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FISH THAT NEED US TO GET TO 350 Photo credits
Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar)
Range: In Maine, at least encompasses Dennys, East Machias, Machias, Pleasant, Narraguagus, Ducktrap, Kennebec, and Sheepscot rivers, as well as Cove Brook
The Atlantic salmon is called the “king of fish” for its streamlined and powerful beauty. Members of the species undertake an epic journey to complete their life cycle, migrating from freshwater rivers to feeding grounds in the North Atlantic Ocean, and then returning to natal streams to spawn. In fewer than 300 years, its numbers have decreased by 90 percent. Hotter river waters are dangerous for these cold-water fish during spawning and growth of eggs and young. More rainfall in the northeastern United States during winter due to climate will lead to higher flows that can scour streambeds and destroy salmon eggs. Changing ocean conditions may affect salmon’s ability to find sufficient food before returning to rivers to spawn.

In 2008, the Center and the Conservation Law Foundation of New England filed suit to designate critical habitat for the Gulf of Maine Atlantic salmon population, and in response, the Service proposed to protect 126,623 river miles and 214,487 acres of lakes.
Arkansas River shiner (Notropis girardi)
Range: New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas
The tiny, shiny Arkansas River shiner requires at least 80 miles of river to complete its life cycle — and has disappeared from more than 80 percent of its historical habitat. Besides habitat destruction, water-quality degradation, and other threats, this finger-sized fish is threatened by drought and increased water temperatures driven by global warming.

A Center lawsuit earned this fish a place on the threatened species list in 1998; more Center legal action led to the designation of 1,148 river miles of protected critical habitat for the species in 2005. When that protected habitat was cut in half, we sued again in January 2009 to make sure the shiner has enough protected area to survive and recover.
Atlantic white marlin (Tetrapturus albidus)
Range: Throughout Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia to Argentina and southern Europe to South Africa
While hunting, white marlin sometimes stun or kill their prey by spearing or slashing it with their sharp bills. Yet in an all-too-familiar tale for imperiled species worldwide, the hunter often becomes the hunted. The Atlantic white marlin has been reduced to less than 10 percent of its historic numbers in the Atlantic Ocean. Global warming leads to loss of biodiversity in our oceans and a reduction overall ocean productivity that may impact the marlin’s food supply.

The Center filed a lawsuit to overturn a Service decision not to afford Endangered Species Act protections to the white marlin. A new status review of the species was expected to be completed by the end of 2007 but still remains undone.
Bocaccio (Sebastes paucispinis)
Range: From Stepovak Bay, Alaska to central Baja California; most abundant from Oregon to northern Baja California
The Bocaccio is a member of the rockfish family. One of the larger rockfish, it can grow up to three feet in length and live for 45 years. For the bocaccio and other rockfish, big, fat, and old females are the most important females, since they produce the largest numbers of eggs and the highest quality eggs, which have a better chance of surviving to become the next generation. Never-before-observed low-oxygen and no-oxygen “dead zones” linked with global warming have been forming in the California Current marine ecosystem, causing massive die-offs of rockfish and other oxygen-starved marine creatures.

In 2001, the Center and allies petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to list the population of bocaccio south of Cape Mendocino as threatened, as well as to designate critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act.
Bonneville cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki utah)
Range: Tributaries to Great Salt Lake, Utah
The Bonneville cutthroat trout is one of 14 recognized subspecies of cutthroat trout. The Bonneville descended from trout that originally lived in Lake Bonneville in the Pleistocene era. Over time, the lake became desiccated and transformed into the Great Salt Lake, dividing one large population of trout into many smaller subpopulations, which spread out in the still-viable mountain lakes and streams. But though it survived one drastic ecosystem change eons ago, the Bonneville cutthroat trout may not fair well in the face of climate change. Warmer water temperatures and high winter flooding will affect this trout’s ability to survive. One study found that climate-related changes threaten 73 percent of the habitat currently occupied by Bonneville cutthroat trout.
Bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus)
Range: Cold waters of northwestern North America
The bull trout is a type of char — a small-scaled trout with light spots — that was recognized as a distinct species in 1980. Some bull trout are anadromous (spending part of their lifecycle in ocean waters), while others prefer landlocked lakes or rivers. Individual bull trout vary a great deal in size, depending on their specific habitat, but all require cold, clear water with unobstructed migratory paths.

Rising water temperature and changes in stream flows can affect bull trout in each of their life stages. Even small increases in temperature can change migration timing, reduce growth, lower the supply of available oxygen in the water, reduce preferred prey species, and increase the susceptibility of fish to parasites and disease. High levels of winter flooding can scour eggs from their nests in streambeds and increase mortalities among over-wintering juveniles. About 90 percent of bull trout are projected to be lost due to warming.
Central California coast steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)
Range: Coastal California streams from Russian River to Soquel Creek and tributaries of San Francisco and San Pablo bays
Steelhead are a unique form of rainbow trout. Like salmon, they spend most of their adult lives in the ocean but spawn and rear in freshwater streams and rivers. Rising water temperatures caused by global warming could drive salmon and trout, including the steelhead, from many U.S. waterways. Studies have suggested that the cold-water habitat required by salmon and trout could shrink by more than 40 percent over the next century if steps aren’t taken to curb emissions of greenhouse gases.

After the trout was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1997, the Center and a coalition of fishing and environmental groups filed a lawsuit resulting in critical habitat protections and regulations preventing illegal “take” of central coast steelhead.
Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)
Range: Monterey Bay, California to Chukchi Sea, Alaska
The chinook salmon is the largest member of the salmon family, reaching nearly five feet in length. This fish is highly valued as both a game and commercial fish, particularly since it’s scarce compared to other Pacific salmon. The chinook is imperiled by threats to both ocean water and freshwater, as it lives in both habitats at different stages in its lifecycle.

Rising temperatures and changing river flows threaten cold water-loving chinook salmon in several ways. Warmer river and stream temperatures put these fish under higher metabolic stress, increase their susceptibility to parasites and disease, and can cause eggs to hatch earlier in the year, so the young are smaller and more vulnerable to predators. High levels of winter flooding can wash away salmon eggs in streambeds, while earlier melting of snow leaves rivers and streams warmer and shallower in the summer and fall. One study found that up to 40 percent of chinook salmon in the Snohomish River basin in western Washington state may be lost by 2050.
Chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta)
Range: Coastal waters along Northern Pacific Rim, from Tillamook Bay, Oregon extending north and west to northern Japan
Chum salmon, also sometimes referred to as “dog salmon,” are second only to chinook salmon in size and were historically perhaps the most abundant of all salmon. Breeding males develop pronounced canine-like teeth — hence the “dog” moniker — and a bold tricolor pattern on the body. Chum salmon have long been popular as both sport and food fish, but they’re now dangerously close to extinction, with several subpopulations believed to be extirpated and more robust populations declining each year.

Rising temperatures and changing river flows threaten cold water-loving chum salmon in several ways. Warmer river and stream temperatures put the fish under higher metabolic stress and increase their susceptibility to parasites and disease. Earlier melting of snow leaves rivers and streams warmer and shallower in the summer and fall, while high levels of winter flooding can wash away salmon eggs in the streambed.
Delta smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus)
Range: Upper reaches of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary
The tiny delta smelt is one of the best indicators of environmental conditions in the San Francisco Bay-Delta, an ecologically important estuary that is a major hub for California’s water system — and an ecosystem that is now rapidly unraveling. The delta smelt is only one of 12 of the original 29 indigenous Delta fish species that have been eliminated entirely from the area or that are threatened with extinction. An extinction risk analysis in 2006 warned that the Delta smelt could go extinct within 20 years. Warming-caused sea-level rise will alter salinity conditions in the estuary, which will adversely affect delta smelt habitat quality. More frequent and larger flood events, also caused by climate change, may increase freshwater inflows during the winter and early spring, rather than during the late spring, for which the species is adapted.

A Center petition spurred the California Fish and Game Commission to upgrade the delta smelt’s state protection status from threatened to endangered; we’ve also filed a notice of intent to sue to achieve uplisting on the federal level.
Desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius)
Range: Gila and Colorado river drainages in Arizona, California, and Mexico
Nipping at the heels of potential mates, the stout, ray-finned pupfish gained its name from its striking resemblance to frolicking young puppies. Cousins to the well-known guppy, pupfish are not only playful but also remarkably tolerant of extreme environmental conditions. Dwelling in pools, marshes, streams, and springs of the Southwest, desert pupfish can endure water temperatures exceeding 110 degrees and can tolerate water more than twice as salty as the ocean. But decreasing precipitation leading to a lower water table may threaten the pupfish’s ability to survive. And as hardy as this fish is, a warmer climate may push the temperature high enough to kill pupfish eggs.

In 1996, the Center filed a lawsuit resulting reduced destructive livestock grazing on the Gila River, important habitat for the pupfish. Since then, we’ve worked to protect the fragile Colorado River delta, safeguard the Salton Sea, and restore full flows to Arizona’s Fossil Creek— all waterways indispensable to pupfish.
Devils River minnow (Dionda diaboli)
Range: Middle Devils River, Pinto Creek, and San Felipe Creek tributaries to the Rio Grande; may also inhabit the Río Salado in Chihuahua, Mexico
In just about 50 years, the Devils River minnow has gone from being one of the most abundant native fishes in southern Texas to one of the rarest fishes in the world. Requiring clean spring waters for survival, populations of this tiny, shiny minnow have declined drastically as stream modifications and pollution have increased. Sadly, the fish has even been eliminated from the upper and lower portions of its namesake — the Devils River. The Devils River minnow is part of a unique fish fauna in the area where the Chihuahuan Desert, Edwards Plateau, and South Brush Texas ecosystems join. Increasing drought conditions in the Southwest due to climate change threaten to dry up the spring waters that the minnow relies upon.

The Center, Forest Guardians, and Save Our Springs Alliance filed a lawsuit against the Service to challenge the minnow's lack of designated critical habitat, as well the fact that it has been granted only threatened — rather than endangered — status.
Gila chub (Gila intermedia)
Range: Upper Gila River basin in Arizona, New Mexico, and adjacent Sonora, Mexico
The Gila chub once benefited from the engineering feats of beavers living in the upper Gila River basin, whose dams created deep, slow-moving pools the chub loved. So in the late 1800s, when beavers were extirpated from much of the basin, the Gila chub was hurt, too. Now, with added pressure from nonnative fish and bullfrog predation, habitat destruction, and water diversion, the chub struggles to survive in a small fraction of its old range. The chub’s fragile, already degraded desert watersheds are further threatened by global warming, which may dry up these watersheds as temperatures rise and drought conditions become more severe in the southwestern United States.

In 1998, the Center and Sky Island Watch petitioned to list the Gila chub as an endangered species. In 2005, the Gila chub was finally afforded protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Gila trout (Oncorhynchus gilae)
Range: Tributaries of Gila River in Arizona and New Mexico
The Gila trout has been threatened by competition and hybridization with introduced game fish. It has also suffered dramatic habitat loss caused chiefly by loss of water flow due to agricultural irrigation, water diversion, and channelization of streams. By the time the Gila trout was listed under the Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1967, its range had been reduced from several hundred miles of stream to just 20.

Global warming further threatens the water flow in the Gila River, home to the trout, as temperatures rise and drought conditions become more severe in the Southwest.
North American green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris)
Range: From the Bering Sea to Ensenada, Mexico; in estuaries and bays from British Columbia, to Monterey Bay; in river mouths from the Skeena River to the Sacramento River
Reaching up to seven feet long and weighing up to 350 pounds, the ancient but imperiled green sturgeon has survived unchanged for the past 200 million years. This bottom-dwelling fish spends much of its adult life in bays and estuaries, returning to only three rivers to spawn — Oregon’s Rogue River and the Klamath and Sacramento rivers in California. Threats to the green sturgeon include water withdrawals from rivers, dams blocking access to spawning habitat, overfishing, poaching for caviar, and now global warming. Because green sturgeon need good water quality and specific temperatures to spawn and hatch their eggs, rising river temperatures and changes in river flows threaten their ability to reproduce. As precipitation shifts from snowpack (which melts gradually) to rainfall, the salinity of estuaries is predicted to change, increasing stress on the sturgeon.

Thanks to the Center, the southern green sturgeon was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2006; federal protections for habitat were proposed in 2008.
Headwater chub (Gila nigra)
Range: Colorado River basin and possibly parts of northwestern Mexico
Of the Southwest’s nine native chub species, all are listed or proposed for Endangered Species Act listing — except the roundtail and headwater chubs. It's not that these two aren’t imperiled — they’ve been extirpated from 80 percent and 60 percent of their historic ranges, respectively — but they’ve suffered from bureaucratic ineptitude for decades. In the Colorado River basin where the headwater chub lives, temperatures are warming, snowpack is declining, and many streams are shifting their peak flow to earlier in the year. Climate models robustly project that the basin will continue to become warmer and more arid, changes that are predicted to reduce the flow of the Colorado River by 10 to 30 percent. Depleted stream flows, changes in the timing of water flow, and rising stream temperatures jeopardize the headwater chub.

The Center petitioned to protect the chub under the Endangered Species Act in 2003. After our subsequent lawsuit, in 2006 the agency again made the headwater chub a candidate for listing.
Humphead wrasse (Cheilinus undulatas)
Range: Throughout the Indo-Pacific oceans
With sumptuous, fleshy lips and a bulbous, protruding forehead, the humphead wrasse is an unforgettable fish. However, this enormous, colorful coral-reef dweller is slow to reproduce, making it vulnerable to overfishing. The species’ total population has dropped by at least half in just 30 years. With concern mounting over sinking humphead wrasse populations, the trade in this species became regulated by the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species — but the wrasse is still in danger. This fish depends on corals throughout its life. Tiny larval wrasse actively select branching hard and soft corals as their new home. Juveniles are found among thickets of dense branching corals, while adult wrasse inhabit a reef’s outer slopes and steep drop-offs. The global warming- and ocean acidification-induced die-off of coral reefs is leaving coral-dependent fishes like the humphead wrasse without a home.

In 2007 the Center, aware of the threats of climate change and overfishing, filed a petition to list the humphead wrasse under the Endangered Species Act.
Kootenai River white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus)
Range: Approximately 168 miles of the Kootenai River in Idaho and Montana and Kootenay Lake in British Columbia, Canada
This sturgeon‘s upstream migration to spawn has been virtually halted by the effects of Libby Dam, which has dramatically changed water flows — a regime that’s forcing fish to spawn over areas with a sandy bottom, where their eggs become encased in sand and drift downriver to die. Without better management, the Kootenai River white sturgeon could be extinct in 20 years. This fish has specific requirements for water temperature and substrate when laying eggs, so rising river temperatures and changes in peak water flows due to climate change will make reproduction even more difficult for this ancient species.

In 1999, five years after the sturgeon was designated as an endangered species, the Center filed suit to earn critical habitat for the fish. We won the suit, and in 2008, the Service protected an area with good sturgeon spawning habitat.
Least chub (Lotichthys phlegethontis)
Range: Utah’s west desert, Wasatch Front, and the Sevier River
This colorful minnow, measuring less than 2.5 inches long, has persisted in the remaining wetland pockets left by the receding Lake Bonneville and Lake Provo that once covered Utah. Seasonal water-quality changes lead least chub to move back and forth between different habitat types, especially between springs and marshes. Once described as excessively common, the fish is now reduced to only six known wild populations. The Snake Valley, the area today considered to be the chub’s “stronghold,” is at risk from groundwater pumping to feed the booming human population of southern Nevada. With projections for increasing drought conditions in the Southwest, the least chub faces the looming threat of groundwater depletion by the dual forces of climate change and human sprawl.

In 2007, the Center and other groups filed a petition to protect the least chub, and when the Service failed to respond, we filed a notice of intent to sue.
Loach minnow (Tiaroga cobitis)
Range: Gila River basin in western New Mexico and Arizona
Native to the Gila River basin in Arizona and New Mexico, this rare, pint-sized fish is just one of many river-dependent species disappearing where they once flourished, in occasional pockets of undisturbed habitat. Livestock grazing degrades this fish‘s stream habitat by trampling stream banks, polluting water, and creating massive erosion, and now stream life is being threatened by climate change. Because loach minnows spawn in response to changes in stream volume and water temperature, warming streams and climate change-caused alterations in water flow threaten the loach minnow’s ability to reproduce.

The Center brought about critical habitat designation for this river-dwelling fish in 1994, and we filed suit after it was overturned on a technicality. In 2009, a judge ruled that the fish needed more habitat protections.
Longfin smelt (Spirinchus thaleichthys)
Range: Estuaries along the Pacific Coast, from San Francisco Bay to Alaska
Longfin smelt were once one of the most abundant open-water fishes in the San Francisco Bay Estuary — commercially important fish, key to the Bay food web. Today the species’ numbers have plummeted to record lows in the Bay-Delta, and it’s nearing extinction in other northern California estuaries. Thanks to poor management of California’s largest estuary ecosystem, which has allowed excessive water diversions and reduced freshwater flow into the Bay, the longfin smelt has undergone two catastrophic declines in just 20 years. Among the threats to the little fish posed by global warming are warming waters, sea-level rise and accompanying salinity intrusion, changes in timing and amounts of freshwater inflow, and increased frequency and intensity of floods.

In 2007, the Center and allies petitioned for state endangered species protection for the longfin smelt. In 2009, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to declare the smelt threatened.
Moapa dace (Moapa coriacea)
Range: Muddy River and thermal springs within Warm Springs area of Clark County, Nevada
The sole species in the genus Moapa, the Moapa dace lives only in the warm springs of the upper Muddy River in Nevada and has a distinctive leathery appearance — hence the scientific name coriacea, which means “leathery.” When first discovered in 1938, the dace was considered common. Today, its habitat is limited to three springs, and recent surveys found only 460 dace remaining. Global warming threatens to further deplete the few remaining springs this fish relies on for survival.

The Center is actively opposing the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s plans to develop and mine more than 200,000 acre-feet from the aquifers, which will reduce the area’s water table, alter water temperatures and chemistry, change habitat structures, and reduce water flow — perhaps eliminating it altogether.
Montana fluvial arctic grayling (Thymallus arcticus)
Range: Big Hole River of southwest Montana
The fluvial Arctic grayling, a glacial relict of a much larger Arctic population, has fallen victim to the war for water. River diversions and agriculture have so drastically shrunk its Montana population that it’s now teetering on the brink of extinction. It’s the last river-dwelling grayling species in the continental United States. Drought is a significant threat to the well-being of fluvial Arctic grayling populations, which appear to decline in periods of drought. Warmer temperatures and increased drought conditions due to climate change will pose further challenges for this cold-water species.

In 2002, the Center sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to force a listing decision on this amazing fish. After listing was denied, the Center filed another lawsuit, and in 2009, the Service agreed to reconsider the grayling for protection.
Pacific lamprey (Lampetra tridentate)
Range: Pacific Rim from Japan through Alaska, North American Pacific Coast to Baja California, Mexico
Ancient, jawless fish, lampreys superficially resemble eels but aren’t related to them. They have an anadromous life cycle (migrating to freshwater for spawning), similar to salmon and steelhead trout. Large concentrations of adult and larval lampreys were once an important and dependable high-fat food source for many birds, fish, and mammals along the Pacific Coast and acted as a buffer to reduce predation on migrating adult salmon. Like salmon, lampreys play a key ecological role transporting nutrients like nitrogen to freshwater ecosystems. Because the survival of Pacific lamprey larvae is sensitive to temperature, and larvae appear to have a little tolerance for high temperatures, rising stream temperatures from global warming may threaten Pacific lamprey populations. Increases in extreme rainfall events and flooding may also scour or eliminate the gravel beds that lamprey need for spawning.

Alarmed by severe declines of Pacific lamprey in many rivers, the Center joined a coalition in petitioning for Endangered Species Act protection for the Pacific lamprey, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service eventually denied listing.
Paiute cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki seleniris)
Range: Silver King Creek in the Sierra Nevada Mountains
The Paiute cutthroat trout has been in trouble for a long time. It was first listed as endangered in 1967 under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966 and reclassified as threatened in 1975 under the Endangered Species Act. And today, Paiute cutthroat trout aren’t found within their historic range. The long-term survival of current populations is uncertain due to hybridization with nonnative trout, the small size of populations, limited genetic diversity, and isolation. All life stages of this trout require cool, well-oxygenated waters, and pools are important habitat for juveniles. As cold-water habitats warm, rising temperatures caused by climate change will have negative impacts on all life phases of these fish — from eggs to juveniles to adults.
Quitobaquito pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius)
Range: Organ Pipe National Monument in Arizona
The only known Quitobaquito pupfish in the world make their home in a half-acre pond in Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Brightly colored but small (just five centimeters), pupfish feed on worms, insects, and zooplankton. Predation by nonnative species and sedimentation of water due to erosion of surrounding land are the prime culprits behind the pupfish’s decline. The construction of the nearby Mexican border fence is worsening the erosion. The Quitobaquito pupfish has been on the endangered species list since 1986. While this little fish can tolerate warm water, its half-acre pond could warm to unprecedented and dangerous levels if climate changes goes unchecked, or fall to dangerously low water levels with increasing drought conditions.

To help the Quitobaquito pupfish and other border species, the Center is working to ensure enforcement of environmental laws regarding border construction and activities, including the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and National Environmental Policy Act.
Rio Grande cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki virginalis)
Range: Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico
Once plentiful throughout southern Colorado and New Mexico, the Rio Grande cutthroat trout now occupies less than 10 percent of its previous range. While the fish has been designated a threatened species thanks to Center litigation, federal authorities have yet to implement any meaningful conservation measures, citing “more pressing work.” However, with climate change rapidly bearing down, the time to act is now. Rio Grande cutthroat trout live in clean, cold mountain streams and rivers and require low summer water temperatures and clean gravel for spawning. Rising water temperatures caused by global warming threaten to make rivers and streams less habitable for the trout.

The Center first petitioned to list the Rio Grande cutthroat trout under the Endangered Species Act in 1998. After the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declined to protect the trout, we took the agency to court and the Service announced eventually found that the trout’s situation warrants protection — unfortunately, federal protection still hasn’t been granted.
Roundtail chub (Gila robusta)
Range: Colorado River basin and possibly parts of northwestern Mexico
While an interesting fish in its own right, the roundtail chub is also immensely useful as an ecosystem indicator. The fact that the chub has been extirpated from 80 percent of its original habitat does not bode well for either this species or other river dwellers. In the Colorado River basin where the fish lives, temperatures are warming, snowpack is declining, and many streams are shifting their peak flow earlier in the year. Climate models robustly project that the Colorado River basin will continue to become warmer and more arid, changes predicted to reduce the flow of the Colorado River by 10 to 30 percent. Depleted stream flows, changes in the timing of water flow, and rising stream temperatures jeopardize the chub.

After a petition and two Center lawsuits, the roundtail chub was found to warrant Endangered Species Act protection; unfortunately, it’s still languishing on the list of mere “candidates” for protection.
Sacramento splittail (Pogonichthys macrolepidotus)
Range: Sacramento River delta, Suisun Bay, Suisun Marsh, and Napa Marsh
The Sacramento splittail is large for a minnow, regularly reaching lengths of over 12 inches as an adult. The splittail is also unusual for a North American minnow in that it makes dramatic annual spawning migrations. Like most freshwater minnows, the splittail relies on specific environmental conditions, conditions easily disrupted by climate change. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, long-term climate changes may significantly change the timing, duration, magnitude, and frequency of floodplain inundation with the splittail’s range, influencing future population trends.

The Sacramento splittail was originally listed as a threatened species in 1998 thanks to a Center petition and lawsuit. Unfortunately, in 2003 the Service removed the splittail from the threatened species list, despite a strong consensus by scientists within the agency that the species should retain its protected status. In 2009 the Center sued the Service to restore federal protection.
Santa Ana sucker (Catostomus santaanae)
Range: Southern California’s Santa Ana, San Gabriel, and Santa Clara rivers, as well as Big Tujunga Creek
Most of the pristine river habitat that the Santa Ana sucker needs to survive is located within the metropolitan Los Angeles area, making the fish an unintentional big-city dweller. Reduced to just a handful of populations, the sucker faces threats from water extraction, pollution, urban sprawl, and climate change. Reduced rainfall and more frequent and severe droughts in Southern California caused by climate change threaten the sucker’s remaining river habitat.

The Center has repeatedly engaged in litigation to compel the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to designate critical habitat for the Santa Ana sucker — which it has. We also won a big victory for the rare fish when we helped postpone construction of the Seven Oaks dam on the Santa Ana River.
Smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata)
Range: South Florida waters between the Caloosahatchee River and the Florida Keys
The smalltooth sawfish is a unique, bottom-dwelling ray named and widely known for its long, saw-like bill lined with razor-sharp teeth. Once widespread in Florida waters, the smalltooth sawfish is now restricted to a small segment of the south Florida coast in the shallow waters of mangrove forests, bays, estuaries, and river mouths. Sea-level rise poses a profound threat to this species by submerging and degrading its coastal habitat and changing temperature and salinity regimes.

In 2007, the Center settled a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service, forcing the agency to meet a past-due deadline to designate critical habitat. Finally, in September 2009, the Fisheries Service finalized a designation of 840,472 acres of critical habitat for the smalltooth sawfish.
Sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka)
Range: Pacific Ocean and coastal streams
Sockeye salmon, also known as “red” or “blueback” salmon, live a dual existence between freshwater streams and the ocean. Sockeye salmon hatch in freshwater streams where they may live for up to four years before migrating to sea as silvery smolt weighing only a few ounces. They grow quickly in the sea, usually reaching four to eight pounds after one to four years. Mature sockeye salmon travel thousands of miles from ocean feeding areas to spawn in the same freshwater system they were born in. Little is known about how they navigate.

Climate change affects sockeye salmon in several important ways. As rivers get warmer, the survival rate of cold-water salmon migrating upstream to spawn is expected to plummet. Flooding events in the streams where sockeye spawn could wash eggs from the gravel beds where they’re laid. A recent study found that prolonged ocean warming could greatly restrict the ocean foraging areas of sockeye salmon.
Southern California steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss)
Range: From San Luis Obispo County, California to the U.S.-Mexico border
The Southern California steelhead is a type of rainbow trout, unusual in the sense that it spends a great deal of its life in ocean waters before returning inland to freshwater streams to spawn. An estimated 30,000 to 50,000 steelhead once spawned in Southern California rivers, but the recent runs in four major river systems were made by fewer than 500 adults total. The fish faces a number of manmade threats, with climate change paramount amongst them. Rising water temperatures caused by global warming could make the Southern California steelhead’s remaining river habitat uninhabitable. Due to altered rainfall and decreased snowpack, changes in timing and amounts of rivers flows, including increased flooding events, could scour away the gravel the steelhead needs for spawning, and with it the steelhead’s eggs.

Advocating on behalf of this unique species, the Center has repeatedly litigated to improve and uphold Endangered Species Act protections for the steelhead. We’ve also filed suit to earn the fish critical habitat and work hard to protect its home in Southern California’s four national forests.
Spikedace (Meda fulgida)
Range: Four Arizona creeks and Gila River, New Mexico
The spikedace is a small, unassuming minnow that’s rapidly disappearing from the handful of locations it inhabits in the Gila River. Livestock grazing degrades stream habitat by trampling stream banks, polluting the water, and creating massive erosion, and now this fish’s stream habitat is being threatened by climate change. Spikedace spawn in response to changes in stream volume and water temperature. Warming stream temperatures and changes in water flow threaten the minnow’s ability to reproduce.

For such a tiny fish, the spikedace has figured prominently in a number of Center lawsuits, including critical habitat litigation, a lawsuit that banned cattle from dozens of Southwest streamside habitats, and a suit to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect spikedace and other native fish in Arizona’s delicate Fossil Creek.
Spiny damselfish (Acanthochromis polyacanthus)
Range: Indo-Australian archipelago
Reproduction for this tiny coral reef fish is quite elaborate. In some species of damselfish, the male will tend the eggs by fanning water across them with his fins, often picking out and eating dead eggs, presumably to prevent a fungus from developing that could threaten the whole batch. The male also aggressively guards the eggs, even from fish much larger than he is. Coral reef fish like the spiny damselfish are threatened by the loss of the corals they depend on in the face of warming ocean temperatures and ocean acidification. Warming ocean temperatures may also threaten spawning damselfish and the survival of their eggs. Studies have found that a temperature increase from 24 to 28 degrees Celsius resulted in a shortening of their ovulatory period from 32 days to 21 days, and incubation temperature was found to dramatically affect survival of the egg clutches, with only one of 13 egg clutches surviving to hatching at 24 degrees Celsius — compared to 50 of 51 egg clutches surviving at 28 degrees Celsius.
Topeka shiner (Notropis girardi)
Range: Mississippi and Missouri river basins
A minnow that lives up to its name, the Topeka shiner is easily recognized by its bright silver scales and distinctly orange or yellow fins during breeding season. The shiner now inhabits less than 10 percent of its former range, a fact that does not bode well for it or stream health in general. The Topeka shiner needs small prairie streams with good water quality and cool temperatures. Changes in water flow and rising stream temperatures, which can be affected by climate change, threaten to make its habitat less livable.

The diminutive Topeka shiner was part of the biggest Endangered Species Act lawsuit in U.S. history when the Center and Fund for Animals sued for the protection of about 500 imperiled species in 1992. After that, a Center suit earned the species critical habitat — but not enough was designated. In 2007, we filed a notice of intent to sue to win the fish more critical habitat.
Unarmored threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus williamsoni)
Range: Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties, California
The unarmored threespine stickleback male plays Mr. Mom by not only building a nest but also caring for eggs and young fry. The tiny fish needs clear, flowing, well-oxygenated water with pools and eddies and areas of dense vegetation. Limited to only a few spots in the Los Angeles basin watershed, the stickleback is threatened by changes in water flows that alter the quality of the few habitat patches it has left.

The Center filed suit in 2002 to earn critical habitat for the unarmored threespine stickleback. We also helped oppose a large mine proposed by Cemex in the Santa Clara watershed, bringing new attention to the plight of the river and its dependent wildlife, like the stickleback. We continue to watchdog development on the river and advocate for the fish through our work to protect Southern California watersheds.
Vermilion darter (Etheostoma chermocki)
Range: Jefferson County, Alabama
With its bright, fluorescent patterns, the vermilion darter is a colorful part of the Alabama ecosystem. Unfortunately, this handsome fish is now only found in a single drainage and is teetering on the verge of extinction, with climate change being a critical threat. The vermilion darter needs streams with particular conditions — clean, clear-flowing water with gravel riffles and moderate currents. Changes in precipitation and stream flows, including increases in flooding events, threaten to alter the stream conditions the darter needs.

Thanks to a lawsuit by the Center and allies, the vermilion darter was listed as endangered in 2001. In late 2007, we filed suit to earn the fish protected habitat; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now considering a critical habitat designation.
Warner sucker (Catostomus warnerensis)
Range: Warner Basin of southeastern Oregon and northeastern Nevada
The Warner sucker is a strikingly colored suckerfish found only in the Warner Lake region of southeastern Oregon. Once widely distributed throughout the region, this sucker now survives in only a handful of lakes and steams. The near extinction of the Warner sucker is due to habitat degradation in the form of fragmentation, blockage of migratory paths, and introduction of predatory nonnative fishes.

Increasingly severe drought conditions due to climate change threaten this fish’s future. For example, a prolonged drought from 1987 to 1994 reduced stream habitat and desiccated the Warner Lakes, extirpating the resident Warner sucker population.