[Federal Register: February 15, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 31)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 7483-7485]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AF67

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Reopening of the 
Comment Period on the Proposed Rule To Remove the Northern Populations 
of the Tidewater Goby From the List of Endangered and Threatened 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; Notice of reopening of comment period.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), pursuant to 
the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), provide notice of 
the reopening of the comment period for the proposed delisting of the 
northern populations of the tidewater goby (Eucyclogobius newberryi) 
from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife. The comment period 
has been reopened in response to new information regarding tidewater 
goby marine dispersal. This proposal would remove the northern 
populations of the Tidewater goby from protection under the Act.

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DATES: Comments from all interested parties must be received by March 
31, 2000.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments and other materials concerning this 
proposal to Ms. Diane Noda, Field Supervisor, Ventura Fish and Wildlife 
Office, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, California 93003. You may 
inspect comments and materials received, by appointment, during normal 
business hours at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Carl Benz at the above address; 
telephone 805/644-1766; facsimile 805/644-3958.



    The tidewater goby was first described in 1857 by Girard as Gobius 
newberryi. Gill (1862) erected the genus Eucyclogobius for this 
distinctive species. The majority of scientists have accepted this 
classification (Bailey et al. 1970; Miller and Lea 1972; Hubbs et al. 
1979; Robins et al. 1991; Eschmeyer et al. 1983). No other species have 
been described in this genus. A few older works and Ginsburg (1945) 
placed the tidewater goby and the eight related eastern Pacific species 
into the genus Lepidogobius. This classification includes the currently 
recognized genera Lepidogobius, Clevelandia, Ilypnus, Quietula, and 
Eucyclogobius. Birdsong et al. (1988) coined the informal Chasmichthys 
species group, recognizing the phyletic relationship of the eastern 
Pacific group with species in the northwestern Pacific.
    Crabtree's (1985) allozyme work on tidewater gobies from 12 
localities throughout the range showed fixed allelic differences at the 
extreme northern (Lake Earl, Humboldt Bay) and southern (Canada de Agua 
Caliente, Winchester Canyon, and San Onofre Lagoon) ends of the range. 
The northern and southern populations are genetically distinct from 
each other and from the central populations sampled. The more centrally 
distributed populations are relatively similar to each other (Brush 
Creek, Estero Americano, Corcoran Lagoon, Arroyo de Corral, Morro Bay, 
Santa Ynez River, and Jalama Creek). Crabtree's results indicated that 
there is a low level of gene flow (movement of individuals) between the 
populations sampled in the northern, central, and southern parts of the 
range. However, Lafferty et al. (in prep.) point out that Crabtree's 
sites were widely distributed geographically, and may not be indicative 
of gene flow on more local levels.
    Recently, David Jacobs (University of California, Los Angeles, 
Department of Organismic Biology, Ecology and Evolution, in litt. 1998) 
initiated an analysis of mitochondrial genetic material from tidewater 
goby populations ranging from Humboldt to San Diego counties. 
Preliminary results indicate the southern goby population separated 
from other goby populations along the coast long ago. This southernmost 
population probably began diverging from the remainder of the gobies in 
excess of 100,000 years ago. Furthermore, gobies from the Point 
Conception area are more closely related to gobies from Humboldt County 
than they are to the gobies analyzed in San Diego and Orange counties.
    The tidewater goby (Eucyclogobius newberryi) is a small, elongate, 
grey-brown fish with dusky fins not exceeding 50 millimeters (mm) (2 
inches (in.)) standard length (SL). The tidewater goby is a short-lived 
species, apparently having an annual life cycle (Irwin and Soltz 1984; 
Swift et al. 1997). At the time of the listing, the species was 
believed to have more stringent habitat requirements and to be less 
likely to disperse successfully than recent research indicates (see 
below). These factors, coupled with the short life span of the 
tidewater goby, were believed to make most tidewater goby populations 
vulnerable to extirpation by human activities. At the time of the 
listing, we believed that approximately 50 percent of the documented 
populations had been extirpated. However, in spite of the many factors 
affecting coastal wetlands, recent survey data have demonstrated a less 
than 25 percent permanent loss of the known tidewater goby populations 
(Ambrose et al. 1993; Swift et al. 1994; Lafferty et al. 1996; C. 
Chamberlain, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arcata, California, in 
litt. 1997; Lafferty 1997; Swift et al. 1997).
    The tidewater goby inhabits coastal brackish water habitats 
entirely within California. Within the range of the tidewater goby, 
these conditions occur in two relatively distinct situations: (1) The 
upper edge of tidal bays, such as Humboldt, Tomales, and San Francisco 
bays near the entrance of freshwater tributaries, and (2) the coastal 
lagoons formed at the mouths of small to large coastal rivers, streams, 
or seasonally wet canyons, along most of the length of California. Few 
well-authenticated records of this species are known from marine 
environments outside of enclosed coastal lagoons and estuaries (Swift 
et al. 1989). This may be due to the lack of collection efforts at 
appropriate times (i.e., following storm events or breachings when 
gobies are flushed from the estuaries and lagoons). Historically, the 
species ranged from Tillas Slough (mouth of the Smith River, Del Norte 
County) near the Oregon border south to Agua Hedionda Lagoon (northern 
San Diego County). The tidewater goby is often found in waters of 
relatively low salinities (around 10 parts per thousand (ppt)) in the 
uppermost brackish zone of larger estuaries and coastal lagoons. 
However, the fish can tolerate a wide range of salinities (Swift et al. 
1989, 1997; Worcester 1992; K. R. Worcester, California Department of 
Fish and Game (CDFG), in litt. 1996; Worcester and Lea 1996), and is 
frequently found throughout lagoons. Tidewater gobies regularly range 
upstream into fresh water, and downstream into water of up to 28 ppt 
salinity (Worcester 1992; Swenson 1995), although specimens have been 
collected at salinities as high as 42 ppt (Swift et al. 1989). The 
species' tolerance of high salinities (up to 60 ppt for varying time 
periods) likely enables it to withstand the marine environment, 
allowing it to colonize or reestablish in lagoons and estuaries 
following flood events (Swift et al. 1989; K. R. Worcester, in litt. 
1996; Worcester and Lea 1996; Lafferty et al. in prep.)
    The life history of tidewater gobies is linked to the annual cycles 
of the coastal lagoons and estuaries (Swift et al. 1989, 1994; Swenson 
1994, 1995). Water in estuaries, lagoons and bays is at its lowest 
salinity during the winter and spring as a result of precipitation and 
runoff. During this time, high runoffs cause the sandbars at the mouths 
of the lagoons to breach, allowing mixing of the relatively fresh 
estuarine and lagoon waters with seawater. This annual building and 
breaching of the sandbars is part of the normal dynamics of the systems 
in which the tidewater goby has evolved (Zedler 1982; Lafferty and 
Alstatt 1995; Heasly et al. 1997). The time of sandbar closure varies 
greatly between systems and years, and typically occurs from spring to 
late summer. Later in the year, occasional waves washing over the 
sandbars can introduce some sea water, but good mixing often keeps the 
lagoon water at a few parts per thousand salinity or less. Summer 
salinity in the lagoon depends upon the amount of freshwater inflow at 
the time of sandbar formation (Zedler 1982, Heasly et al. 1997).
    Males begin digging breeding burrows 75 to 100 mm (3 to 4 in.) 
deep, usually in relatively unconsolidated, clean, coarse sand 
averaging 0.5 mm (0.02 in.) in diameter, in April or May (Swift et al. 
1989; Swenson 1994, 1995). Swenson (1995) has shown that tidewater 
gobies prefer this substrate in the laboratory,

[[Page 7485]]

but also found tidewater gobies digging breeding burrows in mud in the 
wild (Swenson 1994). Inter-burrow distances range from about 5 to 275 
centimeters (cm) (2 to 110 in.) (Swenson 1995). Females lay 100 to 1000 
eggs per clutch, averaging 400 eggs/clutch, with clutch size depending 
on the size of both the female and the male. Females can lay more than 
one clutch of eggs over their lifespan, with captive females spawning 6 
to 12 times (Swenson 1995). Wild females may spawn less frequently due 
to fluctuations in food supply and other environmental conditions, but 
the species clearly has a high reproductive potential, enabling 
populations to recover quickly under suitable conditions. Male gobies 
remain in the burrow to guard the eggs that are attached to sand grains 
in the walls of the burrow. Males also spawn more than once per season 
(Swenson 1995), and although they can have more than one clutch in 
their burrow, presumably from different females (Swift et al. 1989), 
Swenson (1995) found that males accepted only one female per brood 
period. Males frequently go for at least a few weeks without feeding, 
and this probably contributes to a mid-summer mortality often noted in 
populations (Swift et al. 1989; Swenson 1994, 1995). Reproduction peaks 
during spring to mid-summer, late April or May to July, and can 
continue into November or December depending on the seasonal 
temperature and rainfall. Reproduction sometimes increases slightly in 
the fall (Swift et al. 1989; Camm Swift, Department of Biology, Loyola 
Marymount University, pers. comm. 1995). Reproduction takes place when 
temperatures are between 15 to 20 degrees Celsius (60 to 65 degrees 
Fahrenheit) and at salinities of 0 to 25 ppt (Swift et al. 1989; 
Swenson 1994, 1995). Typically, winter rains and cold weather interrupt 
spawning, but in some warm years reproduction may occur all year 
(Goldberg 1977; Wang 1984). Goldberg (1977) showed by histological 
analysis that females have the potential to lay eggs all year in 
southern California, but this rarely has been documented. Length-
frequency data from southern and central California (Swift et al. 1989; 
Swenson 1994, 1995) and analysis of otoliths from central California 
populations (Swift et al. 1997) indicate that tidewater gobies are an 
annual species and typically live 1 year or less.
    We published a proposed rule, with additional background 
information, to remove the northern populations of the tidewater goby 
from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife on June 24, 1999 
(64 FR 33816). The original comment period closed on August 23, 1999. 
Significant new information regarding marine dispersal of tidewater 
gobies was brought to our attention late in the comment period, with 
additional information provided since the closing of that comment 
period. We require time to fully evaluate the information and to 
solicit further peer review of this proposal. We will solicit the 
opinions of appropriate and independent specialists regarding the data, 
assumptions, and supportive information presented for the proposed 
delisting of the tidewater goby per our Interagency Cooperative Policy 
for Peer Review in Endangered Species Act Activities (59 FR 34270).

Public Comments Solicited

    It is our intent that any final action resulting from this proposal 
will be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we solicit 
comments or suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental 
agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested 
party concerning this proposed rule. Our practice is to make comments, 
including names and home addresses of respondents, available for public 
review during regular business hours. Individual respondents may 
request that we withhold their home address from the rulemaking record, 
which we will honor to the extent allowable by law. There also may be 
circumstances in which we would withhold from the rulemaking record a 
respondent's identity, as allowable by law. If you wish us to withhold 
your name and/or address, you must state this prominently at the 
beginning of your comment. However, we will not consider anonymous 
comments. We will make all submissions from organizations or 
businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as 
representatives or officials of organizations or businesses, available 
for public inspection in their entirety. All comments, including 
written and e-mail, must be received in our Ventura Fish and Wildlife 
Office by March 31, 2000. We particularly seek comments concerning:

    (1) Biological, commercial trade, or other relevant data 
concerning any threat (or lack thereof) to this species;
    (2) Additional information concerning the range, distribution, 
and population size of this species; and
    (3) Current or planned activities in the range of this species 
and their possible impacts on this species.

    The final decision on this proposal to delist the northern 
population of the tidewater goby will take into consideration the 
comments and any additional information we receive, and such 
communications may lead to a final regulation that differs from this 
    This rule does not include any collections of information that 
require approval by OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that an Environmental Assessment or 
Environmental Impact Statement, as defined under the authority of the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, need not be prepared in 
connection with regulations adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the 
Act. We published a notice outlining our reasons for this determination 
in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available upon 
request from the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES 
    Authors: The primary authors of this proposed rule are Grace 
McLaughlin and Carl Benz, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office (805/644-

    Authority: The authority of this action is the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

Elizabeth H. Stevens,
Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Fish and Wildlife 
[FR Doc. 00-3524 Filed 2-14-00; 8:45 am]