Endangered Species Day - Hear Our Stories
On May 20, 2011, NOAA celebrates "Endangered Species Day" to recognize and encourage national conservation efforts to save our endangered species and their habitats. Endangered Species Day is a call to everyone with a shared interest in conserving endangered species to collaborate and promote awareness.
Endangered Species Stories
Coho Salmon on the Central California Coast
Central California Coast (CCC) coho salmon populations persisted for thousands of years in staggering abundance. Now gone from most streams, their dramatic decline is intimately tied to the human story of the central coast of California and the expanding human configured landscape and harvest pressure of the last 200 years.
When salmon were thought to be inexhaustible, there were little controls on harvest and channel or river habitat modifications. Now a few remaining fish represent the struggling remnants of a once abundant species and a thread back in time, not so very long ago, when creeks were clean, cool, and flowed unimpaired from their headwaters to the sea.
The continued decline of the endangered CCC coho salmon and increasing risk of extinction has raised awareness on the urgency of needed action and prompted a number of State, Federal, and local efforts to engage in projects that have immediate benefits in improving freshwater survival.
The southern extent of the range (south of San Francisco Bay) is particularly imperiled and the salmon are believed to be wiped out except for one small stream, the San Vicente Creek in Santa Cruz County.
Surveys and research have shown a small population of CCC coho salmon occupying small abandoned agricultural ponds adjacent to the creek—providing critical off-channel habitat. Two restoration projects have been completed, aimed at converting these ponds to higher quality salmon rearing habitat. Of the small handful of adult coho that returned to the rivers south of San Francisco Bay, several were observed in San Vicente.
With focused efforts like these restoration projects in key areas, we just might be able to halt CCC coho salmon's trajectory to extinction.
Hawaiian Monk Seal
The Hawaiian monk seal is a special treasure in the Hawaiian islands—the Hawaiian name, 'Ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua, means dog running in the rough seas. Not only are these animals native to the Hawaiian Islands, but they are one of the most endangered animal species in the world.
The Hawaiian monk seal is declining at about 4% a year due partly to food limitation, shark predation, and human interactions. The current total Hawaiian monk seal population is about 1,100 seals.
A substantial funding increase in 2009 and 2010 allowed NOAA Fisheries to implement several new research and management activities designed to reduce juvenile seal deaths in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and improve community-based management in the main Hawaiian Islands.
Scientists lowered the number of juvenile deaths at French Frigate Shoals, a key breeding site in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, through efforts to reduce shark predation and moving weaned pups away from areas where they are unable to find sufficient food.
In the Main Hawaiian Islands, hundreds of new volunteers were recruited and trained to conduct public outreach and respond to seals hauled out on popular recreational beaches, in partnership with the State of Hawaii, the U.S. Coast Guard, and several other government and non-government partners.
With these and other activities we hope to turn around the decline and allow Hawaiian monk seals to recover.
Rockfish in Puget Sound
Rockfish in Puget Sound are in trouble. Many rockfish species have declined in abundance over the past 2 decades, some quite severely. Three rockfish species in the Georgia Basin, which encompasses Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia, are listed under the Endangered Species Act: yelloweye rockfish, canary rockfish, and bocaccio.
These rockfish species were historically fished at high levels, depleting their numbers. Rockfish are long-lived are mature slowly, making them especially vulnerable to overfishing. Rockfishes are unusual among the bony fishes in that they give birth to live, larval young.
Rockfish population growth has also been hampered because they are often caught unintentionally by fishermen targeting other species, and by environmental factors, such as degradation of their habitat near shore, pollution, and lost fishing gear that continues to snare and kill fish and degrade rockfish habitats.
Funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act enabled the removal of nearly 2,500 lost and abandoned fishing nets in Puget Sound within the past several years, restoring over 200 acres of habitat. Continuing restoration projects like marine debris removal, improving water quality, and reducing by-catch will go a long way to help rockfish recover.
Steelhead in Southern California
Steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) is a unique species—individuals develop differently depending on their environment. While all steelhead hatch in gravel-bottomed, fast-flowing, well-oxygenated rivers and streams, some stay in fresh water all their lives ("rainbow trout") while others migrate to the ocean and return to freshwater to spawn ("steelhead trout"). The steelhead that migrate to the ocean develop a slimmer profile, become more silvery in color, and typically grow much larger than the rainbow trout that remain in fresh water.
Following the dramatic rise in southern California's human population after World War II, and the associated land and water development within coastal drainages (particularly major dams and water diversions), steelhead abundance rapidly declined from about 40,000 returning adults historically to less than 500 returning adults today.
To help save Southern California Steelhead, a fish passage project was completed on Mission Creek in Santa Barbara. The project removed a fish passage barrier at a bridge crossing by reconfiguring the bridge structure, burying utility lines, and installing a series of natural sandstone boulders to control the slope of the creek banks. The project also involved restoring the river habitat by removing non-native plant species and replanting with a variety of native river-side species.