The San Francisco Bay-Delta and Sacramento-San Joaquin river system are home to a rare, enormous species of living fossil called the green sturgeon. The ancient fish has survived unchanged for almost 200 million years, but is now at the brink of extinction from overharvesting and rapid habitat change. Among the largest, longest-living fish in freshwater, sturgeon can reach seven feet long, weigh 350 pounds and survive to be 70.
Today there are only two distinct populations of North American green sturgeon, with an estimated 1,300 adult sturgeon left in the southern population in California. After submitting a listing petition and filing a lawsuit, the Center in 2005 won protection for this population as a threatened species. Thanks to our 2007 lawsuit, a whopping 8.6 million acres of critical habitat was granted to the southern green sturgeon. The Pacific Legal Foundation, on behalf of developers and corporations, but the Center intervened — and the protections were upheld in court in 2012. The National Marine Fisheries Service has finalized additional regulations that protect the population from unlawful “take” and other harmful activities. And the Center continues to fight for full Endangered Species Act protection for the sturgeon's northern population.
Because sturgeon are highly vulnerable to overfishing, and fisheries for green sturgeon have depleted the stocks of large, old fish that are essential for spawning, the states of California, Oregon, and Washington restricted sport fishing of green sturgeon after federal protection was established. But the fish are still highly imperiled by extensive habitat loss. The Center's Bay-Delta Campaign is aimed at protecting the green sturgeon's deteriorating habitat in the San Francisco Bay-Delta; we're leading efforts to reduce the use of pesticides that run off into the Delta; and we're working with allies to force the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to provide adequate passage for green sturgeon over the Red Bluff Diversion Dam into the habitat they need to spawn in the upper Sacramento.
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