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By The Numbers

The Big Picture

Over 90% of the 440 populations of salmon and steelhead in California’s coastal streams are considered federally threatened or endangered.


There are currently 107 populations of coho salmon in California. All coho populations in California are considered either federally threatened or endangered. Across California, 17,500 monitored coho salmon returned in fall 2012/winter 2013, slightly down from 19,000 the previous year. This is 12% of the federal recovery target of 150,000 coho. Most coho, 10,000 of them, return to the Trinity River, which has a large hatchery influence on the coho populations. The next highest populations are in the South Fork Eel River (>1,000), Big River (894), Noyo River (784), Albion River (578), Russian River (496), Lagunitas Creek (496), and Ten Mile River (440). For our small coastal streams, we are at 9% of the recovery target, up from 6% in 2011/2012. Only 30% (35 out of 107) of our coho salmon populations are currently monitored.


There are currently 49 populations of chinook salmon in coastal California (40 fall chinook and 9 spring chinook); nearly 75% of which are considered federally threatened. In fall 2012/winter 2013, 142,000 monitored fall Chinook salmon returned and spawned naturally in coastal California rivers. This is an increase from 120,000 returning fall Chinook in 2012/2013. Most (132,000) returned to the Klamath-Trinity basin. A few rivers, like the Russian and Smith rivers support populations between 5,000-10,000 fish. Most of our smaller coastal rivers, like the Navarro, Big River, Noyo River, and Ten Mile River, are seeing less than 20 Chinook salmon return to spawn yearly. Wild spring Chinook salmon are only found in the Trinity and Salmon rivers (18,500), up from 14,000 fish the previous year. Over 40% of our coastal chinook salmon populations are monitored.


There are currently 284 populations of steelhead in coastal California rivers: 52 are considered federally endangered, 214 federally threatened and 18 are not considered at risk of extinction. Steelhead are extremely difficult to monitor, and as a result, are often not monitored. Measured populations in California (32,000 steelhead returning in winter 2012 to spring 2013) are likely only a third of actual steelhead numbers. This is an increase from the 22,000 monitored steelhead returning in 2011/2012. Trinity River is well monitored and has over 14,000 steelhead returning to spawn naturally in the river; like coho and Chinook, a good proportion are hatchery-born returnign fish. Monitored small coastal populations are between 10-15% of federal recovery targets. Southern California rivers, like Malibu Creek, Topanga Canyon Creek, Santa Clara River, and Ventura River, are seeing less than 10 adults return from the ocean to spawn yearly. It is recognized, but not quantified, how much the resident rainbow trout population (which never leaves the freshwater streams) contributes to the ocean-going steelhead population. Only 10% of our coastal steelhead populations are currently monitored.


NOTE: These conclusions are developed from the monitored salmon estimates of the 37 Salmon Snapshots, and will be supplanted by the regional estimates from the California Coastal Monitoring Program when they are available.  

Current Status of Coastal Salmon Populations

Compilation of the federally threatened, endangered, and unlisted salmon species


2012/13 Salmon Numbers


0 = fish or redds not detected

NA = species not found in the watershed

NM = species not monitored

ID = monitoring temporally and/or spatially incomplete

>> = monitoring temporally and/or spatially incomplete; data reported for completeness

> = data only available for a subwatershed

[#] = # of adult broodstock added to supplement spawning potential in stream

*winter steelhead not monitored; summer steelhead monitored

Total monitored assumes 1 fish per redd

For data qualifiers and confidence intervals, see individual Snapshot footnotes or the downloadable data file

Counting Fish

Currently, there is no standard, comprehensive monitoring program implemented in California. However, a number of efforts attempt to determine how many salmon and steelhead return to our coastal streams, as described below.

California Coastal Monitoring Program

The California Coastal Salmonid Monitoring Program (CMP) is the current monitoring strategy for tracking the status, trends and recovery of coastal California populations of salmon and steelhead. The CMP is in its infancy and adding watersheds to the program on an ad hoc basis. Over time, provided there is enough funding, the CMP will provide robust and high-quality estimates of all salmon and steelhead coastal populations in California. It is a joint effort of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Klamath Basin Megatable

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife annually prepare the fall and spring Chinook spawner escapment, in-river harvest and run-size estimates (called the megatables) for the Klamath-Trinity basin. Population estimates/counts are developed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, with support of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Yurok Tribe, Karuk Tribe, Hoopa Valley Tribe, US Forest Service, Mid-Klamath Watershed Council, Salmon River Restoration Council, Siskiyou County Schools and Siskiyou Resource Conservation District. Estimates include natural spawners, hatchery returns, and in-river harvest.

Monitoring Agencies

In addition to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, many agencies and organizations monitor salmon and steelhead in their specific watersheds. Entities that provided data for the Salmon Snapshots include: Sonoma County Water Agency, Marin Municipal Water District, Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, Casitas Municipal Water District, United Water Conservation District, US National Park Service, University of California Cooperative Extension, Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, and Mattole Salmon Group.

Watershed groups and local agencies are encouraged to follow the CMP monitoring protocols so that consistent, cohesive and comparable data are collected, allowing for salmon and steelhead population trend estimates statewide.

Private Citizens

Local landowners and local citizens can help by allowing access to streams on their property and volunteering to help with spawning surveys.