The scientific focus of the Salmon Population Team is to understand the population dynamics of both endangered and exploited salmonid stocks in California. The Team conducts quantitative studies incorporating population life history characteristics, population estimation, and modeling. Implicit in this scientific focus is management application. The largest commitment is in support of activities mandated by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Team has participated in all Listing activities within the Southwest Region, the creation of Technical Recovery Teams for Southwest Recovery Domains, and provided guidance and input on numerous other endangered species issues and activities. The need for information and advice on endangered species issues appears to be infinite.
The Team is a recent addition to the SWFSC and is still developing its capacities. The coastwide declaration of anadromous salmonids as candidate species under the ESA in 1992 created a tremendous demand for salmon information and analysis. By 1995, the need was so pressing that personnel at the Laboratory (then in Tiburon) were reprogrammed to develop a SWFSC salmon research capacity. The program has grown rapidly, yet still has several positions to fill. Much of the Team's research is both novel and still in its initial stages, and will require the development of new and original methods.
The Salmon Population Team's goal is to conduct the research needed to support salmonid ESA activities. In addition, the Team conducts basic research that will provide the underlying theoretical structure to improve salmon management in the future. More specific goals are:
- to collect or to coordinate collection of critical population distribution and abundance data needed for assessments of salmonid populations
- to establish appropriate and statistically robust survey methods and population estimators for use in salmon research and management
- to investigate critical salmon life history characteristics (abundance, distribution, mortality, straying, etc.) needed for a comprehensive management approach to Pacific salmon and steelhead
- to provide scientific expertise to the SWR and other appropriate groups
ESA assessment and support
ESA listing activities in the Southwest Region have been completed. Most anadromous salmonids are now listed, and all of the geographical area of anadromy within the Southwest is designated as critical habitat. Coho salmon are listed everywhere they occur in California (Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast Coho ESU - Threatened, and Central California Coast Coho ESU - Endangered). Steelhead are also listed throughout most of California (Northern California Steelhead ESU - Threatened, Central California Coast Steelhead ESU - Threatened, South Central California Coast Steelhead ESU - Threatened, and Southern California Steelhead ESU - Endangered, California Central Valley Steelhead ESU - Threatened). In California, the Klamath Mountains Province is the only Steelhead ESU whose listing status is Not Warranted. Listed chinook ESUs include the California Coastal Chinook ESU (Threatened), the Central Valley Spring-run Chinook ESU (Threatened), and the Sacramento River Winter-run Chinook ESU (Endangered). The Central Valley Fall and Late Fall-run Chinook ESU remains as a Species of Concern.
Technical Recovery Teams
ESA Recovery Planning is designed to occur in two phases, and will be conducted within geographically defined Recovery Domains, of which there are four in California. Phase I is the development of Technical Recovery Goals and is the responsibility of the SWFSC. These goals will be developed by Technical Recovery Teams (TRTs) that will be chaired by Salmon Population Team personnel. The TRTs will be responsible for developing criteria that, when met, will allow listed salmonid ESUs to be removed from the Endangered Species List. The Teams will include academics, agency personnel, and local experts on salmon biology. The TRTs are selected through a process that begins with a call for nominations, followed by a review of candidates by an outside panel, and selection by the SWFSC. To date, teams have been formed for two Recovery Domains: the Southern Oregon/Northern California Recovery Domain (Elk River, OR to Punta Gorda, CA), and the North-Central California Recovery Domain (Punta Gorda CA to Santa Cruz CA). These teams began work in October 2001. TRTs for the South-Central California Coast Recovery Domain (Santa Cruz CA to Malibu Creek CA) and the California Central Valley Recovery Domain are in the process of being formed. TRT activity will be the primary focus of the Team for the next several years.
Other studies and activities
- Estimation of smolt abundance
- Juvenile salmonid abundance estimation
- Coho survival in habitats of varying quality
- California hatchery review
- Coho status review update
- Cutthroat trout distribution and population structure
- An ecosystem approach to salmonid conservation
- Quantitative risk assessment of Central Valley chinook and steelhead populations