Forty-five percent of California’s native salmon, steelhead and trout species face extinction within 50 years, and nearly three-quarters will be wiped out in a century without intervention, a study released yesterday said.
(From Scientific American / By Anne C. Mulkern) — The analysis from California Trout (CalTrout) and University of California, Davis, Center for Watershed Sciences blamed climate change as a primary culprit, titling the report “State of the Salmonids II: Fish in Hot Water.” It details the status of 32 types of salmon, steelhead and trout native to the Golden State.
“Climate change is and will have wide-ranging effects on California salmonids across the state,” said Patrick Samuel, conservation program coordinator at CalTrout, a fish and watershed advocacy group. “Climate change is reducing the amount of cold water available to our fishes, which is critical to their survival. Climate change alters the volume and timing of stream flows, can degrade habitats and alter food resources for our species.”
Salmon, steelhead and trout all depend on cold water for survival, the report said.
“Climate change is the overarching threat to our cold-water salmonids,” Samuel added.
California’s historic drought — which Gov. Jerry Brown (D) recently declared over — hurt many fish, the report authors said.
“The drought here is not over for these fish” due to a time lag in the species’ life cycles, said Rob Lusardi, one of the UC Davis authors.
The findings are important not just for those who love fish or going fishing, said Curtis Knight, CalTrout executive director. It’s not an answer to simply farm fish if freshwater varieties die off, he said. Freshwater fish are a kind of canary in the coal mine for water.
“Their health and their resilience indicates healthy waters, which is important for all Californians’ drinking water, agriculture, commerce, and the health of the people and the environment in which we live,” he said during a call with reporters. “The decline of the fish indicates the decline of all of our water. That’s important to all Californians.”
The report will be used to urge lawmakers and others to make changes that can help the fish.