For Immediate Release, September 28, 2021

Contact:

Jeff Miller, (510) 499-9185, jmiller@biologicaldiversity.org

Southern California Fish One Step Closer to Endangered Species Act Protection

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif.— In response to a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined today that the Long Valley speckled dace may be extinct in the wild and warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act. The small fish formerly inhabited warm springs and creeks in the Upper Owens River watershed in Mono County.

“Long Valley speckled dace need emergency action and a coordinated reintroduction to survive, and Endangered Species Act protection would make that happen,” said Jeff Miller, a senior conservation advocate at the Center. “We’ve already lost seven native California fish species to extinction, and habitat loss and climate change have driven more than 80% of our state’s freshwater fish species into decline.”

Long Valley speckled dace formerly lived in Hot Creek and in warm springs throughout the isolated Long Valley volcanic caldera, east of Mammoth Lakes. Geothermal energy development and surface water diversions have altered the area’s hydrology and reduced or dried up hot springs throughout Long Valley, eliminating dace from creeks, lakes and isolated springs and ponds.

The last remaining natural population of Long Valley speckled dace was at Whitmore Hot Springs, in an alkali marsh at the outflow from a public swimming pool, where the fish were harmed by chlorine and susceptible to reduced flow from water diversions. Recent surveys of the springs failed to locate any dace, and they may now be eliminated from the wild.

The only Long Valley speckled dace left in the world are in a small population of a few hundred fish in an artificial pond at a managed refuge in Inyo County, outside the species’ historical range.

Suitable spring and stream habitats for Long Valley specked dace are damaged by recreational activities, livestock grazing and excessive pumping of groundwater. Dace have also declined because of introduced fish species and disease. The fish are also critically vulnerable to climate change since their spring habitats are fed by aquifers that depend on snow melt for recharge.

The Center petitioned in June 2020 for Endangered Species Act protection for Long Valley speckled dace, along with two other speckled dace populations in the Death Valley region: the Amargosa Canyon speckled dace and Owens Valley speckled dace. The Service will conduct a formal status review of the Long Valley speckled dace but has failed to make required 90-day findings on whether protection may be warranted for the Amargosa Canyon and Owens Valley populations.

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.