Salmon studies on the Lower Yuba River set new benchmark for collaborative science

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On June 29, the River Management Team of the Yuba Accord hosted the 2nd annual Symposium on Fisheries Monitoring and Evaluation in the Lower Yuba River.  Among scores of agency personnel and professional fisheries biologists, a dozen SYRCL members attended the Sacramento event to learn how the lower Yuba River is becoming one of the most thoroughly studied rivers anywhere.  Here are few highlights from the presentations:

  • The Yuba County Water Agency provides $6M for studies of salmon and steelhead for the period 2006-2015. These studies follow a plan addressing multiple population and habitat parameters.
  • Salmon carcass surveys have been consistently conducted since 1994 and show an average annual estimate of approximately 15,000 fish.  Since the record low of 2600 fish in 2007, a modest increase has been seen.
  • Fish counting stations in the ladders at Daguerre Point Dam consist of infrared and video cameras that track the passage of salmon, steelhead and other species.  Spring-run salmon begin passing in May, but become indistinguishable from the more abundant fall-run salmon seen later in the year.
  • The otoliths (ear-bones) of salmon are being used to differentiate strays from hatcheries and other rivers
    Annual estimates of total spawning Chinook salmon in the lower Yuba River (D. Massa)
    . This method involves detecting differences in strontium isotope ratios consequent from different watershed geology.
  • Rainbow trout in the lower Yuba River can grow to fourteen inches within two years, but this rapid growth and low relative survival in the ocean are hypothesized to have reduced the number of steelhead (large anadromous form of the same species) to a small fraction of the population.
  • A high-resolution topographic and bathymetric map has been constructed for the entire lower Yuba River upon which fish habitat and riparian condition will be assessed.

To view the presentations, go to www.yubaaccordrmt.com.

SYRCL participates on the River Management Team as the representative of non-governmental organizations.  Through this leadership, SYRCL has helped ensure a focused and efficient evaluation plan, and guided outreach to citizens through symposia and a website. This scientific collaboration provides a foundation for actions to protect and restore salmon and the complex river habitats upon which they depend. For more information, contact Gary Reedy, SYRCL River Science Program Director.

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