Press Releases

Critical habitat declared for fish

The Associated Press
Wednesday November 15, 2000

SAN DIEGO — Nine miles of waterways in Orange and San Diego counties will be designated as critical habitat for an endangered 2-inch fish, the tidewater goby, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday. 

The goby was listed as endangered in 1994 but the service did not declare critical habitat for the fish. Tuesday’s designation came in response to a U.S. District Court order in April requiring the service to do so. 

About 60 percent of the declared habitat is on the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base, about 40 miles north of San Diego. The critical habitat designation requires federal agencies to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service on activities that may affect the territory. 

The service said it did not expect the designation to affect military training at the base. 

Capt. Patricia Restrepo, a spokeswoman at Camp Pendleton, declined to comment on the designation since officials had yet to review it. 

The Natural Resources Defense Council, which filed the 1998 lawsuit demanding designation of critical habitat for the goby, applauded Tuesday’s announcement but said the territory should be far larger. 

“The service has failed to designate a vast portion of habitat throughout the tidewater goby’s range,” said Andrew Wetzler, a staff attorney with the NRDC in Los Angeles. 

“The tidewater goby exists only in California. ... It can be found from the Oregon-California border all the way to Camp Pendleton,” he said. The service has designated “only a tiny percentage of the habitat in which it is actually found.” 

The NRDC plans to take legal action to force the service to expand the critical habitat “throughout the goby’s entire range, consistent with its legal obligations,” Wetzler said. 

The Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed removing goby populations north of Orange County from the endangered species list, said Jane Hendron, a spokeswoman for the service’s Carlsbad office. Wetzler said the NRDC would oppose any such move. The habitat designation could interfere with plans to build a six-lane toll road in Orange County, Wetzler said. But Hendron said “a whole array” of alternate routes might be found for the project. 

The grayish-brown tidewater goby is found in coastal saltwater lagoons and occasionally in freshwater from Northern California’s Del Norte County to San Diego County, the service said in a statement. 

“Despite being resilient to a variety of water quality conditions,” the statement said, “the goby has lost a significant portion of its habitat over the past 150 years to farming, development and pollution.”