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Salmon Protection

California and Southern Oregon’s rivers and streams, from Del Norte to San Diego County and throughout the Central Valley, have been home to Pacific salmon and steelhead for millions of years. Pacific salmon and steelhead were once abundant throughout the Pacific coast of the United States. Over the past decades populations of salmon and steelhead throughout the Pacific coast have declined to extremely low levels.These declines have led to the protection of some Pacific salmon and steelhead populations under the Endangered Species Act. The recovery of salmon and steelhead is a high priority for local, tribal, state and federal interests, as well as the general public.

Since salmon is a protected species, property owners with creeks, rivers, streams have limitations on what they can do with the water. Creating a barrier that prevents migration of salmonid fish species listed as endangered species might result in enforcement action. For example, homeowners can’t create a pond for children to play in by damming up the creek running through their property. Any effects of altering or impeding flow of water within a critical habitat might cause harm and ultimately result in a “take” violation under the Endangered Species Act. Contact your local NOAA Office of Law Enforcement for additional information.

Special Agent Michelle Zetwo inspects a shipment of seafood at the Otay Mesa Commercial Port of Entry in San Diego with a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service inspector.

Property owners can't I take any action they deem appropriate to prevent the erosion of private property along the river bank since depositing any objects or debris within the ordinary high water mark of a body of water without the proper permits issued by state and federal agencies might result in significant harm and/or take of salmonid fish listed as endangered specia, deleterious effects to habitat, and/or a Clean Water Act violation. Visit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for more information.

The Endangered Species Act protects federally listed species, and NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement has investigative jurisdiction over activities that result in the premature mortality of those species identified within the Act. Activities such as diverting flow from a creek or river via flash-board or push-up dams through unscreened diversions might result in the “take” of federally listed salmonids and must be addressed to identify a solution that will benefit the survival of the species and avert future take events. Learn more about Endangered Species Act laws.

Harbor Seals and Sea Lions

Harbor seals utilize specific shoreline locations on a regular basis as resting places (haul-outs). Haul-outs include beaches, rocks, log booms, floats and buoys. Seals will return to these locations to haul-out but any shoreline or floating feature with easy access to the water can serve as a resting spot. Sometimes, California seal lions or harbor seals climb on private boats while they are docked at a pier or onto piers causing significant damage to personal property. Federal and state regulations prohibit interaction with marine mammals, but property owners and government officials can protect private and public property by deterring sea lions provided the acts do not result in injury or death to the animal. For more information, please go to the Southwest page about deterring seals and sea lions from personal property.

Marine Mammal Viewing

If you are in a boat or kayak in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, you must observe whales from a distance for your safety and the protection of marine wildlife. In general, NOAA Fisheries recommends you stay at least 100 yards away from marine mammals. For more information, go to NOAA’s Responsible Marine Wildlife Viewing website.

Essential Fish Habitats

If you need to stop your fishing vessel in a RCA or essential fish habitat, you should call U.S. Coast Guard, California Department of Fish and Game, or NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement at the time of the stop, not later. Self-reporting of any violation is a mitigating factor in our assessment of the appropriate enforcement response for any violation.


If you are looking into importing fish commercially into the United States, you will need permits. If importing tuna, you need an ITP permit. If it is frozen tuna, you also need to submit a NOAA Fisheries Certificate of Origin. To import seafood into California, you need an import license from California Department of Fish and Game. For additional information, visit the NOAA Fisheries Southwest Region.