Photo from California DFG website
The striped bass has been an important Northern California fishery for over a century. But since the beginning of massive water exports from the Delta in the 1980s the population has been seriously reduced – along with the historic chinook salmon runs and a number of native Delta species.
Just as the Striped bass in California were showing signs of recovery, the California Department of Fish and Game has proposed new regulations that include...
- Increasing the daily limit from two stripers to six stripers
- Lower the minimum size limit from 18” to 12”
- Establish a South Delta catch limit of FORTY fish per day
- Allow taking in a number of coastal rivers south of SF Bay that have previously been off limits
If this sounds like a plan to decimate the striped bass fishery, it is. Why?
The problem is the Endangered Species Act, Delta water pumping and the greed of powerful southern agriculture interests.
The ESA has mandated protection of certain Delta species... notably the chinook salmon and the delta smelt. This resulted in curtailing water exports from the Delta, which reduced the amount of cheap water being shipped south to irrigate the crops of agribusiness in the San Joaquin Valley.
These agribusiness interests, operating under the benign sounding name of the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, brought suit in Federal court claiming that the reduction in these now endangered species was not due to the 6,633,000 acre feet of being exported out of the Delta system, but was due to the predations of the striped bass – an introduced species that would not be protected under the ESA in California. The fact that the striped bass and other Delta species existed side by side without problems until massive water exports began and that there is almost no scientific data to link striped bass to reduction in native Delta species did not cloud their thinking in the least.
NOTE: To provide a scale for comparison, the 2011 Delta water exports would flood the entire surface of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (10,555 square miles) with a foot of water...
In short, the court ordered the DFG to prepare a 'management plan' that would redress this striped bass “problem”. The DFG responded with it's new proposal in November of 2011. Biology had nuthin' to do with it...
Here are some facts about fish endangered by the Delta pumps feeding the California and Central Valley Water Projects...
The annual export total, including water diverted by the Contra Costa Canal and North Bay Aqueduct, was 6,633,000 acre-feet in 2011 – 163,000 acre-feet more than the previous record of 6,470,000 acre-feet set in 2005, according to DWR data. The annual export total, excluding water diverted by the Contra Costa Canal and North Bay Aqueduct, was 6,520,000 acre-feet in 2011 – 217,000 acre-feet more than the previous record of 6,303,000 acre-feet set in 2005.
“One of the reasons for the record-setting pumping is that much of the water this year went to refill the underground Kern Water Bank, largely controlled by billionaire farmer Stewart Resnick, and to the smaller Diamond Valley reservoir, which serves Southern California,” according to Mike Taugher of the Contra Costa Times. (http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_19014459)
Ironically, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California offered water at discount prices in 2011, since southern California reservoirs largely filled.
'Southern California’s water wholesaler is offering up cut-rate surplus supplies for the first time since 2007, but few local providers can buy in because they are short on storage space,...' according to an article by Janet Zimmerman in the Riverside Press-Enterprise on July 10. (http://www.pe.com/localnews/stories/PE_News_Local_D_surplus11.3abcf4c.html)
The record pumping from the Delta – used to fill the Stewart Resnick-controlled Kern Water Bank and southern California reservoirs – resulted in a huge, unprecedented fish kill at the Delta pumps in 2011. Agency staff “salvaged” a total of 11,158,025 fish in the Delta water pumping facilities between January 1 and September 7, 2011 alone.
A horrific 8,985,009 Sacramento splittail, the largest number ever recorded, were salvaged during this period, according to DFG data. The previous record salvage number for the splittail, a native minnow found only in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River system, was 5.5 million in 2006.
The fish “salvaged” at the “death pumps” of the state and federal water projects also include hundreds of thousands of threadfin shad, striped bass, American shad, white catfish and other species. DFG data reveals that 742,850 threadfin shad, 514,921 American shad, 496,601 striped bass and 100,373 white catfish were “salvaged” between January 1 and September 7 of this year.
Agency staff also “salvaged” 35,560 Sacramento River spring run and fall run chinooks, 1,642 Central Valley steelhead and 14 green sturgeon in the project facilities during the same period.
While no comprehensive studies have been conducted on how many of the salvaged fish survive, fish advocates believe that the majority of many species perish during and after the salvage process.
Although the salvage counts are certainly alarming, the overall loss of fish in and around the State Water Project and Central Valley Project facilities is believed to be much greater than the salvage counts. The actual loss could be 5 to 10 times the salvage numbers, according to “A Review of Delta Fish Population Losses from Pumping Operations in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta,” prepared by Larry Walker Associates in January 2010 for the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District – Facts researched and assembled by Mr. Dan Blanton
More to come on the latest in sanity of California game management and water policy.