DFG Looks Back on Notable Accomplishments of 2010

Warden Patrick Foy (916) 651-2084

Kyle Orr, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8958

From nuisance black bears and increasing salmon numbers to automated license sales and poaching arrests, 2010 was a busy year for the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG). A popular new reality show airing on the National Geographic Channel, “Wild Justice,” is capturing some of the department’s doings, but far more happens behind the scenes.

“DFG’s most valuable resource has always been our dedicated employees,” said DFG Director John McCamman. “In 2010, we proved once again what can be achieved when a group of intelligent, committed people work together to accomplish our mission of managing the state’s diverse fish, wildlife and plant resources, and the habitats upon which they depend, for their ecological values and for their use and enjoyment by the public.”

Following are some of the highlights of DFG’s year:

  1. Successful Redesign of California’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). In 2010, the Fish and Game Commission approved the third of five MPA redesign plans covering existing MPAs along California’s 1,100 miles of coastline. The new MPAs, which were mapped out with the involvement of local residents in each region, are now in effect along the central coast and north central coast, and will go into effect this year in the south coast. Efforts will continue in 2011 with the expected approval of a plan for the north coast and the start of the planning process for MPAs in the San Francisco Bay.
  2. An Increasing Focus on Renewable Energy. Since 2008, California state agencies have been striving to reduce California’s carbon footprint by increasing the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), primarily through the development of wind and solar energy sources. In 2010, DFG worked with federal, state and local agencies to help process permits for nine RPS solar thermal projects in Kern, Riverside, San Bernardino and Imperial counties. When completed, these projects will add a total of 4,142 megawatts of renewable energy capacity to the state’s portfolio.
  3. Acres of Land Conserved. Approximately 2,900 acres of wildlife habitat were conserved by DFG in 2010 through lands acquired in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Board. These habitats included interior wetlands, coastal sage scrub, riparian habitats and acres acquired specifically to benefit threatened and endangered species.
  4. Debut of the Automated License Data System (ALDS). In the fall, DFG launched a real-time automated system for purchasing hunting and fishing licenses. Especially developed for DFG, the ALDS is now in place at DFG license sales agents throughout the state. Unlike the old paper-based system, ALDS provides customers with immediate access to DFG’s license inventory, eliminating the need to visit a DFG office or wait for high-demand products to be issued via mail. To learn more about ALDS, please see www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing.
  5. Continuing Efforts to Stop Poaching. Highlights included:
    • Sturgeon: In February, wardens arrested two alleged sturgeon poachers, Nikolay Krasnodemskiy, 38, of North Highlands, and Petr Dyachishin, 50, of Citrus Heights, after observing them for a two-week period and witnessing them catch at least 14 sturgeon for resale. A search warrant served at the Dyachishin residence revealed a bucket containing 25 pounds of sturgeon eggs and all the material needed to process the eggs into caviar for sale on the black market.
    • Lobsters: In Orange County, an increase in the number of cases involving black market lobsters had wardens working undercover to investigate illegal sales operations. Though it is legal to fish for lobsters, there is a bag limit and a minimum size. Poachers are typically in possession of huge overlimits and undersized lobsters.
    • Abalone: Though both patrol and prosecution efforts have increased in recent years, abalone poaching has remained a serious problem because the fines for this crime are often far less than the potential profit. In 2010, the passage of AB 708 (Huffman) increased the penalties associated with repeat poaching offenses, thus providing a tool to help prosecutors reverse the growing trend.
  6. Dangerous Pursuits. Thanks in part to the success of “Wild Justice,” the public is becoming more aware that game wardens’ jobs are every bit as dangerous as that of any other cop. “Pursuits are some of the most dangerous types of encounters for any law enforcement agency,” said Nancy Foley, Chief of DFG’s Law Enforcement Division. “It is even more dangerous when the subjects are known to be armed or are fleeing off the paved road on quads or four-wheel drive vehicles.” California game wardens are trained to use whatever resources are necessary to investigate complex wildlife crimes, arrest suspects and ultimately protect the resources that belong to all Californians. For example, in June, wardens identified a suspected member of an international drug trafficking organization who was cultivating marijuana in Tehama County and was suspected of several poaching, pollution and habitat destruction violations. When contacted at the cultivation site, the suspect fled on foot. Warden Brian Boyd released his warden K-9 partner, Phebe, who apprehended the suspect with a bite to the lower leg. In another case in July, an Alameda County warden was checking for fishing activity in an East Bay Regional Park when he heard shots fired. The suspects fled on foot, with the warden and backup officers in pursuit. The chase ended when one suspect accidentally shot himself in the leg with his own pistol.
  7. Addition of New Wardens in the Field. DFG’s enforcement ranks increased in August when 38 wardens graduated from the 2010 academy. The new wardens have been stationed in each of the seven DFG regions in the state.
  8. Black Bears. California’s wild lands are home to more than 40,000 black bears, some of whom stirred up trouble in California’s premier tourist destinations in 2010. Last year, DFG staff logged more than 5,200 hours handling black bear nuisance issues in the Lake Tahoe region alone. DFG staff worked hard to build partnerships with local communities and neighboring states to cooperatively respond to such situations, and to better educate the public about how to appropriately live and recreate in black bear territory. To learn more, please visit the Keep Me Wild website at www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild.
  9. SHARE Program Links Hunters with Landowners. Outdoor recreationists now have a new venue to access some of California’s private lands through the newly established Shared Habitat Alliance for Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Program. Legislation passed in 2010 granted DFG the authority to compensate landowners for allowing public access to their property for diversified recreational use. Within the past year, the DFG has established waterfowl, elk and wild pig hunting opportunities on select private lands, resulting in numerous hunters enjoying quality time afield. An Encouraging Salmon Forecast. The resurgence of the Sacramento River fall-run Chinook salmon is positive news for recreational and commercial salmon anglers. Initial hatchery and in-river counts confirm a substantial increase in the number of returning adult salmon in the fall and winter of 2010. Following two years of record low returns and closed salmon seasons, this was excellent news and provides for the potential for the reintroduction of recreational and commercial seasons. Adaptive planting strategies, regulation reviews and dedicated work by hatcheries to produce 20 million young salmon annually are keys to the DFG’s efforts to restore salmon populations.

“As we close the books on 2010, it is important to strive even harder to build on the accomplishments we have had,” said McCamman. “We’ve set the bar high this year and look forward to a challenging yet prosperous 2011.”