For Immediate Release, January 15, 2009
Contact: Ileene Anderson, Biologist, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 654-5943 or 323-490-0223
Feds to Revisit Santa Ana Sucker Fish Habitat
LOS ANGELES— Today the Center for Biological Diversity, Cal Trout, California-Nevada Chapter of the American Fisheries Society and Friends of the River settled a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the scientifically flawed and politically tainted designation of critical habitat for the federally threatened Santa Ana sucker fish. The government’s own documents show extensive meddling by disgraced Bush political appointees in the process. In 2004, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated over 21,000 acres of critical habitat along three of the four rivers where the sucker fish occur. A year later, they revised that critical habitat designation downward to just 8,305 acres, and completely eliminated all critical habitat along the fish’s namesake river – the Santa Ana.
“The abysmal record of the Bush administration’s political interference in the scientific process has caused catastrophic problems for plants and animals teetering on the brink of extinction,” says Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service knew the designation was not supported by science, so it cut bait and agreed to go back to the drawing board.”
The Santa Ana sucker fish is a small, olive-gray fish that is found in clear, cool rocky pools of creeks, as well as gravelly bottoms of permanent streams with slight to swift currents. Many of these streams are naturally subject to severe seasonal flooding which can decimate resident fish populations. Yet, the Santa Ana sucker fish possesses adaptations that enable it to repopulate its natal streams rapidly after such unpredictable events. It eats primarily algae, searching it out with its large lips, which is how it got its common name. The fish was well distributed throughout the Los Angeles, San Gabriel and San Bernardino Valley streams historically. Because of development and altered hydrology among many threats, this little fish is restricted to three non-contiguous populations in the middle part of the Santa Ana River, mostly in Riverside County, the east, west and north forks of the San Gabriel River and the lower part of Big Tujunga Creek and the Santa Clara River in Los Angeles County.
“To have this little fish that is evolutionarily adapted to boom and bust cycles barely clinging to survival is a bellwether for the state of our local rivers and watersheds”, added Anderson. “The Fish and Wildlife Service must provide additional protection for this threatened species, based on the best available science.”
Under the agreement, the Fish and Wildlife Service will propose critical habitat by December 1, 2009 which will be available for public comment. The final critical habitat will be designated by December 1, 2010.