Thursday, April 05, 2007

Salmon Recovery Not Evaluated

Not properly evaluating the spending of public money is a huge problem, but slowly, with the increased ability of the public and advocacy groups to access information concerning public expenditures, the light is being shined on.

State spends millions on salmon recovery but doesn't count the fish
By Mike A'Dair/TWN Staff Writer
Article Launched: 04/04/2007 11:00:00 PM PDT

The results of ten years of salmonid recovery activities in California activities are inconclusive.

Although at least 130 million of federal and state dollars have been spent in the Golden State since the National Marine fisheries Service first declared the coho salmon to be a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act, and although more than a thousand fish restoration projects have been completed in the state between 2000 and 2005, managers at the state's Dept. of Fish and Game are having a difficult time knowing with anything like scientific certitude how the threatened salmonids are doing.

This stems from the failure of the state's Dept. of Fish and Game to adequately count the fish. Although recognized in various publications from NMFS and from the California Dept. of Fish and Game as being a critical unmet need of any effective restoration campaign, in California there is no program to systematically count, or as it is also known, monitor the fish in a comprehensive manner.

"There has been monitoring," said Charlotte Ambrose, National Marine Fisheries Service Recovery Coordinator for the North Central Coast Recovery Domain, a swath of coastal land stretching from Monterey Bay to Punta Gorda along the state's Lost Coast. "In some cases landowners have counted fish, and in other cases various watershed groups have done surveys. But there hasn't really been monitoring in a systematic way, across the range of those ESUs, for those species."

Greg Bryant, a NMFS's Recovery Coordinator with the Southern Oregon and Northern California Coasts Recovery Domain, explained recently that adequate monitoring is essential to any state and federal recovery program for salmonids. "Without adequate monitoring, you can't judge the effectiveness of your restoration action," Bryant said. "You need adequate monitoring so you can readjust your goals and objectives as your restoration activities continue, as conditions change, because of the work you've done. You also need good monitoring so you can judge the effectiveness of the restoration grants that you've used to pay for the work you've done."

That is the situation in California, where after ten years of recovery efforts, many of the higher-ups in both the Dept of Fish and Game and the National Marine Fisheries Service say they just don't know how many threatened or endangered anadromous fish there are out there in northern California waters, or whether populations there are going up or going down.