Rare fish gets helping hand in Tomales Bay

October 29, 2009 7:21:26 PM PDT
There was a small victory in Marin County Thursday in the battle to save an endangered species. Dozens of tidewater goby were released near Tomales Bay as part of an effort to restore the rare fish to its original habitat.

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It has been a long time since anyone, anywhere, made so big a deal about such a little fish.

The tidewater goby is only two inches long in adulthood. It used to live in California's coastal ponds, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the species as endangered in 1994.

"When they listed the species, they figured there were about 125 locations up and down the coast where historically it used to exist, as many as 75 percent of those were gone, so the numbers were way down," spokesperson Al Donner said.

Thursday, a collection of federal, state, and county agencies struck back for the tidewater goby by moving about 100 of them from a nearby creek to a pond just 100 yards from Tomales Bay.

"Well hopefully we can establish the tidewater gobies here so that if something could happen to tidewater goby on the other side of the bay, they will be our insurance policy," National Park Service Ecologist Darren Fong said. Fong was in charge of the operation.

Few people have heard of the tidewater goby; it is certainly not as well known as the Coho salmon or steelhead trout, but it is equally unique.

Unlike much of the rest of nature, female gobies play the aggressive role in mating. The males labor for attention; they use their mouths to dig holes in which the females might lay their eggs -- he who digs the most attractive hole, wins.

"It's weird behavior; when did you last dig a hole for a mate," Fong said.

It was a lot of work to save one more crucial link in California's fragile ecosystem.

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