Thursday June 20, 2024


Killed by algae blooms and dwindling from dams and droughts, the largest freshwater fish in North America is at risk in California. Today, wildlife officials took the first major step toward protecting it under the state’s Endangered Species Act. 

White sturgeon, which can live longer than 100 years, historically reached more than 20 feet long and weighing almost a ton. Facing an array of threats, this shark-like, bottom-feeding fish with rows of bony plates, whisker-like sensors and no teeth has declined — and their numbers will likely keep dropping.

California’s Fish and Game Commission unanimously approved white sturgeon as a candidate for listing, which launches a review by the Department of Fish and Wildlife to evaluate whether it is in enough danger to warrant being declared threatened or endangered. The review is expected to take at least a year.

In the meantime, white sturgeon will be protected under the California Endangered Species Act until the commission makes a final decision whether to list it as threatened or endangered. Harming or “taking” a species with any kind of project — such as water diversions — or activity such as fishing is “prohibited for candidate species the same as if it was fully listed,” said Steve Gonzalez, a spokesperson for the fish and wildlife agency. Permits and exemptions, however, can be granted in certain situations, he said.

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