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Review of the Fisheries of the Salton Sea, California, USA: Past, Present, and Future

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The Salton Sea is an endorheic, 980-km 2 salt lake in the Sonoran Desert of southern California. The historical fish community switched from freshwater to marine species as salinity increased due to evaporation and brackish water inflows. Three species, bairdiella ( Bairdiella icistia ), orangemouth corvina ( Cynoscion xanthulus ), and sargo ( Anisotremus davidsoni ), established from introductions beginning in 1929. Thirty-four marine fish species from the northern Gulf of California were introduced between 1929 and 1956. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, a hybrid tilapia ( Oreochromis mossambicus x O. urolepis hornorum ) invaded the Salton Sea and became dominant by numbers and weight. Research has shown that nearshore and estuarine areas have the highest catch rates of tilapia (over 11 kg/50 m net/h). Orangemouth corvina, bairdiella, sargo, and the hybrid tilapia grew faster, but had shorter life spans than conspecifics elsewhere, and Salton Sea conspecifics of 50 years ago. All four species aggregated along the nearshore and estuarine areas in the summer for reproduction and relief from low oxygen conditions in the pelagic areas of the marine lake. Restoration alternatives for the Salton Sea must recognize the value of estuarine and nearshore areas as essential fish habitats for the Salton Sea fisheries ecosystem.
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Keywords: Salton Sea; bairdiella; orangemouth corvina; restoration; salt lakes; tilapia

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, College of Marine Sciences, University of Southern Mississippi, Ocean Springs, Mississippi 39564 2: Rhode Island Sea GrantBarry A. Costa-Pierce College Program, Graduate School of Oceanography, and Department of Fisheries, Animal and Veterinary Science, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, RI 02882-1197

Publication date: October 1, 2001

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