Fish Species of Special Concern

Definition of a California Fish Species of Special Concern

fish held above water
Wild Klamath Mountain Province steelhead. CDFW photo by Jeff Weaver.

California Fish Species of Special Concern are defined as those species, subspecies, Evolutionary Significant Unit, or Distinct Population Segment of native fish that currently satisfy one or more of the following (not necessarily mutually exclusive) criteria:

  • are known to spawn in California's inland waters;
  • is listed as Federally-, but not State-, threatened or endangered; meets the State definition of threatened or endangered but has not formally been listed;
  • are experiencing, or formerly experienced, population declines or range retractions that, if continued, could qualify them for listing as threatened or endangered status;
  • have naturally small populations exhibiting high susceptibility to risk from stressors that, if realized, could lead to declines that would qualify them for listing as threatened or endangered.

California Fish Species of Special Concern Book (2015)

California Fish Species of Special Concern, 3rd Edition (2015), a collaborative project of CDFW and the University of California, Davis, is now available online (see below). The publication includes sixty-two species accounts, a methods section, and scientific references.

Trout, salmon, sturgeon, dace, pupfish, roaches, suckers, and many other native fishes are represented in the revised Fish Species of Special Concern publication, demonstrating that conservation of native fishes spans the length and breadth of the State, from its nearshore estuaries to the high mountain lakes and ponds. Habitats where fish species of special concern occur include: estuaries and lagoons, rivers and creeks, ponds, desert pools and marsh wetlands - all experiencing habitat loss, expansion of human communities, and a more variable climate. Paralleling continental and worldwide trends, the effects of habitat loss and degradation, urbanization and climate change, in combination with small fish population sizes, range restrictions and competition with alien species, pose the greatest threats to California's at-risk fishes.

"The update to CDFW’s California Fish Species of Special Concern is an important step in our continued commitment to conserving the State’s diverse and unique assemblage of native fish. Working again with Dr. Peter Moyle and the University of California at Davis, we are able to provide scientists and the public with the most recent information on California’s sensitive native freshwater and anadromous fishes. The revision will enable CDFW to sustain the State’s aquatic biodiversity, focus activities and resources on fish species of greatest conservation need, and implement the California Wildlife Action Plan." —Stafford Lehr, Former Chief of Fisheries, CDFW.


See below for links to the introduction/methods, references, a compiled single report, and the 62 individual species accounts included in this edition. Additional California Fish Species of Special Concern are included below. These species were not evaluated in this edition due to the existence of other federal status evaluation and recovery documents.

Species Accounts

Species accounts were prepared for the 62 taxa determined to be of special concern to address the following: overall status, description, taxonomic relationships, life history, habitat requirements, distribution, trends in abundance, nature and degree of threats, effects of climate change, status determination (scoring) and management recommendations. Maps showing current and historic range accompany each account. Note that, in order to understand how all species included in the report were evaluated in a standardized and systematic fashion designed to be repeatable in the future, it is critical to review the Introduction/Methods section.

Additional Fish Species of Special Concern

  • Southern Green Sturgeon
  • Santa Ana Sucker
  • Eulachon
  • California Coast Fall Chinook Salmon
  • Northern California Coast Winter Steelhead
  • Central California Coast Winter Steelhead
  • South Central California Coast Steelhead
  • Central Valley Steelhead
  • Little Kern Golden Trout
  • Paiute Cutthroat Trout
  • Lahontan Cutthroat Trout
  • Tidewater Goby

Prior Editions

1995 edition of CDFW's California Fish Species of Special Concern (PDF)


Fisheries Branch, Native Fishes Conservation and Management
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
1010 Riverside Parkway, West Sacramento, CA 95605

Fisheries Branch
1010 Riverside Parkway, West Sacramento, CA 95605 |