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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
ARCATA FWO: Tidewater Goby Monitoring Yields Important Discoveries
Region 8, October 24, 2008
Tidewater gobies were federally listed in 1994. Monitoring for the 2-inch fish is a major component of recovery efforts. The Arcata FWO’s monitoring efforts has yielded several important discoveries over the years. (Credit: USFWS) 
Tidewater gobies were federally listed in 1994. Monitoring for the 2-inch fish is a major component of recovery efforts. The Arcata FWO’s monitoring efforts has yielded several important discoveries over the years. (Credit: USFWS)  - Photo Credit: n/a
During the 2008 sampling program which ended earlier this month, the Arcta FWO sampling team captured the tidewater goby at 15 of the 20 sites, inluding this one at Lake Earl. (Credit: USFWS)
During the 2008 sampling program which ended earlier this month, the Arcta FWO sampling team captured the tidewater goby at 15 of the 20 sites, inluding this one at Lake Earl. (Credit: USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a
The net Arcata FWO biologists Greg Goldsmith and Charlie Chamberlain used to capture gobies in deeper water. Also helping the Acata FWO with goby sampling are, Left-to-right, biologists Daniel Menten, Matt Smith-Caggiano, and Ryan Slezak.(Credit: Anthony Scheiff, USFWS)
The net Arcata FWO biologists Greg Goldsmith and Charlie Chamberlain used to capture gobies in deeper water. Also helping the Acata FWO with goby sampling are, Left-to-right, biologists Daniel Menten, Matt Smith-Caggiano, and Ryan Slezak.(Credit: Anthony Scheiff, USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a
Greg Goldsmith observes a goby through a viewing frame as biologists Katrina Wright and Ryan Slezak look on. (Credit: Anthony Scheiff, USFWS)
Greg Goldsmith observes a goby through a viewing frame as biologists Katrina Wright and Ryan Slezak look on. (Credit: Anthony Scheiff, USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a

By Matt Baun, Arcata FWO  
The tidewater goby is fond of California.  The fish’s historic range extends no further south than San Diego County and no further north than Del Norte County, making it exclusively Californian.

The tidewater goby was federally listed as endangered in 1994 because much of the population was vanishing at an alarming rate. One estimate concludes that as much as one-third of the goby’s total population has been extirpated.  

Monitoring for the endangered fish fulfills one of the recovery objectives to assess the current status of the species in their historic range.  While the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office (FWO)is the lead Region 8 office on the species recovery, the Arcata FWO is helping with recovery efforts.   Sampling for tidewater goby is a cross-program effort by the Arcata FWO Fisheries and Endangered Species Programs and has been conducted about once every two years since the early part of the decade.  

A few years ago, the Arcata FWO led an effort to find additional populations of the tidewater goby in Del Norte, Humboldt and Mendocino counties. Biologists from the office even ventured north of the California border into Curry County, Oregon just to make sure the tiny 2-inch fish hadn’t migrated. 

“We looked in any body of water that touches the Pacific Ocean in Del Norte, Humboldt and Mendocino counties, said Greg Goldsmith, a biologist with the Arcata FWO, who works on tidewater goby recovery.   “We looked in lagoons, estuaries, streams, slough channels and even ditches.”

Goldsmith explained that the purpose of monitoring is to verify the presence and the extent of the tidewater goby in places where the fish is known to inhabit. Beginning in late July and early August, biologists from the Arcata FWO waded into shallows of 20 different waterways and made their observations using seine nets. .

The team captured the tidewater goby at 15 of the 20 sites.  Of the five sites where no detections were made, two of them have not had detections since the mid-1980’s.  The remaining three sites have had fairly recent detections, but none were found during this year’s monitoring season.

“These survey results, along with other ongoing research in the North Coast recovery unit funded by Fish and Wildlife Service is leading toward better understanding of conservation needs for the tidewater goby,” said Mike Long, Arcata FWO Field Supervisor.    

The Arcata FWO has indeed made significant discoveries over the years in their goby sampling program. For example, of the 20 sites surveyed, nine of them were originally discovered through these types of monitoring efforts.  Another significant discovery came a couple of years ago when Arcata FWO biologists started looking for gobies in deeper water.

Most sampling for gobies occurs in shallow water – usually water that is no deeper than an average pair of waders.  Charlie Chamberlain, a biologist with the fisheries program in the Arcata FWO got together with Goldsmith and decided to search for gobies in water much deeper.

“Because the vast majority of literature reports tidewater goby in shallower depths, we wondered how much effort had actually been made to search for gobies in deeper water,” said Chamberlain.  “Was the lack of deep water goby observations really because they are not there or because little deep water sampling with the right gear has occurred?”

The two Arcata biologists decided to test their theory in Big Lagoon, a water body adjacent to the Pacific Ocean near the town of Trinidad. Goldsmith constructed a rudimentary rectangular net that they could use to trawl along the bottom of the lagoon.  From a boat, they towed their homemade net in water 8 to 15 feet deep and, sure enough, the biologists netted adult gobies from the deeper water.   

The team of biologists who helped with the 2008 sampling included Goldsmith, Long, Tony Scheiff, Katrina Wright, Amanda Piscitelli, Ryan Slezak, Dan Menten, Matt Smith-Caggiano, and Vina Frye.  Adam Frimodig of the California Department of Fish and Game also assisted with these efforts.    

Contact Info: Matt Baun, 530-842-5763, matt_baun@fws.gov