Most California native game fish face extinction

November 24, 2008

DAVIS, Calif., (ChattahBox) — According to a recent study most of California’s native salmon, steelhead and trout species face extinction this century without quick action to provide proper habitats.

Twenty of 31 species of prized fish are in sharp decline, including the Sacramento River winter run of Chinook salmon, coastal Coho salmon and the Sierra Nevada golden trout, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“Our fish need cold, clean water to survive, but they’re getting less and less of it,” said University of California, Davis, conservation biology professor Peter Moyle, the state’s leading salmon expert.

“Dams block access. Climate change is now looming to exacerbate the threat, and it increases the urgency. All of these things are pushing our fish toward extinction,” he said.

“If we allow these fish to go extinct, we’ve allowed the deterioration of the streams and rivers,” Moyle said, noting the same waterways also supply clean drinking water to people.

One species, the bull trout, already has disappeared. The fish was last seen in the McCloud River, a Sacramento River tributary, in the 1970s, and scientists link its disappearance to the concrete Shasta Dam on the Sacramento River above Redding, Calif., and the McCloud Reservoir dam, the Chronicle reported.

Decades of lax controls on farming, logging, grazing, mining and road-building have filled and polluted streams, the study said, while the removal of streamside vegetation on the North Coast, in Sierra creeks and on inland lagoons has warmed the water and harmed fish.

Sport and commercial fishing and environmental groups have complained that the agency is mismanaged and underfunded, resulting in a shortage of wardens and other staff members charged with preventing poaching, checking stream quality, running restoration projects and monitoring logging and development plans.

The California Trout fish advocacy group, which commissioned the study, said it would use the results to try to persuade legislators and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to direct the state Department of Fish and Game to provide adequate freshwater and habitats.


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