LOS ANGELES— The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned today to protect the Santa Ana speckled dace, a small minnow native to Southern California streams, under the Endangered Species Act.
Speckled dace have been eliminated from three-quarters of their former stream habitats in Southern California due to dams, water diversions and urbanization. Remaining dace populations are jeopardized by drought, high intensity wildfires, flooding, invasive species and rapid climate change.
“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. “Dace are pretty resilient fish if we protect their stream habitats and give them half a chance to recover. Let’s throw Santa Ana speckled dace a lifeline in the form of Endangered Species Act protection.”
Santa Ana speckled dace inhabit the Santa Ana, San Jacinto, San Gabriel, and Los Angeles river systems of Southern California. These fish prefer perennial streams fed by cool springs with overhanging riparian vegetation and shallow gravel riffles for spawning. 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.
There are seven dams and numerous water-diversion facilities on the Southern California rivers where the dace lives. Both deplete stream flows and isolate fish populations. Reservoirs and dams favor introduced species that prey upon and compete with dace. Urban development, river channelization for flood control, and roads also degrade the dace’s habitat.
Santa Ana speckled dace persist 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.
Santa Ana speckled dace 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 also 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. Speckled dace 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 fishes are in decline, an indication of the degrading quality and quantity of freshwater habitats throughout the state. Thirty-three of its freshwater fish species are formally listed as threatened or endangered, and seven native fish species have gone extinct.
Recent genetic analyses show Santa Ana speckled dace are a unique and distinct subspecies, which likely should be designated as a separate species from other speckled dace.