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UC Study Shows Fish Population Could Go Extinct

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Aired 5/8/09

A new study from UC Santa Barbara finds if steps aren't taken to protect California sheephead fish habitat, there's a chance the entire male fish population could be wiped out. KPBS Reporter Ed Joyce explains.

A new study from UC Santa Barbara finds if steps aren't taken to protect California sheephead fish habitat, there's a chance the entire male fish population could be wiped out. KPBS Reporter Ed Joyce explains.

UC Santa Barbara researchers found that big, strong sheephead males were conspicuously absent at Catalina Island, the most visited of the Channel Islands by sport fisherman.

Dr. Jennifer Caselle says overfishing could wipe out the entire male population of the species that's born female but can transform into males as they grow larger.

But she says protected areas can help the sheephead recover.

"Inside of the protected areas, sheephead are on average bigger than outside the areas. In addition to being bigger they're more numerous," she says.

Caselle says because the fish keep the urchin population down, the sheephead are a major ecological player in the kelp forest ecosystem.

International agencies list the California sheephead as "vulnerable," meaning the species is likely to become endangered unless circumstances improve.

Ed Joyce, KPBS News.

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