Collage of fish and dry river bank

California’s rivers have long teemed with cold-water fish. But almost half of the state’s native trout, salmon, and steelhead could disappear in the next fifty years.

Patrick Samuel is with California Trout, an organization that works to protect the state’s native fish.

He says the fish face threats from dams, development, and agriculture. But the biggest threat of all is climate change, which is causing rivers to heat up and dry out.

Samuel: “Our fish are really on the front lines of climate change.”

Samuels says some of those fish are not found anywhere else in the world.

Samuel: “So if we lose them here, that means a global loss of diversity. And we can’t get them back.”

That would be a huge environmental loss. It would also deal a major blow to California’s commercial and recreational fishing industry.

But Samuel is hopeful that the fish declines can be reversed with climate action and habitat restoration. His group is working to protect fish ecosystems, rebuild damaged habitats, and protect threatened sources of water that fish depend on.

Samuels: “We’re optimistic because these fish have lived through all sorts of events in the past and we think, given half a chance, we can help return them to abundance.”

Reporting credit: Rosie Simon/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Top image graphic: Created by David McCarthy.

Diana Madson

Diana Madson contributed regularly to Yale Climate Connections from 2014 to 2021. She enjoys exploring U.S.-based stories about unexpected and innovative solutions to climate change. In addition to her...