The Santa Ana Speckled Dace, a SoCal native minnow that once thrived in freshwater streams, needs protection in order to survive, according to a petition submitted Monday to list the species under the Endangered Species Act.
“We’ve already lost seven of our state’s unique freshwater fish species to extinction, and it’d be a shame for California to lose any more,” said Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, which filed the petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, requesting that the speckled dace be designated as endangered or threatened.
“Dace are pretty resilient fish if we protect their stream habitats and give them half a chance to recover,” Miller said. “Let’s throw Santa Ana speckled dace a lifeline in the form of Endangered Species Act protection.”
If not protected, the speckled dace are “highly vulnerable to extinction within the next 50 years” according to the petition.
Currently, they inhabit the Santa Ana, San Jacinto, San Gabriel and Los Angeles river systems, preferring perennial streams fed by cool springs with overhanging riparian vegetation and shallow gravel riffles for spawning. They are found in Big Tujunga Creek and Haines Creek in the Los Angeles River basin; several forks of the San Gabriel River, along with its tributaries Cattle Canyon, Devil’s Canyon, Bear Creek and Fish Canyon; Cajon Creek, West Fork City Creek, Plunge Creek and several forks of Lytle Creek in the Santa Ana River basin; and the North Fork San Jacinto River and its tributary Indian Creek.
But the speckled dace have been eliminated from three-quarters of their former stream habitats in Southern California due to dams, water diversions and urbanization, Miller said. Remaining dace populations are jeopardized by drought, high intensity wildfires, flooding, invasive species and climate change.
“They remain in small, fragmented populations in only about one-fourth of their historical range and are restricted mainly to headwater tributaries within national forests,” according to the Center.
Speckled dace populations have been eliminated from most of the Los Angeles River basin, including tributaries Little Tujunga Creek, Pacoima Creek and Santa Anita Canyon Creek. They have disappeared from most of the Santa Ana River basin, including the middle reaches of the Santa Ana River, and tributaries Mill Creek, East Twin Creek, Santiago Creek, Silverado Canyon, Harding Canyon and San Antonio Creek. And they no longer live in the San Jacinto River, South Fork San Jacinto River, or tributaries Herkey Creek and Strawberry Creek.
More than 80% of California’s native freshwater fish species are in decline, an indication of the degrading quality and quantity of freshwater habitats throughout the state, according to the Center. Roughly 33% of the state’s freshwater fish species are formally listed as threatened or endangered, and seven native fish species have gone extinct.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
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