Re: Public Invited to Discuss Proposed Regulation Changes for Striped Bass

[Bulletin Board]

Posted by Dave Sellers on 2011-11-01 17:39:04 in reply to Re: Public Invited to Discuss Proposed Regulation Changes for Striped Bass posted by Barry W on 2011-11-01 11:20:44


You'll notice that not even Marty mentioned the DFG as one of the agencies listed as responsible for pushing the RPA's. Unfortunately he is forced to use the actions of two federal agencies in a hopeful defense of the DFG's general abdication of it's public trust responsibilities as it pertains to the way water is over-allocated at the expense of our fisheries. Further, I know of no case in which the DFG has stood up to it's sister agency the DWR in anything resembling a true line in the sand as it pertains to large water management issues. I'm sure they do little kabuki dances behind the scenes to try to play nice but the way the agencies are set up with both directors reporting to the head of resources, the politics are impossible and inescapable and the trust obligations are compromised, to say the least.

None of this is Marty's fault, however, I do reject the idea that people working for a public trust agency are some how less personally responsible for their actions because they operate in a crippling bureaucracy. That's a mild mannered kin of the Nuremberg excuse of "I was just doing my job". As intervenors, we tried to assist the agency in defending against this lawsuit, hoping this would give them the room to "grow a pair". But how do you help an agency who uses as it point man a person who is using his personal feelings about striped bass as to encourage the plaintiffs so completely that they ask for a summary judgement in large part based on the fact that the defenses own "expert" is essentially corroborating the essence of the suit. Thank goodness the judge protected the DFG from it's on ineptitude and rejected the request for a summary judgement. And I should point out here that other DFG experts who were deposed had the sense to zip it or to tactfully describe the situation in the delta as essentially "unknowable" when questioned by the plaintiffs during the discovery process. Marty was in a tight spot due to the now famous e-mails they pressed him on but everyone has the right, and sometimes the responsibility, to decline comment or opt to rely on the real fuzziness of the science as grounds for no responsible opinion.

As for the science behind the DFG decision, there is none. The reports Marty himself passed on to me have proven weak at best. Here is the abstract of one report:

"Modeling Shallow-Water Piscivore-prey Dynamics in California's Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta
Matt Nobriga*, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bay-Delta Office, Sacramento, CA,
Co-authors: Erik Loboschefsky, University of California-Davis, Davis, CA; and Fred Feyrer,
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Applied Science Branch, Sacramento, CA
Piscivore-prey dynamics are a key component of understanding ecosystem functions and often a key
component of fisheries management because many popular sport fishes are piscivorous. Extensive
research efforts have been put into understanding the changing dynamics of the San Francisco Estuary
food web over the past several decades, however piscivore-prey dynamics remain poorly understood.
Piscivore-prey linkages are of interest to resource managers because of the potential for top-down
suppression of ESA-listed native fishes. We used previously published field, diet composition, and
bioenergetics modeling data for juvenile (age-1 through age-3) striped bass (Morone saxatilis) to
construct a prey functional response model within a bioenergetics modeling framework. We used this
model to quantitatively evaluate striped bass predation on two common non-native prey, threadfin shad
(Dorosoma petenense) and Mississippi silverside (Menidia audens). These prey fishes were chosen as
example species because our previous research showed striped bass responded differently to them during
2001 and 2003, providing us with an empirical contrast in terms of striped bass’ functional responses to
prey. Native fishes were eaten too rarely to construct defensible models. We asked two questions; (1)
what is the estimated per capita consumption of shad and silverside, and (2) how do variations in the cooccurrence
of striped bass and their prey, striped bass age-structure, and the functional response of striped
bass to each prey species affect predictions of consumption based on striped bass abundance? We
estimated that shad production needed to be 1-2 orders of magnitude higher than silverside production to
overcome striped bass demand (163-3533 g · striped bass-1 versus 15.6-40.2 g · striped bass-1). During
2001 and 2003, striped bass abundance and prey density were weakly correlated at the scale of individual
sampling events (r = 0.34 and 0.37 for shad and silverside, respectively). The correlations between
striped bass abundance and prey consumption were higher (0.79 and 0.52 for shad and silverside,
respectively) due to a combination bioenergetic allometry and positive density-dependence in the prey
response equations. Randomly varying striped bass age-structure had little effect on this conclusion. The
striped bass-shad correlation was strong enough to suggest that top-down predation pressure on shad is
somewhat predictable based on predator abundance, but striped bass abundance could not reliably predict
spatial-temporal variation in silverside consumption. Our findings suggest that getting the functional
response correct for rare, ESA-listed fishes is a critical step needed to accurately model their
susceptibility to top-down suppression by striped bass."

This is "conclusive" or even a foundation for a "strong suspicion"? Not even Matt Nobriga, when deposed would categorize his work as anything more than compelling but maintaining that the real dynamics of the delta are currently unknowable. Further, bioenergetics, which have been described by two biologist I know as "great work for the graduated student", have a place in simple ecosystems but in complex eco systems, have proven virtually useless.....the abstract even points to this fact.

Another series of studies that Marty cites as pertinent to his position is the work done in on the columbia river to control pike minnow numbers via a bounty. The resulting studies demonstrate that the bounty shows great promise at releasing smolt from pike minnow predation. However, if somehow Marty feels that a larger take limit will result in less predatory striped bass at the water pumping facilities and other infrastructure then I can say with confidence, as someone who knows striped bass, that he is sorely mistaken. Abundance of predators will carry on at the "cafeterias" at the same population level unless the predator populations are decimated, including the black bass population, as the obvious result of less stripers will be more LMB at the same facilities. Marty knows this and in his own study of the Clifton Court Forebay he says "Controling predator abundance is not feasible". Read whole study for complete context, lest Marty attempt to maintain that his words are taken out of context here. (See Marty's list and click on Gingras1997.pdf) In that vein, check out the first study, here Botsford reviews Bennet's work and points out that an increased take limit will likely have a miniscule effect on the overall population of the striped bass.

Dr. Peter Moyle predicted this entire debacle with accuracy that may even surprise him. He essentially said that any reg change will solve nothing and only serve to upset the angling public. Nailed it! Also, in several of the court documents I have re-read recently, Judge Wanger expressed his preference that this thing go to trial so that all of the points of view can be heard and all science be heard in courtroom where it can be weighed and analyzed in a more thoughtful, rigorous manner, not left up to a few defendants and a few plaintiffs trying to free themselves from an expensive lawsuit and, in the process, become submissive to the politics of something that NEEDS to be free of politics for it to be good policy. Bad policy will bite you in the ass every time, and this well on it's way to becoming that. And by the way, we, as intervenors, were left out of the settlement talks, much to the dismay of Judge Wanger.

I further want to point out that this proposed reg change will result in a more liberal take. That renders it instantly ILLEGAL via provisions of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, which is federal law and calls for a doubling of anadromous fish species numbers (including striped bass)from the population of the mid nineties. There is nothing in the settlement that supersedes this federal law. NOAA and NMfS may well have set a nasty trap for themselves by signing on to this.

I want to add that the idea that there be a liberalization of the striped bass take limit, in and of itself is in no way offensive to me, nor should it be to any angler. Once the CVPIA provisions are met and maintained for all anadromous species, the proper management of striped bass, even a regime including a more liberal take should be an open option. Until then, anglers can rightly claim a water management issue as the main culprit, and the target that should receive laser focus from public servants like Marty. Unless and until Marty (and others involved in this questionable process) can produce solid enough evidence to back their positions, again, the whole thing falls squarely in the realm of personal opinion. He has told me privately that he takes this critique as an ad hominem attack, it's not, it's an appropriate criticism of his role in this and one that will plague him until the end of his career unless and until he produces an appropriately compelling argument with sound science and begins to make his case more clearly and directly to the angling community. He has failed thus far, and politely declined Ralph's request for a cogent argument here on this forum. Directing him instead to stick with the program for properly directed input. Regardless, if Ralph takes it upon himself to go through most of the docs Marty provided, he'll find what I have, and that the sum total of analysis as it pertains to striped bass predation on endangered species is not conclusive, nor is there anything resembling a consensus of opinion. It's all over the place. See for yourself!

So here we have what will be the unveiling of the sh!t sandwich on Tuesday, which we are supposed to "discuss" in a "workshop" without any idea what we are discussing and then a culmination in December of the entire process at the commission meeting in SAN DIEGO!! SAN DIEGO? Really? Let me see, is the Oregon border or the Mexican border farther from the California delta and it's stripers and anglers? In case you are wondering, it's the Mexican border. Brilliant. Did you expect anything different?


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