Dozens of dead fish have been spotted in a South Bay pond that is drying up, possibly due to the drought or because it is drained into an aquifer.
The fish were spotted near the last water on one of the Guadalupe Recharge Ponds in South San Jose.
Lisa Landry saw the sad sight after volunteering to distribute food at a nearby homeless camp. She made a video capturing the fish and their tormented reaction.
“I just thought, ‘Oh my god, that can’t happen. Somebody has to save the fish. Somebody has to make sure there is no water in the park ponds.’ It’s just a variety of things that I felt, “she said.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District said the ponds are not necessarily dry from the effects of the drought, but rather from water drained into an aquifer. A full statement from the district can be found below.
Upon seeing pictures of the dead fish, officials said it appeared to be carp, an alien fish. As the district said in a statement, they will not be rescued because they compete and hunt down local fish.
Landry said she was still concerned about the fish remaining in the other ponds.
“Without being a pro here, this water will eventually go away too, so there is an opportunity to save the fish that will eventually die too,” she said.
With resources already stretched from the drought, saving non-native fish is unlikely to be a high priority.
The agency noted that there are many native fish rescue programs in place, but even that is limited as permits are often required.
Full statement from the Santa Clara Valley Water District:
Santa Clara County is in an extreme drought. Rainfall has been well below average for the past two years, reducing the reservoir storage that feeds the creek systems. There isn’t enough local water in the reservoir to keep the streams flowing along their entire length. Valley Water worked with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to make water release decisions to keep as many areas of the creek wet as possible for the longest time. The dry ridge you see is currently isolated from the lower reaches, but the river is available further upstream. Attempts are being made to conserve habitat for the Central California Coast steelhead and other native fish with the limited water available. Valley Water conducts fish rescues if required for specific projects and only if the Resource Agency permits and permits.
Valley Water does not have permits and they are often not issued to conduct fish rescues due to drought. Also, there aren’t necessarily better places to relocate rescued fish, as the entire stream system has reduced flow. Fish relocation / rescue can put further strain on the overall fish population and spread invasive species, diseases and pathogens. Fortunately, our native fish species are adapted to periods of drought, and many respond to drying or warming water by moving to more humid and cooler areas. Many of the fish that need to be rescued are alien species that compete with and hunt for native fish.
During the drought, Valley Water made a commitment to deliver safe, clean water from our drinking water treatment facilities to local water utilities and communities, and to maintain healthy aquifers for residents and retailers who rely on groundwater pumps to meet their needs. Valley Water will continue to work with local, state and federal regulatory partners to coordinate the effects of droughts on fish and wildlife while making water supply and maintenance activities as environmentally friendly as possible.
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