Joint Release of Federal Recovery Plan for Salmon and Steelhead and Conservation Strategy for California’s Ecosystem Restoration Program

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SACRAMENO, Calif. – NOAA Fisheries and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today jointly released two plans to restore populations of salmon and steelhead in California’s Central Valley: NOAA Fisheries’ Chinook Salmon and Steelhead Recovery Plan and CDFW’s Ecosystem Restoration Program (ERP) Conservation Strategy.

The two plans are complementary in that CDFW’s conservation strategy presents a broader framework for restoring aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems throughout the Central Valley, while the federal recovery plan focuses on the recovery of endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, threatened Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon, and threatened Central Valley steelhead.

A shared goal of both plans is to remove these species from federal and state lists of endangered and threatened species. The recovery plan provides a detailed road map for how to reach that goal. It lays out a science-based strategy for recovery and identifies the actions necessary to restore healthy salmon and steelhead populations to the Central Valley.

“Establishing clear priority watersheds, fish populations and actions is essential to achieve recovery,” said Maria Rea, NOAA Fisheries Assistant Regional Administrator for California’s Central Valley Office. “Implementation of this plan will depend on many parties working collaboratively to pool resources, expertise and programs to recover Chinook salmon and steelhead populations that are part of California’s natural heritage.“

Recovery plans required by the Endangered Species Act are guidance documents, not regulatory requirements, and their implementation depends on the voluntary cooperation of multiple stakeholders at the local, regional, state and national levels.

“The Sacramento Valley joins together a world-renowned mosaic of natural abundance: productive farmlands, meandering rivers that provide habitat and feed salmon and steelhead, wildlife refuges and managed wetlands, and cities and rural communities,” said David Guy, President of the Northern California Water Association. “The recovery plan is a positive step forward–through efficient management of the region’s water resources, water suppliers throughout the Sacramento Valley will continue to work with our conservation partners to help implement the recovery plan and improve ecological conditions in the Sacramento River for multiple species and habitat values.”

The ERP conservation strategy was developed by CDFW collaboratively with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries to help guide environmental restoration and establish adaptive management to improve restoration success in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its watershed. The approach of conservation strategy is to restore or mimic ecological processes and to improve aquatic and terrestrial habitats to support stable, self-sustaining populations of diverse and valuable species.

“It is critical we make strategic investments in our natural resources,” said Charlton H. Bonham, Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “The funding of these high-priority restoration projects is not only an example of the coordinated effort between state and federal governments, but an example of California’s continued efforts to minimize the effects of drought on fish and wildlife. Central Valley salmon and steelhead deserve nothing less.

California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr.’s 2014-15 budget provided CDFW with $38 million to implement enhanced salmon monitoring, restore sensitive habitat, improve water infrastructure for wildlife refuges, expand the fisheries restoration grant program, and remove barriers for fish passage. Some of that money will be used on projects recommended by the federal recovery plan.

Dick Pool of the Golden Gate Salmon Association said, “We thank and congratulate the scientists of NOAA Fisheries for their outstanding work in developing the Central Valley Recovery Plan. GGSA and the salmon industry particularly appreciate the fact that the plan includes both short range and long range actions that can reverse the serious salmon and steelhead population declines. GGSA has identified a number of the same projects as needing priority action. We also commend the agency for its diligent efforts to engage the other fishery agencies, the water agencies and the salmon stakeholders in the process. We look forward to assisting in finding ways to get the critical projects implemented.”

The federal recovery plan and state conservation strategy work together as a blueprint of how at-risk species can be restored to sustainable levels.Restoring healthy, viable salmon and steelhead runs will preserve and enhance the commercial, recreational and cultural opportunities for future generations. As the fish populations grow and recover, so too will the economic benefits and long-term fishing opportunities for everyone.

“The Recovery Plan provides a clear framework to better coordinate and align restoration projects in the Delta, the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and their tributaries to achieve greater conservation outcomes,” said Jay Ziegler, Director of External Affairs and Policy for The Nature Conservancy. “We are pleased to see the integration of multiple habitat values in the Plan including the importance of expanding lateral river movements to enhance floodplain habitat and recognition of the importance of variable flow regimes to benefit multiple species.”

The development of a recovery plan is an important part in the successful rebuilding of a species because it incorporates information from a multitude of interested parties including scientific researchers, stakeholders and the general public. Since 2007, NOAA Fisheries has held 14 public workshops, produced a draft for public comment, and met with strategic stakeholders to guide the plan’s development and ensure a comprehensive and useful document.

CDFW will be investing considerable resources in improving water conservation on public wildlife refuges in the Central Valley and protecting important salmon stocks that contribute to the state’s fishery. The department has also recently released a restoration grant solicitation which includes salmon and steelhead watersheds in the Central Valley. The solicitation can be found here. Applications are being accepted until August 12, 2014.

More on the NOAA Fisheries Recovery Plan and the CDFW Ecosystem Restoration Program

Contact:
Jim Milbury, NOAA Fisheries Communications, (562) 980-4006
Clark Blanchard, CDFW Communications, (916) 651-7824

CDFW to Hold Public Meetings on Proposed Low-Flow Closure of the Russian River

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will hold two public meetings to discuss the proposed low-flow closure changes to the Russian River and North Central Coast streams.

The first meeting is Wednesday, July 30 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, 5550 Skylane Blvd., Suite A, in Santa Rosa. The second meeting is Thursday, July 31 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Gualala Community Center, 47950 Center St. in Gualala near the intersection of Center Street and South Highway 1.

A CDFW representative will detail the proposed regulation changes. Following the short presentation, interested parties can make comments and provide input that will help shape CDFW’s final recommendation to the Fish and Game Commission, which CDFW anticipates presenting at the Commission’s meeting in Van Nuys in December.

The Russian River and other North Central Coast streams provide critical life-stage habitat for coastal Chinook salmon, coho salmon and steelhead trout. All three of these species are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). Coho salmon is also listed under the California ESA.

CDFW is preparing regulatory changes for Title 14, Chapter 3, Article 4, section 8, part (b) to add low-flow fish restrictions to the Russian River and base the closure of North Central Coast streams on one or more stream gauges on rivers that are more representative of these North Central Coast streams than the current regulated flows of the Russian River. These proposed regulatory actions are based upon fishery impact concerns that have arisen during the past three years of drought conditions. During the past two winters, salmon entering these streams were forced to congregate into the remaining pools below restricted passage areas, and then were subject to heavy angling pressure. In both years the Russian River and North Central Coast streams have dropped to mere trickles, yet have remained open to fishing till an emergency closure was enacted by the Fish and Game Commission in February 2014. This emergency action expired on April 30, 2014.

The two public meetings are being led by CDFW to solicit public comments regarding the regulatory changes that are proposed to protect these ESA-listed fish while still providing sport fishing opportunities. In addition to these public meetings, individuals and organizations may submit comments in writing. The written comments can be sent by email to ryan.watanabe@wildlife.ca.gov, or by mail addressed to CDFW, Bay Delta Region, Attn: Ryan Watanabe, 5355 B Skylane Drive, Santa Rosa, CA 95403.

 

Media Contacts:
Ryan Watanabe, CDFW Fisheries Branch, (707) 576-2815
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

CDFW and Partners Raid Santa Cruz County Marijuana Grow

Officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and other agencies arrested two suspects, cut down marijuana plants and removed hazardous materials from a Santa Cruz county waterway on July 15.

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Acting on an anonymous tip on the CalTIP line, wildlife officers — with assistance from CAL FIRE, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Department and Santa Cruz County Code Enforcement — raided an illegal marijuana cultivation site in the upper reaches of the south fork of Vicente Creek off Robles Drive near Bonny Doon. The site had been set up on private property without the landowner’s permission and was diverting water from the creek.

Officers arrested two male suspects and cut down and removed 180 fully mature marijuana plants with an approximate value of $360,000. Officers also found and removed several pounds of hashish, fertilizer, dozens of butane canisters used to manufacture concentrated cannabis, and other harmful materials that cause direct damage to the environment of Vicente Creek. CDFW officers conducted a full reclamation of the site.

“These marijuana cultivation sites are not only illegal but the trash left behind causes tremendous damage to the environment,” said CDFW Assistant Chief Brian Naslund. “Our officers are working hard around the state to find and remove these cultivation sites, keep harmful chemicals from entering state waters and ensure public safety.”

Marijuana cultivation is becoming an increasing problem in California as the historic drought wears on.

“Illegal marijuana growers steal substantial amounts of water, exacerbating our severe drought conditions,” said Naslund. “Marijuana plants use six to eight gallons of water per plant, per day, and are a direct hazard to wildlife that eats the plants.”

Law enforcement officials are also concerned that that hikers and walkers could be in danger if they accidentally come across a marijuana cultivation site. Illegal growers often carry weapons.

The suspects were taken into custody and will be charged with multiple violations including streambed alteration, pollution and placement of hazardous materials on the property of another.

The lower Vicente Creek is the southernmost salmon stream in California. It is a historic waterway that supports both anadromous steelhead and endangered Central Coast Coho salmon.

CalTIP (Californians Turn In Poachers and Polluters) is a confidential secret witness program that encourages the public to provide CDFW with factual information leading to the arrest of poachers and polluters. If you witness a poaching or polluting incident or any fish and wildlife violation, or have information about such a violation, please call 1-888-DFG-CALTIP (888-334-2258), 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Media Contact:
Lt. John Nores, CDFW Enforcement, (408) 591-5174
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

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CDFW To Hold Public Workshop on Lead Bullet Ban Implementation

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will hold a public workshop Saturday, July 19 to discuss the implementation of the lead bullet ban. The workshop will be held at the Community Room at City Hall, 777 Cypress Ave. in Redding from 7-8:30p.m.

A CDFW representative will detail a proposed implementation plan, the PowerPoint is available on the CDFW website. Following the short presentation, interested parties can make comments and provide input that will help shape CDFW’s final recommendation to the Fish and Game Commission, which CDFW anticipates presenting at the Commission’s meeting in Sacramento in September.

Last year, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 711 requiring that the Commission adopt a regulation to ban lead ammunition in the state no later than July 1, 2015, with full implementation of the ban to occur no later than July 1, 2019. Governor Brown has directed CDFW and the Commission to work with all interested parties in order to produce a regulation that is least disruptive to the hunting community.

In order to determine what is least disruptive to hunters, CDFW has been reaching out to interested parties this year in a number of ways, including question and answer sessions at sportsmen’s shows, meetings with hunting organizations and now a series of public workshops throughout the state. A public workshop was held in Ventura in April and in Eureka in June. After Redding, planning is underway for workshops later this year in Rancho Cordova (Sacramento area), San Diego, Fresno and Riverside/San Bernardino. In addition, individuals and organizations may email comments to wildlifemgmt@wildlife.ca.gov (please use “Nonlead implementation” in the subject line) or mail hard copy correspondence to:

CDFW, Wildlife Branch
Attn: Nonlead implementation
1812 9th Street
Sacramento, CA 95811

Media Contacts:
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944
Mishele Echelberger, CDFW Northern Region, (530) 225-2313

Yolo County Jury Convicts Sturgeon Poachers

A Yolo County jury convicted a repeat sturgeon poacher and his accomplice of multiple felonies and poaching charges stemming from a 2010 poaching investigation. They were convicted June 19, with sentencing scheduled for Aug. 1.

In Feb. 2010, Nikolay Krasnodemskiy, 41, of North Highlands, and his partner Petr Dyachishin, 54, of Citrus Heights, were observed catching and retaining oversized sturgeon and processing their eggs into caviar. An extensive investigation conducted by California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers from the Delta Bay Enhanced Enforcement Project and the Special Operations Unit proved the two were selling the sturgeon and their eggs on the black market for personal profit. Sale of sturgeon, their parts, or any fish caught with a recreational fishing license is illegal.

Krasnodemskiy and Dyachishin were each convicted of two felonies related to conspiracy, in addition to multiple counts of commercial sales of sturgeon, possession of oversized sturgeon, failure to tag sturgeon and possession of sturgeon over the annual limit.

California’s sturgeon population is on the edge of sustaining a recreational fishery. As a result, sturgeon anglers must adhere to strict size, limit and tagging requirements to help wildlife officers distinguish between honest anglers and poachers, and to help CDFW biologists maintain adequate scientific data on the fishery and protect the larger breeding adults.

“Taking these poachers out of business will help ensure a healthy sturgeon population into the future,” said CDFW Captain David Bess, who participated in the investigation.

Nikolay Krasnodemskiy was the subject of multiple sturgeon poaching investigations including Operation Delta Beluga II in 2005, which culminated in a conviction and revocation of his fishing license. Soon after his fishing license was reinstated in 2009, he became the subject of another sturgeon poaching investigation. By Feb. 2010, wildlife officers had observed him continue his sturgeon poaching activities, including commercial sales.

Wildlife officers will seek a permanent revocation of Krasnodemskiy’s fishing license and forfeiture of all fishing gear seized during the investigation.

CDFW appreciates legitimate sturgeon anglers for their patience with sturgeon tagging and recordkeeping requirements, which were integral to making the case as well as the long-term management of the sturgeon fishery. CDFW also thanks the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office for their dedication and successful prosecution of the case.

Media Contact:
Lt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 508-7095

Sacramento Man Pleads Guilty to Commercial Bobcat Poaching

A Sacramento County man recently pled guilty to multiple criminal charges and was fined for unlawfully trapping dozens of bobcat and fox for commercial purposes in northern California.

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Tracy Lee Shultz, 57, from Courtland was fined $5,000 and forfeited 60 poached bobcat and fox pelts worth almost $15,000 on the commercial market. Schultz ultimately pled guilty to several violations of the Fish and Game Code, including taking bobcat outside of the established season, unlawful capture and confinement of a live mammal, possession of unlawfully taken pelts, knowingly filing false information to obtain bobcat tags and unlawfully taking wildlife for profit or personal gain. He is also prohibited from hunting, fishing, trapping or accompanying anyone on such a trip during his one-year probation.

In November 2012, Lassen County CDFW Warden Nick Buckler received an anonymous tip from a hunter that commercial bobcat traps were being set before the season opened. Warden Buckler started his investigation, during which he spent nearly every day and night of the 70-day season living out in the sage, bitterbrush, and rim-rock of remote Lassen County observing and documenting the trapper.

“Sometimes the smallest bit of information can lead to a large scale investigation,” said Buckler. “I feel lucky to live and work in a county that cares so much about its fish, wildlife and habitats. The illegal commercialization of wildlife is second only to the illegal trade in drugs and guns for worldwide revenue. There will always be people willing to break laws and exploit wildlife to make money.”

Warden Buckler spent three months observing Schultz, documenting his movements, and locating and monitoring his traps in order to obtain sufficient evidence. At one point during the season, Schultz returned to his Sacramento County home for a week leaving a spotted skunk trapped in freezing temperatures. After Sacramento County game wardens relayed that Schultz remained at home for several days, Warden Buckler released the trapped animal unharmed.

On Jan. 31, 2013, two teams of wildlife officers served search warrants on locations in Sacramento and Modoc counties. The two teams seized a large volume of evidence from Schultz, including his ATV, trailer, trapping journal, trapping, skinning and storage equipment, nearly 50 large commercial live traps, and 60 illegally taken bobcat and gray fox pelts.

Trapping bobcat for commercial purposes is legal in California with a season that starts on Nov. 24 of each year. Trappers licensed through CDFW are required to check their traps and remove all captured animals at least once daily. Schultz had about 50 tagged live traps set throughout more than 900 square miles of remote Lassen and Modoc counties. This extensive trapping area made it impossible for Shultz to check each trap daily, and allowed him to trap more area, spend less gas and cheat other trappers who followed the law.

Pursuant to state law, all the furs were sold to a licensed fur dealer and the $14,835 check was held in an account while the case was underway. As part of the conviction, the Lassen County Superior Court judge ordered the money paid to the Lassen County Fish and Game Commission, where it will be used to promote and support lawful hunting and fishing, as well as fund wildlife habitat improvement and restoration in the county.

Many times cases such as this could not be made without the assistance of sportsmen and sportswomen who help wildlife officers by reporting poaching and pollution. It often takes the help of concerned citizens in conjunction with the county district attorney’s office to reach successful outcomes.

“Now more than ever wardens need the assistance of the public to protect our valuable natural resources,” Buckler said. “Hunters, anglers, trappers and citizens can be our eyes and ears on the ground. License plates, descriptions and accurate locations are the best information the public can provide.”

CDFW officers patrol more than 220,000 square miles of ocean and 159,000 square miles of land in California, while the number of wardens has increased in the last few years, California still has the lowest number of wildlife officers per capita in the United States.

If you witness a wildlife crime, you are encouraged to call the 24-hour toll free CalTIP hotline at (888) 334-2258. All calls can be kept anonymous.

Media Contact:
Nick Buckler, CDFW Law Enforcement, (530) 440-6381
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

CDFW Conducts Successful Abalone Checkpoint on the Sonoma County Coast

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers contacted more than 650 abalone divers at a wildlife checkpoint operation north of Jenner on Sunday, May 18. Checkpoints are an effective tool for wardens, who seek to promote safety, education and compliance with law and regulations through education, preventative patrol and enforcement.

All vehicles traveling south on Highway 1 in Sonoma County were screened at the checkpoint. Screening consisted of an introduction and brief questions. Approximately 260 vehicles were directed into the inspection area. Wildlife officers issued 31 citations and several dozen warnings. Violations included overlimits of abalone, undersize abalone, report card violations and alterations, abalone not tagged, abalone meat out of the shell, short fish and several other Fish and Game Code violations.

One diver attempted to throw a tagged but undersized abalone into nearby bushes, but instead threw it into a warden’s truck bed. The loud clanking alerted officers to the attempt.

Media Contact:
Capt. Steve Riske, CDFW Law Enforcement, (707) 838-6930
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

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CDFW Coastal Wardens to Conduct Wildlife Checkpoint

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will be conducting a wildlife checkpoint operation to promote safety, education and compliance with law and regulations.

CDFW law enforcement division will be conducting the inspection on Highway 1, south of Fort Bragg, May 18, 2014, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The wildlife checkpoint is being conducted to protect and conserve fish and wildlife, and to encourage safety and sportsmanship by promoting voluntary compliance with laws, rules and regulations through education, preventative patrol and enforcement.

Abalone enforcement has been one of the top priorities for CDFW for the past several years and have strict size and take limits to protect the resource.

Media Contacts:              
Tiffany Stinson, CDFW Law Enforcement, (707) 824-1260
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

CDFW Trucks Salmon Smolts to the Golden Gate to Help them Avoid Predators

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) biologists and the Commercial Salmon Trollers Advisory Committee are continuing an experimental project to help California’s ocean-bound juvenile salmon, in hopes of increasing survival rates. On April 8, for the third year, CDFW staff will fill a boat with approximately 100,000 young Chinook (called smolts) and move it down the Sacramento River to San Francisco Bay. Upon arrival, the smolts will be released in the Bay, where they will swim into the sea and grow to adulthood before returning upriver to spawn.

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The experimental project is being conducted by CDFW fisheries biologists with the support of the Commercial Salmon Trollers Advisory Committee, which donated the use of the boat, fuel and crew time to help ensure a successful start to the study. They have committed to helping CDFW continue data collection. The fishing vessel Merva W will receive 100,000 smolts into its hold in Rio Vista on the Sacramento River the morning of April 8.

This year’s severe drought has only exacerbated the number of challenges facing salmon smolts migrating downstream. Salmon return to their spawning grounds using their sense of smell. The process, called imprinting, begins before birth as waters flow over the eggs and continues as they grow and make their way to the ocean. Each segment of water on their journey has distinctive chemical cues which they can re-trace to their spawning grounds. Water is circulated through pumps from the Sacramento River into the Merva W ‘s holding tank, where the fish are kept. The hope is that this may improve their ability to find their way back as adults. The trucking process also prevents that smolts from exposure to predators during the journey downstream.

This is the third year of a three-year experimental project to determine if barging improves smolt survival. Data collected over the next few years will be evaluated to determine if these fish had higher survival rates, if more of these fish make it back to the hatchery of origin and how this release strategy differs from others currently being used.

To form a basis of comparison for the experimental project, two other control groups of 100,000 smolts each will be released by trucks in other locations at the same time as the barge release — one under the Golden Gate Bridge and one into the Sacramento River near Rio Vista. All 300,000 fish in this experimental project are implanted with coded wire tags smaller than a tiny piece of pencil lead, which will ultimately enable scientists to tell which of the three groups the returning fish came from — the barge release, or one of the two truck releases.

Data collected from this experiment will help scientists to evaluate the efficiency of barging when compared to other release strategies, as well as to determine which group has better survival rates  and how quickly the fish make it back to their natal hatcheries (improved stray rates).

The city of Rio Vista and the Tiburon Salmon Institute at the Romberg Center are providing access for the transport boat and fish trucks.

Media Contacts:
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944
Bill Smith, Hatchery Manager, (209) 759-3383

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Recreational Ocean Salmon Season to Open South of Horse Mountain on April 5

Media Contacts:
Barry Miller, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 576-2860
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 323-1478Marine sports salmon fishing

The California Fish and Game Commission and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announce the recreational salmon season will open in ocean waters on Saturday, April 5, 2014, from Horse Mountain (40° 05’ 00” N. latitude) south to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Federal fishery biologists estimate roughly 934,000 fall-run Chinook salmon will be in California coastal waters through the summer. Though lower than last year’s estimate, there are still plenty of fish to allow for significant angling opportunities for salmon enthusiasts in all areas off California.

The daily bag limit will remain at two Chinook salmon but the Commission recently took action to change the salmon possession limit. Two daily bag limits are now allowed in possession when on land; however, when on a vessel in ocean waters, no person shall possess or bring ashore more than one daily bag limit.

The minimum size limit is 20 inches total length between Horse Mountain and Point Arena (38° 57’ 30” N. latitude). For areas south of Point Arena, the minimum size limit is 24 inches total length. For anglers fishing north of Point Conception (34° 27’ 00” N. latitude), no more than two single-point, single-shank barbless hooks shall be used and no more than one rod per angler when fishing for salmon or fishing from a boat with salmon on board. In addition, barbless circle hooks are required when fishing with bait by any means other than trolling. The retention of coho salmon is prohibited in all ocean fisheries. For complete ocean salmon regulations in effect during April, please visit CDFW’s ocean salmon webpage at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/oceansalmon.asp or call the Ocean Salmon Regulations Hotline at (707) 576-3429.

Final 2014 ocean salmon regulations will be decided next month by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) during their April 4-10 meeting in Vancouver, Wash. and by the Commission at their April 16-17 meeting in Ventura. Final sport regulations will be published in the CDFW 2014 Supplemental Fishing Regulations booklet available in May at www.dfg.ca.gov/regulations.

Three alternatives are being considered for California’s recreational ocean salmon seasons that will begin on or after May 1. The public is encouraged to comment on any of the proposed alternatives, which can be found at the PFMC website at www.pcouncil.org.

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