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California Trout Report Shows Native Fish in Crisis
by Dan Bacher
Wednesday Nov 19th, 2008 6:21 PM
In the next century, 65 percent of native salmon, steelhead, and trout species in California may become extinct, according to a report released today by California Trout.

Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Director Donald Koch made the following statement regarding the report:

“We look forward to reading the 100-plus-page report ‘SOS: California’s Native Fish Crisis,’ released by California Trout today. We thank California Trout for their dedication to California’s native fish species. We appreciate their support and look forward to engaging them and other stakeholders in finding solutions to further our efforts to conserve the state’s valuable fish and wildlife resources.”
November 19, 2008
CONTACT: Severn Williams
510-336-9566, sev [at]

New Report Shows California Fish in Crisis

65% of native salmon, steelhead, and trout species may be extinct in the next century

San Francisco, CA - Fish and watershed advocacy group California Trout today released the first-ever comprehensive report chronicling the status of each of California's native fish species (salmon, steelhead, and trout).

SOS: California's Native Fish Crisis was written and researched by Dr. Peter Moyle, UC Davis professor and renowned expert on California's water systems and the fish that inhabit them. The report's findings indicate that the state's native salmonids are in unprecedented decline and are teetering towards the brink of extinction - an alarm bell that signals the deteriorating health of the state's rivers and streams that provide drinking water to millions of Californians.

The findings in the report released today are based on an in-depth study, Salmon, steelhead, and trout in California: status of an emblematic fauna, which includes 350 pages of analysis of more than two years of field and lab research on these species.

All indications show that California's native fish are in crisis:

If present trends continue, 65% of native salmon, steelhead, and trout species will be extinct within the century.

Sixty-five percent of the species headed towards extinction are found only in California.

Of the state's 22 anadromous fish species (which spawn in freshwater and live most of their adult lives in the ocean), 59% are in danger of extinction.

Of the state's nine living native inland fish, 78% are in danger of extinction.

"The fish don't lie," said report author Peter Moyle, PhD. "The story they tell is that California's environment is unraveling. Their demise is symptomatic of a much larger water crisis that, unless addressed, will severely impact every Californian."

All of the species studied in the report support, or have previously supported, major recreational and commercial fisheries and provide enormous economic and cultural value to Californians. And as shown in a report released in January 2008 by California Trout, direct spending by anglers in the state on fishing-related items and activities comes to over $2 billion each year. Ecotourism like fishing is one of California's largest and fastest-growing industries and it provides critical income to help diversify and stabilize rural economies throughout the state.

SOS: California's Native Fish Crisiscites a number of key stressors on California's native fish populations, many of which could be addressed through improved policy planning and better water and land management. Dams, agricultural and grazing practices, development, mining, railroads, logging, some recreational uses, illegal harvesting of native fish, reliance on fish hatcheries, and invasive species have all played a role in driving these species to the brink of extinction. Global warming will accelerate the alarming drop in numbers for many of these fish, as salmonids are particularly sensitive to changes in water temperature and rapidly shifting ocean conditions affect those that migrate from rivers to the ocean.

Thirty-two native fish taxa - species, subspecies, Evolutionary Significant Units, and Distinct Population Segments - are evaluated in SOS: California's Native Fish in Crisis. Each type of fish was evaluated according to the same criteria and given a score that indicates its likelihood of long-term survival under current conditions. A score of "one" indicates the species is "highly vulnerable to extinction in native range in the next 50 years" and a score of "four" or "five" was reserved for species with no extinction risk and expanding populations.

Pink and chum salmon, southern steelhead, and coho salmon face the greatest immediate threat of extinction. Other species racing against the clock for survival include both summer and winter runs of the Northern California Coast steelhead; Central Valley, South/Central California Coast and Central Coast steelhead; Little Kern golden, Lahontan cutthroat, and Paiute cutthroat trout; and California Coast, Sacramento winter run, and Central Valley spring run Chinook salmon. The close of this year's salmon fishing season, whose economic impact was estimated at more than $20 million, is an ominous sign of what may be to come for many of these fish.

"This report is an important resource for anyone interested in protecting and restoring California's magnificent native fish," said California Trout Executive Director Brian Stranko. "From local watershed groups working in communities, to the highest levels of state and federal governments, SOS: California's Native Fish in Crisis provides the information, the roadmap, and the guidance for affecting change for California's fish and the habitat that supports them."

The report finds that identifying new and innovative funding streams for the state Department of Fish and Game (DFG) would allow the department to be a more effective steward of the state's fishery resources. It also argues vigorously for a revitalized and strengthened DFG that would enable it to fulfill its role as chief guardian of California's wild and native salmon, steelhead, and trout by partnering with local communities to protect regional fish populations and their habitats. And it calls for immediate action on salmon, steelhead and trout recovery needs, such as addressing known challenges on the Shasta River and Trinity Rivers and continuing efforts to protect ground and surface water resources at the local and state levels.

Ongoing research and restoration efforts, like those recently-announced for the Klamath River, have shown that when flows are reinstated, migration barriers removed, and cool, clean, abundant water provided, our native fish show signs of recovery.

A copy of the report, a fact sheet of key findings, and the complete publication on which it is based, Salmon, steelhead, and trout in California: status of an emblematic fauna, is posted online at California Trout's website, For more information and for additional materials (report cover, graphs, solutions checklist, species accounts, photos and illustrations of key species, California regional maps showing species habitat and a photo of California Trout CEO Brian Stranko) please contact Sev Williams at 510-336-9566 or sev [at]

About California Trout: Founded in 1971, California Trout was the first statewide conservation group to focus on securing protections for California's unparalleled wild and native trout diversity. Working with local communities, business, partners and government agencies, California Trout employs conservation science, education, and advocacy to craft effective policy for California's water resources and fisheries. Its key accomplishments include leading the legal effort to restore Mono Lake, establishing the state's Wild and Native Trout program, and sponsoring legislation to create California's Hatchery and Inland Fisheries Fund.

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