Victory for the Bay: White Sturgeon to Receive State Endangered Species Protection, First Step in Official Listing

Today, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to name white sturgeon as a candidate for listing under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). This starts a year-long review process to determine whether the white sturgeon should be declared threatened. Until the commission makes its decision, the fish will be fully protected under CESA.

The commission’s decision comes in response to a petition filed by Baykeeper, along with a coalition of environmental groups and the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. The groups have also petitioned for the white sturgeon to be protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. 

White sturgeon are North America’s largest freshwater fish; they can live for a century and exceed ten feet in length. San Francisco Bay and its watershed are home to the only known reproductive population of white sturgeon in California. Excessive freshwater diversions, overharvest in the legal sport fishery and by poachers, and recent algal outbreaks in the Bay have decimated the population.

Baykeeper science director Jon Rosenfield, PhD, commented:

“We divert too much water from Central Valley rivers, dump too much pollution into the Bay, and we overexploit the Bay’s white sturgeon population. But the biggest threat to the white sturgeon’s survival has been neglect from the government agencies that are supposed to protect our Bay and its fishes. That’s why today’s announcement from the California Fish and Game Commission marks an important victory for the Bay-Delta ecosystem.

“White sturgeon have been around for about 46 million years, but they may not survive into the next generation without state and federal endangered species protections. They are the ultimate survivors, which makes it particularly poignant that they’re having trouble surviving us.”