A new report from the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences and California Trout shows 45 percent of the state's native salmon, steelhead and trout could be extinct in 50 years, if conditions don't change.
The study guages the health of 31 species of salmon and trout, including anadramous or migratory salmon and inland trout.
It found 81 percent are worse off today than they were in 2008 when their last report was published. California will lose more than half of its native migratory salmon and more than a quarter of its inland salmon in the next 50 years, according to the study.
While the drought was a major factor in species decline, climate change is the overarching threat.
“The streams are going to get warmer, the flows are going to be more erratic and that means there will be less habitat for the salmon and trout, which require cold water. And they won’t be able to make it,” says Peter Moyle, UC Davis fish biologist.
But the report authors are hopeful that the trends can be reversed. They say priority should be placed on restoring and protecting spawning grounds and productive river systems. Allowing river flood waters to flow over off-season farmland can also increase the size and health of juvenile salmon.
Curtis Knight with California Trout says Californians should be concerned by the report.
“These are more than just resident fish, their health and their resilience indicates healthy waters, which is important to all Californians, drinking water, agriculture, commerce and health of the people in the environment in which we live, it has a lot to do with the quality of our life,” says Knight.