|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Gordon S. Becker
Center for Ecosystem Management and Restoration
4179 Piedmont Ave, Suite 325
Oakland, CA 94611
Report Documents Surviving Steelhead in San Francisco Bay Streams
For the first time ever, Bay Area residents and government agencies have access to a comprehensive analysis of surviving steelhead populations in the Bay Area, with the release of the report Historical Distribution and Current Status of Steelhead/Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in Streams of the San Francisco Estuary, California, by the Oakland-based nonprofit, the Center for Ecosystem Management and Restoration.
Wild steelhead are not confined to California’s North Coast. These ocean-going trout survive in many Bay Area streams. After many years of combing historical records and conducting field surveys, the Center released its findings on Bay Area steelhead last week. “This is the first comprehensive and authoritative account ever compiled for the Bay Area,” said Andrew Gunther, the Center’s Executive Director. “We hope it will serve as the technical foundation for efforts to restore steelhead trout populations in our region.” Gunther said the funding for this effort was provided by a combination of 11 different federal, state, and local government sources, including three private foundations.
The report is being enthusiastically received by natural resource managers in the Bay Area. "We now have a valuable baseline our region's steelhead," said Steven Moore, Chief of Planning for the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board. Moore said this information will help his agency when developing plans for attaining water quality standards. “This is a an extraordinary compilation,” said Peter Alexander, Fisheries Scientist with the East Bay Regional Park District. “This report is a terrific contribution to our knowledge of steelhead distributions,” said Dennis McEwan of the California Department of Fish and Game in Sacramento. A draft of the report was reviewed by fisheries scientists from around the Bay Area to make sure the information is accurate and up-to-date.
Many Bay Area residents are surprised to discover that rainbow trout still inhabit our streams, and that every year steelhead (the ocean-going form of rainbow trout) enter our creeks from the ocean searching for spawning habitat. The Center’s report documents that while the abundance of steelhead has been greatly diminished by the last 50 years of urban development, these fish still make their way up many Bay Area streams from the ocean to spawn.
The steelhead in the San Francisco Bay Area are part of a central California coast population, or stock, that is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. “Bay Area streams are an overlooked resource for steelhead restoration,” says the report’s lead author Robert Leidy, who is an ecologist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“This report is a valuable tool for our efforts to restore Bay Area creeks and native fish populations,” said Jeff Miller, Director of the Alameda Creek Alliance, a citizen’s group working to restore the Alameda Creek watershed. “It is a comprehensive reference that provides us with the information we need to comment on water policy and land management decisions in our local watersheds and to understand how our restoration projects fit in to regional recovery of steelhead.”
Given the changes that have been made to the Bay’s watersheds and degradation of stream habitat in the past century, it will not be possible to restore steelhead populations to historical levels. “In certain watersheds,” notes Leidy, “modifications to our water supply and flood control infrastructure should allow a significant increase in number of streams with reproducing steelhead populations.”
Printed copies of the report (including a set of 16 color maps of historical and current steelhead distribution by County) are available by contacting the Center. Digital versions of the maps and report text can be downloaded for free from the Center’s web site at www.cemar.org.