The California Fish & Game Commission (Commission) voted this week to designate the Clear Lake hitch (Lavinia exilicauda)—a fish found only in Clear Lake and its tributaries—as a candidate species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). This week’s vote triggered a one-year formal review period during which the status of the fish will be assessed.

The Clear Lake hitch population has declined dramatically due to a loss of spawning habitat in the tributaries feeding into Clear Lake. Other causes of the decline of the fish include migration barriers that block passage to spawning grounds, alteration of creek habitat, water pumping, and competition from invasive fish species.

(Photo by Richard Macedo/California Department of Fish and Game)

The Lake County Record-Bee reported that the Lake County Board of Supervisors has petitioned the Commission to delay decision-making on the Clear Lake hitch to allow more time for officials and stakeholders to review the data and present research. However, according to Denise Rushing, a County Supervisor, “[i]t may be inevitable that the hitch receives protection status given the steep decline in the population.”  Supporters of the Commission’s decision include the Pomo Indian Tribes around Clear Lake, while the Lake County Farm Bureau and Lake County Chamber of Commerce do not believe CESA protections are warranted.