|The water contractors, under their organization "Coalition for a Sustainable Delta," are playing hardball. They now want to blame the striped bass for the decline of delta smelt and other fish in the California Delta in order to take away the blame from the state and federal export pumps, even though the fish successfuly coexisted for over 125 years. Here's their press release issued on October 25. |
Coalition for a Sustainable Delta
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Jann Taber 916/391-8811
October 25, 2007
Coalition for a Sustainable Delta Initiates Legal Action On Striped Bass Sports Fishing Regulations
State Department of Fish and Game Put On Notice Regarding Clear Violations of Federal Endangered Species Act
SACRAMENTO, CA – The Coalition for a Sustainable Delta today filed a Notice of Intent to sue the California
Fish and Game Commission (CFGC) and the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) for violating
the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). State sport fishing regulations protect the non-native striped
bass, a known predator of several native endangered and threatened species including the Delta smelt.
“It is extremely counter productive for the state to implement programs that protect a known predator of
federally protected threatened and endangered species at a time when federal courts are ordering significant
cutbacks in water pumping operations to protect the same species,” said Michael Boccadoro, spokesperson
for the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta. “It not only doesn’t make sense, it clearly violates federal law.”
The non-native striped bass is widely recognized as a voracious predator and likes to feast on some of the
most endangered native species in the Delta. The striped bass was introduced into the Delta region in the
late 19th Century. Its population has fluctuated from a low of approximately 600,000 to a high of three million.
In the early 1980’s the sports fishing industry successfully lobbied the State of California to enact legislation
that created a striped bass fishing stamp. CDFG used the money raised by the stamp to support the striped
bass population in the Delta. Even after the striped bass fishing stamp legislation expired, funds were
expended to raise striped bass in hatcheries. The hatchery program run by the state added more than 5.5
million striped bass to the Delta over the life of the restocking program.
The funds were also used to develop the Striped Bass Restoration and Management Plan. Consistent with
the plan and CFGC policy, the Department continues to enforce “size” and “bag” limits for striped bass fishing
in the state. Fishermen are limited to two fish and each fish must be at least 18 inches in length. The “bag”
and “size” limits are designed to further the commission’s official striped bass restoration goal of three million
fish. These regulations, however, effectively foster the demise of tens of thousands of native Delta fish that
are protected under the ESA.
Four species of fish are primarily affected. They are the Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, the
Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon, the Central Valley steelhead, and the Delta smelt. While the
salmon and the steelhead spend most of their lives in the ocean, they return to the Delta to spawn.
Unfortunately, the Delta smelt and other endangered fish provide a readily available food supply for the
striped bass. The CDFG itself estimates that each year up to six percent of the population of these
endangered species are consumed by the striped bass – a fish that is not supposed to be in the Delta in the
first place. Two federal agencies have also acknowledged the problem.
In its 2007 Recovery Outline, the
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) considers the striped bass as a threat to the salmon and
steelhead. And the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is on record stating, “It is quite possible that at
low population levels interactions with [striped bass] could prevent recovery (of the Delta Smelt).”
“It is unconscionable that state agencies are continuing to implement programs that in effect are defeating
concerted efforts to protect the estuary and the native fisheries. This systematic destruction of thousands of
native fish in the Delta is a clear violation of the Endangered Species Act,” said Boccadoro. “State agencies
cannot acknowledge a fisheries crisis in the Delta and then knowingly take steps that are clearly making it
This latest legal action follows on a similar notice provided to Mirant Delta LLC in September in connection
with their operation of the Pittsburg and Contra Costa Power Plants. Unless these illegal actions cease, the
Coalition for a Sustainable Delta intends to file the appropriate complaints in federal court.