NOAA proposes threatened status for euchalon population segment
74 Fed. Reg. 10857 (Monday, March 16, 2009) / DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE / National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / 50 CFR Part 223 / Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: Proposed Threatened Status for Southern Distinct Population Segment of Eulachon / ACTION: Proposed rule; 12–month petition finding; request for comments.
SUMMARY: We, the NMFS, have completed a review of the status of the Pacific eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus; hereafter ‘‘eulachon’’) (see prior ESA blawg) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in response to a petition submitted by the Cowlitz Indian Tribe to list eulachon as a threatened or endangered species. After reviewing the best scientific and commercial information available, we have determined that the species is comprised of two or more distinct population segments (DPSs) that qualify as species under the ESA. Moreover, after evaluating threats facing the species, and considering efforts being made to protect eulachon, we have determined that the southern DPS is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all of its range. We propose to list it as threatened under the ESA. The southern DPS of eulachon consists of populations spawning in rivers south of the Nass River in British Columbia, Canada, to, and including, the Mad River in California. Within the range of the southern DPS, major production areas or ‘‘core populations’’ for this species include the Columbia and Fraser rivers and may have historically included the Klamath River. We solicit information to inform the development of the final listing rule. Any protective regulations determined to be necessary and advisable for the conservation of the southern DPS of eulachon under ESA section 4(d) will be proposed in a subsequent Federal Register notice. We solicit information to inform the development of proposed protective regulations and designation of critical habitat in the event the DPS is listed. If the proposed listing is finalized, a recovery plan will also be prepared and implemented for the southern DPS.
EXCERPT: Factors supporting a conclusion that the DPS is likely to become in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future include: (1) abundance in all surveyed populations, and in the two remaining core populations, is low and declining; and (2) the available information suggests that eulachon in Northern California experienced an abrupt decline several decades ago, and although still present at very low numbers, it is unknown if these represent a viable self-sustaining population, and (3) eulachon require minimum population sizes to achieve successful reproduction. In sum, future declines in population abundance may occur as a result of climate change and continued bycatch in the shrimp fishery. These threats indicate that the southern DPS of eulachon is likely to become
endangered in the foreseeable future. Therefore, NMFS proposes to list the southern DPS of eulachon as threatened.
Pacific smelt, known officially as eulachon and sometimes called candlefish or Columbia River smelt, are small ocean-going fish that historically ranged from northern California to the Bering Sea in Alaska. They return to rivers to spawn in late winter and early spring. Recreational fishers catch smelt in dip nets, and typically fry and eat them whole. In 1806, Meriwether Lewis lauded the fatty fish for their excellent taste. Photo from NOAA, caption info from NOAA press release.