Endangered fish may doom popular California triathlon

This year’s Malibu Triathlon is likely to be canceled due to a series of issues stemming from the protection of an endangered fish.

On Monday, the Malibu Planning Commission rejected the triathlon’s permit.

The 38th edition of the race, which was scheduled for Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, historically travels through a Zuma Beach undercrossing at Busch Drive, at the southernmost end of the beach.

Recent rainfall, however, has flooded the underpass, and the water is now occupied by Tidewater Goby, a small endangered fish found in lagoons, estuaries, and marshes along the California coast, officials said.

Tidewater Goby. (US Fish & Wildlife Service)

When flooding occurred in the past, race organizers would simply install a temporary bridge.

This year, the fish was the hitch.

In mid-August, the city and race organizers were told by wildlife and water officials that a bridge could not be erected due to the presence of the tiny, threatened Goby.

So race organizers scrambled to reconfigure the route, which required a new review of the triathlon’s permit. However, the city requires a 32-day public notice and the permit application arrived too late, city leaders said.

At Monday’s commission meeting, race participants – many of whom passionately touted its mission to raise money for cancer research – argued that the technicality should be overlooked.

Commissioners insisted their hands were tied.

“I support the aims and goals here wholeheartedly,” said Commissioner Kraig Hill. “The problem that we have is that this is not just about bureaucracy. We are being asked the break the law. The noticing requirement is the law.”

Hill suggests the race be rescheduled until later on the weekend of Oct. 21, at the earliest.

Triathlon organizers have the option to appeal to the full Malibu City Council.

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