Sen Feinstein’s drought legislation threatens delta fisheries
By Dan Bacher
Below is an urgent action alert and press release from John Beuttler and Dr. David Ostrach of the Allied Fishing Groups. I urge you to contact Senator Feinstein’s office to stop her drought legislation from destroying our Delta fisheries:
The situation is critical. Should the bill pass as currently written, it will be open season on the non-native fish in the Delta and its tributaries. All of us need to engage our members of Congress asking for their opposition to the bills in the House and Senate. A very conservative estimate on the impact this legislation will have on sportfishing-related businesses is some $500 million annually. Letters and emails are needed asking for the amendments proposed by the Allied Fishing Groups to S.2533. Every letter and email counts!
Also attached below, you should find: (1) SF/AFG Media Release on S.2533. Copy and send it to friends and interested parties urging them to contact Senator Feinstein’s WDC office and request that she amend the bill as requested by the Allied Fishing Groups and encourage them to go to our website WWW.AlliedFishingGroups.com for more information.
(2) A copy of the letter we sent to the Senator requesting amendments necessary to save the estuary’s non-native fisheries, for your use and distribution.
(3) For those who would like to send email to Feinstein, the best way to do this is to long onto to her web site at www.feinstein.senate.gov/…. You will find a form on this site to be used for emailing the Senator. Make sure that we using the form to contact all of her district offices and her WDC office by checking the appropriate boxes.
Senator Feinstein’s Legislation Will Destroy Sport Fishing in The San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary
Federal legislation introduced by California Senator Diane Feinstein would destroy the most popular sport fisheries in the Bay-Delta estuary should Congress pass her proposed legislation, S.2533 called “The California Long-Term Provisions for Water Supply and Short-Term Provisions for Emergency Drought Relief Act”.
“The Allied Fishing Groups have urged Senator Feinstein to make urgent amendments to S.2533 to prevent the authorization and funding of programs to remove and eradicate non-native striped bass, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, pan fish and catfish from the California Delta” stated the Allied Fishing Groups Conservation Director John Beuttler.
“S.2533 is a death sentence for sport fishing and will accelerate the collapse of all the fisheries including salmon in Bay-Delta estuary”, commented Beuttler. “It will have devastating financial impacts on the money these fisheries generate for Northern California, the Delta, San Francisco Bay and the State’s economy. A 2013 California Department of Fish & Wildlife report estimates these fisheries generate $500 million annually to the states economy.”
“These fish have been targeted for destruction due to their alleged predation on salmon. However, the peer reviewed science on predation in the estuary clearly demonstrates that predation does not have an impact on salmon abundance”, stated David Ostrach PhD., a fisheries scientist who has worked on the estuary’s fisheries for more than 30 years and is the Allied Fishing Groups Science Advisor. “This stands in sharp contrast to the bogus science on predation that has not been peer reviewed but is oftencited by water districts, and Central Valley agriculture spokesmen.”
According to Ostrach, “Striped bass and salmon coexisted and thrived together in the estuary and its tributaries for more than 100 years. Both populations have collapsed since the 1960’s when the State and Federal water projects began pumping from the Delta adversely altering the estuarine ecosystem. The striped bass fishery has collapsed from an estimated 4,000,000 to less than300,000 adult fish, while several runs of salmon have been placed on the Endangered Species List in an effort to prevent their extinction. Unfortunately, striped bass do not have that protection because they were introduced into the Delta in 1879. Non-native fish are not eligible for protection under the Endangered Species Act.”
“All of California’s fisheries are owned by the public”, commented Beuttler. “They are an important part of our state’s natural resource heritage that our government is legally required to hold in trust for people of the state.”
“Ironically”, he commented, “the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has refused to manage the striped bass fishery due to political pressure from Corporate Agriculture and the Water Districts that supply them water. The agency has found political benefit in supporting the demise of this fishery in conjunction with the state’s agricultural industry which helped write some of the language in S.2533.”
“Losing sport fisheries that generate some $500 million annually can’t be a good thing for the people of this state and especially those who live and work in the Delta,” noted Ostrach. “Senator Feinstein’s legislation is supposed to aide drought stricken California, not drive it into further fiscal and environmental decline.”
“According to some media reports, the state’s agriculture industry set new records of financial income during the drought in 2015 while many of the fisheries of the Bay-Delta estuary fell to their lowest levels in history due to the State’s failure to protect the water needed by the public’s fishery resources”, commented Beuttler.
“The estuary’s non-native fish are being scapegoated to cover up damage the state and federal water projects have caused to the fisheries of the Delta and its tributaries,” said Beuttler. “Since the projects came on line in 1950’s and 60’s, the estuary’s fisheries have been slaughtered by the millions due to the design and operation of the Federal Central Valley Project and the State Water Project. The loss of revenue to the state and the businesses in California since 1963 from the decline of the striped bass fisheryhas cost our economy an estimated $42 million per year for a total of $2.5 billion.*
“The Allied Fishing Groups is working diligently to obtain critical amendments to this legislation to protect the estuary’s fisheries and the business that depend on them. Our requests to the Senator have falling on deaf ears due to the influence of corporate agriculture that has little regard for public’s fishery resources”, noted Beuttler.
For those who share our concern regarding these fisheries please go to our website at www.alliedfishinggroups.com for additional information.”
* Based on information from California Department of Fish and Wildlife Report No. 85-03 – Anadromous Fisheries Branch
Allied Fishing Groups
1360 Neilson St. / Berkeley / CA 94702 / 510.526.4049
Black Bass Action Committee / Bass Classics of Santa Clara / California Fly Fishers Unlimited
California Sportfishing Protection Alliance / California Striped Bass Association / Chico Flyfishers
Delta Fly Fishers / Diablo Valley Fly Fishermen / E.C. Powell Fly Fishers / Fishery Foundation of California Fly Fishers for Conservation / Fly Fishers of Davis / Friends of Butte Creek / Granite Bay Flycasters
Gold Country Fly Fishers / Grizzly Peak Flyfishers / Golden Gate Angling & Casting Club
Golden West Women Flyfishers / Hi’s Tackle Box / ICON Products Inc. / Lock Lomand Live Bait
Mission Peak Fly Anglers / NCC – Federation of Fly Fishers / NORCAL Kayak Anglers
Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Assoc. / Pasadena Casting Club / Peninsula Fly Fishers
Recreational Fishing Alliance / Salmon Restoration Association / Santa Cruz Fly Fisherman
Shasta Fly Fishers / SWC-Federation of Fly Fishers / Striperfest / Tracy Fly Fishers / Tri-Valley Fly Fishers
United Anglers of California / United Pier & Shore Anglers of Calif. / USA Fishing / Wilderness Fly Fishers
The Honorable Diane Feinstein
United State Senate
331 Hart Senate Office Bldg. Washington, D.C. 20510
Re: “California Long-Term Provisions for Water Supply and
Short-Term Provisions for Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2016, S2533”
Dear Senator Diane Feinstein:
The Allied Fishing Groups represents some 40 sportfishing organizations, fishing businesses and thousands of California anglers. We have reviewed the “California Long-Term Provisions for Water Supply and Short-Term Provisions for Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2016”. We appreciate the opportunity to advise you and your staff of critical changes that are necessary if we are to support this 2016 legislation.
We are requesting two essential changes to this legislation:
1) Sport fish should be removed from the invasive species list in Section 203 because they are not invasive species and because their destruction would have unacceptable legal, financial and social impacts. Striped bass, largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, bluegill and catfish were intentionally introduced into California. The financial impact of destroying these sport fish is enormous.
2) Section 204 should have a specific requirement to protect and relocate the non-native fish captured in the Stanislaus River into the California Delta.
Supporting information for these amendments:
While the legislation has laudable provisions to address some of the drought’s impacts and assist collapsing populations of salmon and steelhead, it also has provisions that would cause the unnecessary destruction of publicly owned fishery resourcesdependent upon the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary including striped bass, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. We urge amending this bill to avoid damage to the public’s non-native fisheries that are dependent upon estuary.
Like salmon and steelhead, the fisheries that reside in the estuary and its Delta are held in trust by our government for the public and they must be responsibly managed. In order for your legislation to be successful, it must be based on sound peer reviewed science as far as the estuary and its fisheries are concerned. It should not be based on alleged “science” generated by special interests that has not been peer reviewed by scientific community working on the estuary.
Section 204: Page 113, requires Pilot Projects to Implement CALFED Invasive Species Program. On page 114, line 3 through line 8 requires the removal, reduction or control of a list of invasive species that improperly include striped bass, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappie, bluegill, white and channel catfish. These are not “invasive species”.
These species were intentionally introduced into California to establish sport fisheries to be used by the public to provide recreation and food. Their introduction has resulted in generating significant economic benefits to local, state and national economies for decades. The recent “Economic Analysis” conducted by California State University, Chico of April 2013 for the California Department of Fish & Wildlife found fishing for these species and sturgeon generated annually for 31 California Counties some $270 million in labor income, $49 million in tax generation and $500 million in revenues for Central California Counties. This analysis did not have the necessary scope to estimate the income generated statewide, as San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean income estimates were not included in the analysis.
Section 203: Page 106 should be amended to require the “nonnative predator research and pilot fish removal project” to relocate the fish removed from the Stanislaus River to the California Delta at the mouth of the Middle River using equipment approved by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Background Information on Predation in the Bay-Delta Estuary:
Much propaganda has been used by some Central Valley water interests associated with state and federal water contractors that striped bass and largemouth bass predation is the reason for the decline of the estuary’s salmon and steelhead. However, the peer reviewed science does not support these assertions!
This alleged predation issue was litigated in federal court by “Citizens for a Sustainable Delta” (aka water contractors). The Fresno Federal Court ruled on 7-21-2010 that the peer reviewed science did not support any of the plaintiff’s contentions regarding striped bass predation impacts to salmon, steelhead and delta smelt listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. Also, a Science Panel convened by the California State Water Resources Control Board in the “2010” Proceeding on Delta Flow Criteria” arrived at the same scientific findings based on peer review scientific studies in the estuary and its tributaries. In 2013 an independent panel of national expert fisheries scientists was convened by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife and NOAA Fisheries to evaluate predation impacts in the estuary arrived at the same conclusion.
The removal of non-native fish is absolutely unnecessary, logistically impossible and would open a Pandora’s Box of adverse ecological effects within the estuary ecosystem. The peer reviewed scientific studies on predation in the estuary have consistently found that that striped bass predation does not have an impact on the population levels of any of the species listed under the Endangered Species Act. The efforts detailed in the legislation to eradicate a number of sport fisheries including striped bass, largemouth and smallmouth bass in the estuary are not based on sound peer reviewed science.
The collapse of the striped bass population has paralleled that of runs of listed salmonids and other species that utilize the Bay-Delta estuary. Further reducing its population could have serious unintended consequences for the listed species as well as significant adverse effects on the estuary’s ecology and food web. In the 50 year decline of the striped bass fishery it has collapsed from in excess of three million adults to less than 500,000 adult fish.
We are reminded of the warning from respected fishery scientists in the academic community, including Drs. Peter Moyle and Bill Bennett of U.C. Davis, that striped bass predation on inland silversides plays a significant role in reducing the silverside’s predation on delta smelt eggs. Further degradation of the striped bass fishery could have serious consequences for this listed species as well as significant adverse effects on the estuary’s seriously degraded estuarine ecology.
If healthy salmon and steelhead fisheries are to be restored to California’s Central Valley, we recommend that this bill be amended to require an analysis of the abject failure of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act passed by Congress to realize its objectives to double the runs of Central Valley’s anadromous fisheries which includes striped bass devastated by the federal Central Valley Project. Public Law 102-575 was passed by Congress in 1992.
We would appreciate knowing your decision as soon as possible regarding accepting our proposed amendments. Should you have questions or desire additional information, we would welcome your contacting us.
Thank you for your consideration,
John Beuttler David Ostrach, Ph.D.
Conservation Director AFG Science Advisor AFG
The Allied Fishing Groups are a voice for California’s two million recreational anglers. Currently we represent over 40 sport fishing organizations across the state. Our Mission is to save, protect and restore Northern California’s fisheries and their habitat. Guided by science and our many years of direct experience in fishery management, our Steering Committee is comprised of fishery professionals and dedicated anglers. We work with sport fishing businesses, government and sport fishing organizations to implement practical and lasting solutions to the serious problems facing fisheries and their habitat.