6/21/10 Coho salmon in Southern Humboldt County's Mattole River are at a breaking point.

The Mattole Salmon Group counted just three adult coho in the river this winter, and only one redd, the rocky nest in which salmon lay their eggs. It's the lowest number of coho counted since the group began surveys in 2004, and far below the historical estimates of thousands of the fish.

”They're just really on the brink of extinction,” said Mattole Salmon Group Executive Director Keytra Meyer.

Meyer said that the surveys don't span the entire watershed, but she believes it's unlikely teams missed even 50 adult fish. Compounding that, Meyer said surveyors' expanded efforts to locate juvenile coho found them only in Thompson and Ancestor creeks.

The Mattole is at the southern end of the coho salmon's range. The population of fish is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, as are its salmonid cousins chinook salmon and steelhead. The health of the Mattole's coho is considered important to the survival of the evolutionarily significant unit -- a subset of the larger species.

In many California watersheds this year, coho are struggling. In the Shasta River, only nine adult coho were counted this winter, all of them males.


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