data (2003-2013), the abundance of spawning winter-run Chinook adults ranged from a low of 738 in 2011 to a high of 17,197 in 2007, with an average of 6,298. The population subsists in large part due to agency-managed cold water releases from Shasta Reservoir during the summer and artificial propagation from Livingston Stone National Fish Hatchery’s winter-run Chinook salmon conservation program. Winter-run Chinook salmon are dependent on sufficient cold water storage in Shasta Reservoir, and it has long been recognized that a prolonged drought could have devastating impacts, possibly leading to the species’ extinction.