CDFW Seeks Information for Listing of Northern California Summer Steelhead as Endangered Species

By on August 31, 2019

Should the Northern California Summer Steelhead be listed as an endangered species? That’s a question being considered by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). The agency is now seeking information from the public relevant to the proposed listing of the fish.

The Friends of the Eel River submitted a petition to the California Fish and Game Commission in September 2018 requesting to list Northern California Summer Steelhead as an endangered species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). CDFW recommended that Northern California Summer Steelhead be advanced to candidacy for CESA listing and the Commission voted in favor of this recommendation on June 12, 2019. The official findings of this decision were published on June 28, 2019.

The Northern California Summer Steelhead fill a unique ecological niche. They occupy a relatively small geographic range in Humboldt and Mendocino counties that includes Redwood Creek and the Mad, Eel, Van Duzen and Mattole rivers.

According to California Trout’s website, the Northern California (NC) Summer Steelhead migrate further inland into smaller tributaries than winter fish. They spend summer months resting in pools with consistent cool temperatures as they mature, waiting for winter rains to spawn in December-February. NC summer steelhead can tolerate water temperatures up to (about 73°F for short periods of time, but seek refuge in deep pools with cool seeps and springs. They prefer pools with boulders, large woody debris, and undercut banks that provide cover from predators and visual separation from other fishes. After spawning, adult fish migrate back to the Pacific Ocean around March. Juveniles leave their natal tributaries from April to June to feed and grow in mainstream rivers and estuary habitats before migrating to sea.

The September 2018 petition described threats impacting the survival of the fish, specifically emphasizing habitat loss, alteration and degradation as a result of human impacts. The June 2019 official findings triggered the start of a 12-month period during which CDFW will conduct a status review intended to inform the Commission’s ultimate decision on whether to list the species.

As part of its status review process, CDFW is soliciting information from the public regarding Northern California Summer Steelhead abundance, adequacy of existing management measures, degree and immediacy of threats to reproduction or survival, distribution, ecology, genetics, habitat, life history, and recommendations for management of the species. All comments received by Sept. 22, 2019, will be evaluated prior to the submittal of CDFW’s final status review report to the Commission.

Once CDFW submits the final status review report to the Commission, it will be placed on the agenda for discussion at the next available Commission meeting. Comments will also be made available to the public at that time. Following receipt of CDFW’s status review report, the Commission will allow a 30-day public comment period prior to taking any action on CDFW’s recommendations.

The listing petition and CDFW’s petition evaluation for Northern California Summer Steelhead is available at https://fgc.ca.gov/cesa#ncss. Comments can be submitted by e-mail to Vanessa.Gusman@wildlife.ca.gov. If submitting comments by e-mail, please include “NC Summer Steelhead” in the subject heading. Comments, data and other information can be submitted in writing to:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Attn: Vanessa Gusman
830 S St.
Sacramento, CA 95811