Striped bass are non-native, not-endangered predator fish with voracious appetites for endangered and native salmon and smelt. It would seem that if you want to protect endangered species you would do something about the not-endangered fish that are eating them. That's what we've been saying for years, but the Department of Fish and Game needed a lawsuit to force them to come up with a plan to increase the current 2-fish limit on stripers. Unfortunately, DFG's plan was just a proposal that went to the DFG Commission where the proposal could be accepted or rejected. It was rejected.
The most disturbing thing about this saga is the reasoning behind the decision to leave the current limits alone. The only commissioner who chose to speak out about the reasoning behind his vote said that "the biggest problem is that everyone should be taking responsibility for their part in the Delta’s decline. Everyone should be prepared to take a hit."
We totally agree, but how is allowing the striped bass limits alone spreading the responsibility evenly? Everyone talks about sharing the responsibility, but no one is willing to share. Remember the Sacramento Bee headline about the need to upgrade their sewer plant(Shared Sacrafice in the Delta Takes a Holiday). Sacramento is dumping treated sewage in the form of ammonia into the Delta and when asked to clean it up asks why they're the only ones being punished. Fishermen and Sacramento residents apparently think they're the only ones being asked to sacrifice, but meanwhile farmers are denied water every year and get no credit for their sacrifice.
Last we heard there are over 40 stressors in the Delta. Despite reducing water exports to farmers for two decades the Delta continues to decline. People like the commissioner above refuse to admit their stake in this and continue to blame it on farm water exports. Can some of these people at least admit that farmers are now and have been the only ones asked to sacrifice? Farmers also believe there should be some shared sacrifice.
The Striped Bass Saga
It was Jim Kellogg’s last meeting as president of the California Fish and Game Commission.
He took advantage.
“Nobody’s got an answer on how this is done, or who declares it, so I’m going to declare the striped bass a native species of the state of California,” he said.
And a crowd of fishermen erupted in cheer.
I had another commitment and missed that meeting on Thursday, but I wanted to watch some footage to see what convinced commissioners, by a 4-0 vote, to preserve bag limits and size restrictions on stripers — rejecting a proposal to loosen the rules and, in theory, decrease the striper population in the Delta.
Quick background: Stripers were introduced here in the late 1800s, so technically — despite Kellogg’s symbolic gesture — they are an alien species.
They eat native species like salmon, which are protected under state and federal law.
Water exporters don’t want to see their supplies dwindle any more because of endangered fish, so they sued in federal court, saying the state should not be harboring stripers by allowing fishermen to take only a certain number of fish of certain sizes.
A settlement required the Department of Fish and Game to propose changes, which it did. The commission did not have to accept those changes, and it did not.
Kellogg’s opposition was no surprise. He lives in Discovery Bay and has often said he believes the amount of water taken out of the Delta is the biggest reason smelt and salmon have suffered. He said Thursday that he actually worked on the construction of the state water export pumps near Tracy in the late 1960s, and that he was there the day that then-Gov. Ronald Reagan visited and the pumps were turned on for the first time.
“You could not believe the number of fish that came out into that canal,” Kellogg said. “I’ve got first-hand experience knowing what shipping water down south does to fish in the Delta.”
More surprising, perhaps, was the fact that commissioners Daniel Richards of Upland, Michael Sutton of Monterey and Jack Baylis of Los Angeles joined Kellogg in opposing any change. Commissioner Richard Rogers of Santa Barbara was absent.
Only Richards spoke at any length to explain his decision.
He said there’s no doubt that stripers do eat threatened fish. But he also said he was worried about the unintended consequences of messing with striped bass populations. What new predators might surface? How would it affect the food chain?
He also said that after about 130 years in the Delta, the striped bass “starts to be fairly native to me.”
But the biggest problem, Richards said, is that everyone should be taking responsibility for their part in the Delta’s decline. Everyone should be prepared to take a hit.
Instead, this has been painted as “a striped bass problem, and you guys (fishermen) are going to have to take it on the chin and everybody else will figure it out later,” Richards said. “Not one person for or against is able to say that’s really going to solve the problem. That’s not appropriate in my mind. That’s not fair.”
The Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, which represents south-Valley growers who supported changing striper limits, warned that “crucial decisions such as this are going to need to be made, if the state is going to reverse the decline in (the) Delta and achieve the coequal goals envisioned in the Delta Reform Act of 2009.”
The issue will now be “forced back before the courts,” the group said.
Fish and Game Director Chuck Bonham made it clear before Thursday’s vote that these kind of threats are common enough.
“I have a working assumption,” he told commissioners, “which is all of our decisions involve someone threatening to sue us, regardless of the subject matter.”
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