This winter’s onslaught of wet weather, per calculations from the U.S. National Drought Monitor, pulled most of Northern California out of the worst of this years-long drought. San Francisco, as well as much of the Bay Area, is currently categorized as experiencing “D2 Severe Drought” drought conditions — a stark improvement from October when virtually the entire region fell into “D3 Extreme” or “D4 Exceptional” drought situations. With this influx of much-needed precipitation came with it flash floods (that spurred evacuation orders), the refilling of reservoirs (most of which previously sat at historic lows), and glimpses of a future defined by the climate crisis (because we’re all fucked, to some degree).
But what also came from this deluge of rain was a surprising win for local biodiversity: the return of coho salmon to historic spawning grounds.
Coho salmon — one of the five Pacific salmon species, a fish considered to be an evolutionarily significant unit that’s listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act — has experienced a nearly 80% decline in their endemic populations since the turn of the century. These large fish are a cornerstone species in all the waterways they call home, helping to keep various invertebrate populations balanced and nourishing apex predators, like black bears and mountain lions, once they die after spawning. Coho salmon also holds an important place in the Bay Area’s anthropology; the nomadic fish have lived as a symbol of affinity (and as a source of sustenance) of the people who call the Pacific Northwest home, like the Ohlone communities who believed these salmon also existed in tandem with the human soul.
And now they’re back in parts of their historic region that they haven’t been recorded in for nearly two decades.
Ayano Hayes, the watershed biologist for the Salmon Protection And Watershed Network (SPAWN), found coho salmon earlier…