Salmon Population Keeps Swelling

By Matt Baume
|  Saturday, Mar 26, 2011  |  Updated 8:00 AM PDT
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Scientists estimate that fewer than 200 coho salmon returned to the Russian River this year to spawn.

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More good news for fish fans: the Russian River's salmon population is booming.

Well, "booming" is a relative term. Scientists estimate that fewer than 200 coho salmon returned this year to spawn. But that's nearly ten times last year's rate, according to the Press Democrat.

The resurgence is thanks in part to an emergency breeding program. Biologists captured wild fish and made sure that they bred in a hatchery, then released offspring nearby.

Last year, they released 170,000 fish, at a cost of about $800,000. The money is provided mostly by the Army Corps of Engineers, with a bit more thrown in by the county water agency.

It takes three years for the fish to reach reproductive age, so it's only now that past years' efforts are paying off.

Things looked grim for a while. Around 2004, the coho population seemed to be on the verge of disappearing altogether. The fish are particularly susceptible to environmental change.

Now, it remains to be seen whether the population can survive on its own without extensive human reproductive intervention.

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