Mount Shasta, Calif. –
A recently released report by the fish and watershed advocacy group California Trout brings troubling news to a state already beleaguered by a slew of fish and water woes. The report, titled ‘SOS: California Fish in Crises’ was compiled by Dr. Peter Moyle, a UC Davis professor and expert on California fish and water systems. In the report, Moyle states that 65% of native salmon, steelhead and trout species may be extinct in the next century.
The report focuses on each of California’s native fish species: salmon, steelhead and trout. Native salmonids, says the report, “are in an 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.”
Other key findings in the report include the fact that 65% percent of the species headed towards extinction are found only in California, of the state’s 22 anadromous fish species, 59% are in danger of extinction, and of the state’s nine inland native fish, 78% are in danger of extinction.
“The fish don’t lie,” said Moyle. “The story they tell is that California’s environment is unraveling. Their demise is symptomatic of a much larger water crises that, unless addressed, will severely impact every Californian.”
The 350 page report, which took over two years to compile, paints a grim picture, but with that knowledge comes the hope and the possibility of thwarting disaster.
Effects on local region
For the Mt. Shasta region, renown for its trout and salmon, the news strikes a deep and troubling cord. The question posed by many is “What can be done?” Severn Williams of California Trout, in a press release summarizing Moyle’s study, notes, “Proper habitat management would be the cornerstone of any recovery for the threatened species in the Mt. Shasta area. Increased funding for the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) would enable the agency to provide better field management and increase staffing. Increased DFG funding would also allow the agency to complete the state mandated Strategic Management plan for all native trout species.”
California Trout Mt. Shasta Area manager Curtis Knight noted, “The fisheries in this region are famous around the world; both our environment and our local economies will benefit from increased efforts to ensure the survival of our native trout, salmon, and steelhead species.”
One alarming statistic specific to our local region, as noted in the press release, is the fact that “of the eleven native fish species found in the Mt. Shasta region, seven face a substantial risk of extinction within the next century or are already extinct in California.”
What has caused the decl
ines? While not an easy question to answer, a number of key stressors have been identified in Moyle’s report. “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,” cited the California Trout press release.
The report continues to note that, “Global warming will accelerate the alarming drop in numbers for many of these fishes, as salmonids are particularly sensitive to changes in water temperature and rapidly shifting ocean conditions affect those that migrate from rivers to ocean.”
While no doubt daunting, the report provides essential data. ‘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. He continued by noting that “‘SOS: California Native Fish in Crises’ provides the information, the roadmap, and the guidance for affecting change for California’s fish and the habitat that supports them.”