A federal appeals court panel has ruled that wild steelhead remain an endangered species and rebuffed Central Valley irrigators’ efforts to relax federal government protections on the Pacific salmonid.
Six irrigation districts had challenged the National Marine Fisheries Service decision to list the oceangoing steelhead separately from more plentiful freshwater rainbow trout on grounds that the two fish can interbreed and the steelhead were therefore protected from extinction.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the steelhead were in need of separate classification, despite their interbreeding. The landmark ruling was hailed by the environmental and fishing groups who intervened to defend the government agency against the irrigators’ lawsuit.
Steelhead once returned from the ocean in the millions every year to the Sacramento and San Joaquin River systems in the Central Valley. Today, these fish have been extirpated from 95% of their historic habitat, and they continue to face threats from unchecked water use, blockage by dams, urban sprawl, and polluted rivers.
source: Fishlink Sublegals