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Ocean Salmon Season In The Southern/Central Part Of The State Off To A Good Start

Dan Wolford holds up two nice salmon taken aboard the Nancy H out of Santa Cruz during the opening weekend of the ocean salmon season in Northern to Southern California. (GOLDEN GATE SALMON ASSOCIATION)

The following press release is courtesy of the Golden Gate Salmon Association: 

San Francisco  —  The sport salmon ocean fishery opened Saturday April 6 from Pigeon Point in southern San Mateo County, south to the Mexican border.  Sport anglers concentrated their efforts out of the Monterey Bay ports of Santa Cruz, Moss Landing and Monterey.  The salmon were there to greet them with many boats reporting back with limits of salmon ranging from five to almost 20 pounds.  Anglers are allowed to keep two salmon per day.

“We’re glad to see people bringing salmon home and we’re thankful for the good rains and Central Valley runoff in the spring of 2017 that helped these salmon survive,” said GGSA president John McManus.  “The ocean was kind to many of the fishermen who fished the first three days of the season until northwest spring time winds increased on Tuesday.  There’s no doubt that salmon caught off the California coast are the best tasting anywhere since they like to feed on small shrimp-like krill at this time of year.”

In addition, the sport salmon season opens Saturday April 13 north of Pigeon Point all the way to just north of Shelter Cove in southern Humboldt County.

(GOLDEN GATE SALMON ASSOCIATION) 

The Golden Gate Salmon Association (www.goldengatesalmon.org) is a coalition of salmon advocates that includes commercial and recreational salmon fisherman, businesses, restaurants and chefs, a native tribe, environmentalists, elected officials, families and communities that rely on salmon.

GGSA’s mission is to restore California salmon for their economic, recreational, commercial, environmental, cultural and health values.  GGSA serves the sport and commercial anglers, businesses, conservationists and foodies that rely on salmon as a long-term, nutritious, sustainable resource.

Currently, California’s salmon industry is valued at $1.4 billion in annual economic activity in a normal season. The industry employs tens of thousands of people from Santa Barbara to northern Oregon. This is a huge economic bloc made up of commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen (fresh and salt water), fish processors, marinas, coastal communities, equipment manufacturers, tackle shops and marine stores, the hotel and food industry, tribes, and the salmon fishing industry at large.  Salmon are the keystone species that reflect the health of both their fresh and salt water environment.

Almost 400,000 Coleman National Fish Hatchery Chinook Perish In Accident

Photo by Coleman National Fish Hatchery

Apologies for not sharing this earlier in the week, but Coleman National Fish Hatchery  suffered the loss of 390,000 king salmon in a hatchery accident late last week. Here’s Redding’s ABC affiliate KRCR with more:

It happened Thursday night. Project Manager Brett Galyean said the team was tagging some of the fish until about midnight. Somehow, one of the raceway’s water wasn’t turned back on before staff left for the night. When they returned in the morning, three percent of the year’s production was dead.

Galyean said the salmon need fresh water to survive and they died from lack of oxygen. …

“It was somber. We had a great work week last week we released 200,000 Winter Chinook in Battle Creek and we had another release of Fall Chinook on station,” Galyean said. “So, we had a really busy positive week and to end it like that was horrible. It’s terrible any day.”

 

 

CDFW Cracking Down On Habitat Damage At San Diego County Reserve

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is stepping up educational outreach and enforcement to stop illegal activities including mountain biking, trail building, vandalism, theft, drone use, motorcycle use, equestrian use and dogs off leash at the Carlsbad Highlands Ecological Reserve in San Diego County.

The effort begins this weekend with the installation of new signage and increased enforcement by CDFW wildlife officers of long-standing regulations to protect animals, plants and habitats that depend on the reserve.

Simultaneously, CDFW is working to repair the extensive environmental damage caused by illegal mountain biking and the illegal construction of trails, berms and jumps that not only harm animals and damage habitat, but make the ecological reserve unsafe for authorized activities that include hiking, nature viewing and educational uses.

“I believe the vast majority of the mountain biking community in San Diego County cares deeply about the environment and follows the law. That’s not what’s happening at the Carlsbad Highlands Ecological Reserve,” said Ed Pert, manager of CDFW’s South Coast Region. “We’re dealing with vandals and trail poachers who take it upon themselves to build illegal trails and modify existing trails. These folks knowingly and willfully violate the law and the environment for their own amusement and personal gratification. Unfortunately, this group of bad actors is giving the entire mountain biking community here a bad name.”

The primary purpose of state ecological reserves is to protect sensitive species and habitats. The 473-acre Carlsbad Highlands Ecological Reserve, sometimes referred to as CHER, was established formally in 2000, although its habitat protections date back to 1995 as a conservation bank to offset the impacts of local development. The reserve provides habitat for the federally threatened California gnatcatcher as well as state-listed endangered plants such as the Encinitas baccharis, thread-leaved Brodiaea, and other sensitive native species.

CDFW has been working with the local mountain biking community as well as the San Diego-based Wildlife and Habitat Conservation Coalition to identify good, legal alternatives to biking at CHER.

Areas within CHER that formerly supported rare plants now have illegal trails through them, and areas that previously supported the California gnatcatcher are fragmented and less productive. Habitat damage within the reserve is estimated at 12.5 acres with 17 miles of illegal trails forming an extensive trail system throughout the reserve that at one time was a contiguous block of undisturbed habitat.

Scientific studies on trail use consistently show that trails have significant impacts on wildlife behavior, movement and habitat use. While CDFW encourages Californians to get outside and enjoy the outdoors as much as possible, the illegal use and overuse of sensitive properties such as the Carlsbad Highlands Ecological Reserve has significant consequences on wildlife. In addition to the loss of habitat, wildlife such as lizards, frogs and snakes are often killed when run over by mountain bikers or motorcyclists.

Under state law (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 630), CDFW is obligated to protect and maintain designated ecological reserves, which includes enforcing the rules. Failure to comply could result in a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.

“CDFW has no interest in being punitive. We just want the illegal behavior to stop,” Pert said. “So we are getting the word out to anyone who might knowingly or unknowingly ride illegally on CHER. Please don’t ride there. You could be fined.”

For more information on CHER, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/lands/places-to-visit/carlsbad-highlands-er.

Photos and video clips of vandalism, theft and environmental damage at CHER can be found at ftp://ftp.wildlife.ca.gov/oceo/carlsbadhighlandser.

California Assemblywoman Creates Bill To End Bobcat Trophy Hunting

CDFW file photo

California Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Los Angeles) recently introduced Assembly Bill 1254, which would ban trophy bobcat hunting in California.  Currently, California’s season runs between Oct. 15 and Feb. 28, with a statewide of limit of five bobcats per season. Trapping is already banned for bobcats in the state.

Here’s some of Kamlager-Dove’s rationale to the bill from her website: 

“California paves the way and shows the country that residents in this state won’t tolerate cruelty,” said Kamlager-Dove. “California is a leader in wildlife protection, and the time is ripe to lead by putting an end to the trophy slaughter of bobcats. Like their larger cousins, the mountain lion, nobody consumes bobcats for sustenance. These iconic creatures deserve protection for future generations to appreciate their beauty and contribution to the ecological health of the planet.”

California – through ballot measures, legislation, and the regulatory process – has been a leader in bobcat protection. In 1998, California voters passed Proposition 4 by a 57 percent majority. This measure banned the use of steel-jawed, leghold and other body-gripping traps used to capture and hold wildlife, including bobcats.

In 2012, the Legislature passed a bill that banned the use of hounds to track and kill bobcats and black bears. In 2013, the Legislature passed the Bobcat Protection Act, which limited bobcat trapping, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife banned commercial and recreational bobcat trapping altogether in 2015.

“Trophy hunting results in the unnecessary and cruel deaths of California’s majestic little carnivores,” said Crystal Moreland, California State Director for the Humane Society of the United States. “Few can argue that spotting an elusive bobcat is a wondrous thrill, and California’s beautiful little bobcats are far more valuable to its citizens alive than dead.”

Hunting groups like the Sportsmen’s Alliance are obviously opposed to the bill. Here’s some of its argument against the proposal:

California is already the most hostile state in the country for hunting and trapping, and has been fertile ground for animal-rights groups and their agenda. It was the first state to ban mountain lion hunting in 1990, voters passed a trapping ban initiative in 1998, and bear and bobcat hunting with hounds was outlawed in 2011. Bobcat numbers have steadily grown throughout the state and country, and the anti-hunting lobby has responded by attacking the remaining seasons and opposing new ones in California as well as in states such as Illinois, New Hampshire and Ohio.

 

 

Lawsuit Filed As Starving Orcas Struggle To Find Salmon

(Photo by Katy Foster/NOAA Fisheries

The following press release is courtesy of the Center For Biological Diversity:

SEATTLE— The Center for Biological Diversity and Wild Fish Conservancy sued the Trump administration today for mismanaging West Coast salmon fisheries and harming critically endangered Southern Resident killer whales, a violation of the Endangered Species Act. That orca population has dropped to just 75 individuals, mostly because declining salmon runs have left them without enough to eat.

Today’s lawsuit was filed in federal court in the Western District of Washington. It seeks to compel the National Marine Fisheries Service to assess and reduce the threat to the endangered orcas from salmon fishing off Washington, Oregon and California. Southern Residents are also threatened by pollution and disturbance from vessel traffic.

“While orcas starve to death, the Trump administration is refusing to protect salmon populations crucial to their survival,” said Julie Teel Simmonds, a Center attorney. “Salmon and the killer whales that rely on them are both in trouble, and this fishery must be better managed to promote their recovery. If federal officials don’t act now, we’ll lose our chance to pull these beloved animals back from the edge of extinction.”

The Southern Resident population reached a 34-year low in 2018 after the loss of a newborn calf and a young female. Researchers have been closely watching two other ailing orcas that appear to be malnourished. Starving orcas show signs of “peanut head” — a condition in which an individual has lost so much body fat that a depression appears behind its blowhole.

In January 2019 scientists confirmed the birth of a baby orca named Lucky. The first calf to survive past birth since 2015, Lucky underscores the urgent need to improve feeding opportunities for Southern Resident killer whales.

The young orca and its pod were sighted this week in California’s Monterey Bay, highlighting the expansive range of the Southern Resident killer whales (which feed in the summer in Washington’s Puget Sound) and the importance of protecting the salmon they eat throughout their range.

“The Trump administration can no longer ignore the scientific evidence that clearly demonstrates the link between reduced size and abundance of Chinook and the reduced reproductive success of Southern Resident killer whales,” said Kurt Beardslee, executive director of the Wild Fish Conservancy. “It’s time for federal fishery managers to acknowledge that starving killer whales and smaller and less abundant Chinook are merely symptoms of the problems created by harvest management that is fundamentally broken.”

In August 2018 the Center sued the Trump administration for failing to protect the Southern Residents’ full West Coast habitat. The Center launched another lawsuit in August 2018 to establish a “whale protection zone” to shield orcas from boat noise and disturbance in the heart of their Puget Sound habitat.

Today’s suit focuses on the administration’s obligation under the Endangered Species Act to ensure that the Pacific Coast salmon fisheries do not jeopardize the Southern Resident killer whales. That includes a requirement to use the best available science on orcas to manage the salmon fishery.

“Trump officials relied on decade-old science to maintain the status quo in the Pacific salmon fisheries while these orcas are starving. It’s not right, and it’s not what the Endangered Species Act calls for,” Simmonds said. “West Coast orcas can’t afford another year without bold federal action based on sound science to reverse their decline.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Wild Fish Conservancy (WFC) is a nonprofit conservation ecology organization headquartered in Washington State and dedicated to preserving, protecting and restoring the Northwest’s wild fish and the ecosystems they depend on, through science, education and advocacy.

California Commercial Dungeness Crab Season Closing On April 15

The following press release is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife: 

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham issued a declaration to close the commercial Dungeness crab fishery statewide at 11:59 p.m. on April 15, 2019 due to increased whale entanglement risk anticipated for the spring and summer months.

Under the interim authority of Section 8276.1(c)(1) of the Fish and Game Code, the Director may restrict take of commercial Dungeness crab if the fishery is being conducted in a manner that poses a significant risk of marine life entanglement. Therefore, the Director has declared that the commercial Dungeness crab fishery will close at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, April 15, 2019. All Dungeness crab commercial fishing gear must be removed from ocean waters and landings must be completed by April 15, 2019 at 11:59 p.m.

For more information or updates, please see the Department’s Crab Fishery web page.

Salmon-Seeking Orcas From The Pacific Northwest Spotted Off Monterey

The Monterey Bay Aquarium was the filming location for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. In the movie, what was called the “Cetacean Institute” and was supposed to be in Sausalito, just across the Golden Gate from San Francisco, was actually in Monterey. The area where the aquarium is located was in the news this week for whale sightings in the adjacent bay.

A pod of orcas that normally inhabit waters further north in the Pacific Northwest were spotted off Monterey.

Here’s more from a KGO ABC7 report: 

Transient orcas are a common sight in Monterey Bay. However, the L-pod are among the southern resident killer whales who’s traditional hunting grounds are in Seattle’s Puget Sound and Vancouver Island. 

A shortage of chinook salmon has put a strain on the pod. Since 1995, the L-pod population has dropped from 58 orcas to 35. 

With salmon numbers dwindling throughout the West Coast, there is some concern about how long orcas will stick around as salmon become less and less plentiful for whales to consume.

What Dam Water Releases Can Do For Salmon

 

The following statement is courtesy of the Golden Gate Salmon Association’s  president John McManus: 

San Francisco, Calif. — April 2, 2019 — “Recently, to keep communities safe from floods, Central Valley dam operators are opening the dams and making big water releases down the rivers.  This frees up reservoir space to handle runoff from snowmelt or the next storm.  In addition to protecting the public, these flood control dam releases provide important environmental benefits.  Generally, they’re really good for salmon.

When salmon fishermen look at these big water releases from dams we see fast flowing, muddy waters breathing new life into damaged rivers, uncovering and moving gravel to where it’s needed by spawning salmon and washing away damaging sediment from the aftermath of logging, fires and low water flows.  We see murky river flows helping to transport and hide baby salmon from predators and guide them downstream towards the ocean.  We see the few remaining low lying floodplains being inundated again, as they were for time immemorial until we built levees and disconnected 97 percent of these essential salmon rearing habitats from our rivers.  On the few remaining floodplains, baby salmon find a safe place to eat and grow.  We see river side channels, previously clogged with sediment, instantly swept clean and revitalized, providing more rearing habitat for baby salmon. These high flows are needed to allow river channels to cut their own path and meander naturally.  They allow riparian plants to germinate and thrive, all of which benefit salmon.  However, with these flood control releases, dam operators must take care on the backside of the storms to bring releases down slowly so young fish don’t get stranded in pools suddenly cut off from rivers.

We see these rare pulses of extra water flowing through the Delta, ripping out acres of invasive plant growth that strangles waterways and clogs water intakes and boating access.  We see waters polluted by ag runoff being diluted and washed away.

These life-giving flood waters used to be normal events in California until we dammed all of our salmon rivers.  Our native wildlife evolved to thrive in these conditions and have gone into a nosedive since the advent of dams and unsustainable reservoir operations.  While good for salmon, these flood pulses are bad for non-native fish that eat baby salmon and the invasive clams and shrimp that compete with them for food.

Today it’s increasingly rare for Mother Nature to overcome the power of Central Valley dams and force flood control releases but when she does, all of nature downstream, especially the salmon runs, thrive.  That’s because they all evolved to take advantage of, and need, periodic high flows.  Not only do salmon and other wildlife thrive, so too do those human communities that depend on salmon and a healthy, functioning ecosystem.

It’s critical to note that these life giving flows are not protected by any current regulatory requirements.  That’s an oversight.  Advocates of new dams often argue that high flows are being “wasted to the sea.”  Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it is only when flows exceed our capacity to capture them that native fish like salmon have a chance to rebound.

State agencies, particularly the State Water Board and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife should adopt updated science-based standards that protect more of these needed high flow events, to continue providing essential benefits for salmon, the salmon fishing industry, and the entire Central Valley natural resources.  That’s exactly what the State Water Board started last December, when they adopted new flow standards for the San Joaquin River and its tributaries.  Governor Brown stepped in at the last minute and tried to derail their efforts.  Governor Newsom is hopefully wise enough and environmentally aware enough to appreciate the way our natural systems work and try to protect them.

Agreement Made In Dungeness Crab Gear Entanglement Case

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The following press release is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife: 

SAN FRANCISCO — Californians will be pleased to know that Dungeness crab will be caught off the coast with greater care for endangered wildlife under a settlement announced by the Center for Biological Diversity, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA).

The legal settlement protects whales and sea turtles from entanglement in commercial Dungeness crab gear. The Center for Biological Diversity sued CDFW in October 2017 after a drastic increase in the number of whale entanglements off the West Coast.

“As I’ve said many times, no one wants whale entanglements to happen,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “This agreement represents hours of intense negotiation to help ensure they don’t happen while supporting the resiliency of the crab fishery in the long run. I am thankful for the leadership of the Center for Biological Diversity and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations who realized something needed to be done together.”

“This is great news for whales and sea turtles fighting extinction off California’s coast,” said Kristen Monsell, a Center for Biological Diversity attorney. “The settlement will reduce serious threats from crab gear to these beautiful and highly endangered animals. This agreement is a turning point that gets us closer to zero entanglements and a healthy ocean.”

The lawsuit was brought by the Center for Biological Diversity against CDFW (Center for Biological Diversity v. Bonham) in federal court in San Francisco. The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, which represents crabbers, intervened in the lawsuit.

The settlement, subject to court approval, creates a comprehensive approach to the problem of whale entanglements. It expedites state regulation, ensures stakeholder input from the Dungeness crab Fishing Gear Working Group and formalizes a first-ever commitment by CDFW to pursue a federal permit for protecting endangered species. While these steps are executed, the settlement calls for this year’s crab season to end three months early and prescribes protective measures for future springtime fishing seasons, when the greatest number of whales are present off the California coast.

In November 2018, CDFW announced it would seek a federal permit under the Endangered Species Act to address protected species interactions with the crab fishery. Obtaining a permit and developing a conservation plan as part of that process can take years, so the settlement spells out interim protections.

“This settlement represents the path back to normality for California’s crab fishery with built-in protections for whales and crab fishing operations under the Endangered Species Act,” said Noah Oppenheim, executive director of PCFFA. “The past several years have been extraordinarily challenging for fishing families, and the actions we’re taking here are no exception. But in the end, we’re going to emerge together with a resilient, prosperous, and protective fishery that will continue to feed California and the nation.”

Details of the settlement can be found at http://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=166146.

The mission of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is to manage California’s diverse fish, wildlife, and plant resources, and the habitats upon which they depend, for their ecological values and for their use and enjoyment by the public.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations is the largest commercial fishermen’s organization on the West Coast, representing 17 local and regional associations from Santa Barbara to Southeast Alaska. As a major commercial fishing industry trade association, PCFFA represents the interests of commercial fishing families who make their living harvesting and delivering high-quality seafood to America’s tables.

One Month Countdown To ‘Fishmas’ In Mono County

Photos courtesy of Mono County

The following press release is courtesy of  Mono County:

MONO COUNTY, Calif. – Eastern Sierra locals and visitors alike are gearing up for “Fishmas,” the official start to the regular fishing season on April 27. Anglers will have much to celebrate this season – lakes, streams and reservoirs will be at very healthy levels following above-average snowfall this winter. In addition, more than 600,000 pounds of trout will be stocked throughout the Eastern Sierra.

“We are looking forward to a fantastic fishing season after another winter with record-setting snowfall.  All of our rivers, lakes and reservoirs will be full of water all season long,” reports Jeff Simpson, Mono County’s economic development manager. “Access to some higher elevation lakes may be later than normal due to snow and ice, but that also means those spots will have excellent opener-like conditions later in the summer.”

Simpson recommends anglers follow Mono County Tourism’s Facebook and Instagram pages for real-time updates and conditions as the season approaches.

Mono County, along with California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Mammoth Lakes Tourism, Bishop Chamber of Commerce, Inyo County, and private marina operators will be stocking over 600,000 pounds of trout throughout the Eastern Sierra. Mono County, specifically, will stock bodies of water in the region with 20,000 pounds of rainbow trout starting the second week of April.

Anglers are encouraged to join the effort to keep Eastern Sierra fisheries healthy and sustainable by practicing “catch and release” – keeping only the fish they need and releasing the rest to reproduce, grow and become trophy-sized. During the regular fishing season, the general catch limit is five fish per day, never exceeding 10 fish in possession. For more information about fishing regulations, reports, or to request a free Eastern Sierra fishing map, please visitmonocounty.org.

“The best part about dropping a line in our friendly county is the beautiful landscape and getting outside with other fishing enthusiasts,” said John Peters, chair of the Mono County board of supervisors. “Opening weekend is always festive and fun, and we look forward to welcoming everyone on April 27.”

Throughout the season a number of events, including derbies and fishing festivals, are scheduled – starting with the Fishmas Day Celebration at Tom’s Place on opening day, and including family-friendly events like the Mammoth Kids’ Fishing Festival, Trout Fest, and Bridgeport Fish Fest.

Click here for a complete list of 2019 fishing events in Mono County.

Visit MonoCounty.org to learn more about fishing in Mono County, top fishing locations, which fish can be found there, regulations, lodging, and much more.

About Mono County: 

Located approximately 315 miles north of Los Angeles, and 280 miles east of San Francisco, Mono County accesses the east entrance to Yosemite National Park and welcomes visitors year-round. The Eastern Sierra’s vast playground is an easily reached destination whether driving the all-weather US Highway 395 or taking advantage of direct United or JetSuite X flights from Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), Orange County (SNA), Burbank (BUR) and Denver (DEN). US Highway 395, which traverses Mono County from north to south, is a State-Designated Scenic Byway offering motorists tremendous vistas right from the steering wheel and countless side-roads, hiking trails, lakes, and roadside villages to explore.  For more information or to request guides, visit MonoCounty.org or call 800-845-7922.