Draft recovery plan released for Oregon Coast coho salmon

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recently announced (80 Federal Register 61379–61381) that a proposed recovery plan for the federally threatened Oregon Coast coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) is available for public review and comment.

The proposed plan addresses an evolutionarily significant unit (ESU) of coho salmon that spawns and rears in rivers and lakes along the Oregon Coast from the Necanicum River near Seaside on the north to the Sixes River near Port Orford on the south. The species generally spends one summer and one winter in freshwater areas before migrating as juveniles through the estuaries to the Pacific Ocean.

The proposed recovery plan, which is almost 200 pages long, discusses the species and habitat, threats and listing factors, recovery goals and delisting factors, the current status relative to recovery goals, recovery strategies and actions, estimated costs of implementation, and other topics.

In the proposed recovery plan, NMFS asserts that the Oregon Coast coho salmon is primarily affected by “degraded habitat and the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms (related to habitat).” The agency states that “a 2012 review by NMFS’ biological review team, found that the combination of past and ongoing forest management practices, along with lowland agricultural and urban development, has resulted in a situation where the areas of highest potential habitat capacity for coho salmon are now severely degraded.”

As a result, the proposed plan suggests that the ESU is “vulnerable to near-term and long-term declines in ocean productivity, as well as to climate effects in freshwater.” “Reduced stream complexity and degraded water quality (increased temperature)” are identified as the primary factors that continue to threaten ESU viability.

Recovery actions in the proposed plan center on protecting and restoring freshwater and estuarine rearing habitats upon which egg-to-smolt survival depends. The proposed plan identifies a series of ESU-level and site-specific actions.

Examples at the ESU level include revising regulatory mechanisms as necessary, initiating an inter-agency effort to increase collaboration in local and regional planning efforts, developing and updating guidance for Oregon Coast coho salmon conservation and recovery, and providing secure financial support to implement actions.

Examples of site-specific actions include protecting stream reaches with high intrinsic potential and good habitat condition, protecting stream hydrology by protecting and restoring patterns of sediment and water runoff, and working with timber owners to increase recruitment of wood and reduce fine sediment and water temperature.

NMFS is soliciting public review and comment on the proposed plan. Comments must be received no later than 5 p.m. Pacific daylight time on December 14, 2015.
The proposed plan is available at http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/protected_species/salmon_steelhead/recovery_planning_and_implementation/oregon_coast/oregon_coast_recovery_plan.html.