Mojave River Hatchery raceway

Bacterial Outbreak at CDFW Hatcheries Temporarily Halts Fish Stocking in Southern California

Several California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) fish hatchery facilities in the eastern Sierra and Southern California are battling a bacterial outbreak that has the potential to cause significant losses to both hatchery and wild fish populations. The outbreak of Lactococcus garvieae, which is similar to streptococcus, has sickened fish at the Mojave River Hatchery and has been detected at both the Black Rock and Fish Springs hatcheries. A fourth CDFW hatchery, Hot Creek Hatchery, was originally quarantined out of caution but after testing that quarantine has been lifted.

The L. garvieae bacteria has never before been detected in fish in California, and CDFW must take a cautious and careful approach to ensure the protection of the state’s aquatic resources – fish, hatchery facilities and public waterways. Infected fish can show symptoms including bulging eyes, lethargic or erratic swimming and increased mortality, or be asymptomatic and show no signs of infection depending on a several factors including water temperature and stress. Fish-to-human transmission of this bacteria is rare and unlikely.

Fish stocking has temporarily been halted from the facilities under quarantine while hatchery staff treats the affected fish populations and takes measures to prevent the spread of the bacteria. Planting will resume when fish have recovered from the infections and fisheries pathologists have determined that they no longer present a threat to the environment.

“This is a challenge for our hatcheries because the bacteria is previously unknown in California, and we don’t have tried-and-true strategies on hand to combat it,” said Jay Rowan, environmental program manager for CDFW’s Hatchery Production and Fish Health Laboratory. “A successful approach will have three components: Treating the affected fish at the hatcheries, finding the origin of the outbreak, and planning ahead to contain and prevent the spread of the bacteria. Unfortunately, we may be in for a long battle here, which means there will not be a lot of fish plants in the near future in the eastern Sierra and Southern California. I wish we could give anglers a target date for when we think we can start planting again, but it’s all up to how fast and how well the fish respond to the treatments.”

Current treatment measures at the hatcheries include keeping water temperatures low, reducing stress due to crowding and other factors, introducing antibiotic medication and special diet in order to assist the fish in fighting off the infection. CDFW is currently investigating the source of the outbreak. For additional information, please see CDFW’s frequently asked questions about the L. garvieae outbreak.

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Media Contacts:
Jay Rowan, CDFW Hatchery Program, (916) 212-3164
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169

Klamath River

Chinook Salmon Recreational Season to Open July 1 on Portions of Klamath and Trinity Rivers

Emergency fishing regulations for the spring Chinook salmon fishery in the Klamath River Basin have been extended and fall Chinook salmon quota and fishery regulations were adopted by the California Fish and Game Commission during their May teleconference meeting. Please note that the regulation changes are currently awaiting approval from the Office of Administrative Law. These regulations are in place because spring Chinook salmon are a candidate species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) and currently under status review for potential CESA listing.

The spring Chinook salmon fishery on the lower Klamath River (downstream of the Highway 96 bridge at Weitchpec) and Trinity River (upstream of the confluence of the South Fork Trinity River) will open July 1 and run through Aug. 14 on the Klamath River and through Aug. 31 on the Trinity River. The daily bag limit has been set to one Chinook salmon (no size restrictions), and the possession limit set at two Chinook salmon.

The fall Chinook salmon fishery in the Klamath River will open Aug. 15, and in the Trinity River, the fall Chinook salmon season begins Sept. 1. The Klamath-Trinity basin in-river quota is 1,296 adult fall Chinook salmon for 2020.

Fall Chinook salmon regulations on length have changed since 2019, with the adult size now being greater than 23 inches total length (previously 22 inches). Bag limits will remain the same as 2019, with a two-fish daily bag limit, with no more than one fish over 23 inches (such as one adult and one jack). The possession limit remains the same at six fish, with no more than three fish over 23 inches (effectively three daily bag limits).

Additionally, the brown trout bag and possession limits have doubled; increased to 10 fish per day and 20 fish in possession throughout the basin.

The in-river recreational adult fall Chinook salmon quota is divided among four sectors in the Klamath River basin:

KLAMATH RIVER

  1. 3,500 feet downstream of Iron Gate Dam downstream to the Highway 96 bridge – 220 fish.
  2. Highway 96 bridge downstream to the mouth of the Klamath River – 648 fish.
    • There is a sub-area closure at the mouth of the Klamath River when 15 percent of the basin allocation has been harvested – 194 fish harvested below the Highway 101 bridge triggers this closure.

TRINITY RIVER

  1. Old Lewiston Bridge to Highway 299 West bridge at Cedar Flat – 214 fish.
  2. Denny Road bridge downstream to the confluence with Klamath River – 214 fish.

Please see the 2020-2021 California Freshwater Sportfishing Regulations and 2020-2021 California Supplement Sport Fishing Regulations for more information. Additionally, anglers can obtain information on Klamath Basin regulations and fall Chinook salmon quota updates by calling the Klamath-Trinity fishing hotline at (800) 564-6479.

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Media Contacts:
Dan Troxel, CDFW Northern Region, (707) 496-0869

Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 215-3858
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

California Fish and Game Commission Holds June Meeting Remotely

At its June remote meeting, the California Fish and Game Commission took action on a number of issues affecting California’s natural resources. The following are just a few items of interest from this week’s meeting.

The Commission acknowledged the sesquicentennial of the beginnings of the Commission and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). Staff had long been preparing celebratory activities throughout the year, but due to the global pandemic, those events were canceled. A video was shared at the Commission to honor the past 150 years of protecting and conserving fish and wildlife in the state.

After conversations with the petitioner and other stakeholders, the Commission continued to its August meeting the consideration and potential action on the petition to determine whether listing western Joshua tree under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) may be warranted.

The Commission and CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division David Bess announced Adam Kook as 2019 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year. Kook is a Deputy District Attorney in Fresno County District Attorney’s Office.

The Commission voted unanimously to notify the public of its intent to amend inland sport fishing regulations. The simplification of statewide inland fishing comes after immense effort by CDFW Fisheries Branch to clarify overlapping and often confusing regulations.

The Commission adopted commercial Pacific herring eggs on kelp regulations to implement the Pacific Herring Fishery Management Plan.

The Commission received CDFW’s evaluation of the petition submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network to list the Pacific leatherback sea turtle as endangered pursuant to CESA. The Commission will consider the petition, CDFW’s evaluation and public input at its August meeting to determine if it will accept the petition for consideration.

Given the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting budget gap in California, the Commission agreed that the remainder of this year’s meetings will be held via webinar and teleconference.

Commission President Eric Sklar, Commission Vice President Samantha Murray and Commissioner Peter Silva participated in the meeting. Commissioners Jacque Hostler-Carmesin and Russell Burns were absent.

The full Commission agenda for this meeting along with supporting information is available at fgc.ca.gov. An archived audio file will be available in coming days. The next meeting of the full Commission is scheduled for Aug. 19-20, 2020.

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The California Fish and Game Commission was the first wildlife conservation agency in the United States, predating even the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries. There is often confusion about the distinction between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Commission. In the most basic terms, CDFW implements and enforces the regulations set by the Commission, as well as provides biological data and expertise to inform the Commission’s decision-making process.

Fresno Deputy District Attorney Named 2019 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year

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Fresno County Deputy District Attorney Adam Kook has been named the 2019 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year by the California Fish and Game Commission, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced.

The California Fish and Game Commission recognizes a Wildlife Prosecutor each year. This award honors a courtroom champion of California’s fish, wildlife and natural resources, a person who tirelessly prosecutes fish, wildlife, natural resource and environmental crimes in California courts.

“Today it is my privilege to honor a wildlife crimes prosecutor who goes above and beyond the call of duty, case after case, and is one of our best partners in fighting poaching and pollution crimes,” said Eric Sklar, president of the Commission. “I would like to thank Fresno Deputy District Attorney Adam Kook for his tireless work in protecting our state’s fish and wildlife through various criminal justice channels including prosecution, education and legislation.”

“CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division is grateful for Deputy District Attorney Kook’s service, exceptional effort and leadership on poaching and environmental crime prosecutions,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “His insistence on elevating these crimes to a higher level of importance, and his unwavering advocacy for our natural resources, are key to establishing a precedent that serious poaching offenses will not be tolerated.”

Kook is passionate about seeking justice for the many environmental cases he handles each year in Fresno County. He works collaboratively with local wildlife officers and actively seeks their input when preparing his cases for court. Some examples of cases routinely handled by Kook include wildlife trafficking violations, hunter casualty investigations, restricted species violations, unlawful streambed alterations, pollution violations, illegal poaching of big game, weapons violations associated with the illegal taking of wildlife, wildlife decoy crimes, and extreme over limit violations involving salmon and other sport fish.

During 2019, Kook secured numerous hunting and fishing license revocations on serious poachers ranging from six months to lifetime bans. The cases involved a variety of wildlife species including deer, bear, pig and non-game mammals such as bobcat. Kook understands taking away a lawbreaker’s privilege to hunt and fish sends a message to the community and makes it much easier for wildlife officers to investigate future crimes associated with those individuals.

During this last year, Kook has also put an emphasis on tougher sentences for repeat offenders. He has created a sentencing structure that holds defendants accountable by having them enter pleas, pay fines to directly benefit fish and wildlife and perform community service when appropriate.

As part of the selection committee, CDFW is a key partner in recognizing the annual Prosecutor of the Year. Wildlife officers within CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division also provide nominations to the committee for consideration in the selection process.

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Media Contacts:
Lt. Mark Ghosoph, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (559) 593-8664

Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 849-1714
Melissa Miller-Henson, California Fish and Game Commission, (916) 208-4447

Hatchery truck planting salmon smolts

CDFW Hatcheries Complete Release of 20 Million Young Salmon

Hatcheries operated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) in the Central Valley just completed the final release of young Chinook salmon raised this year. More than 20 million young salmon, called smolts, raised in four state-run hatcheries were released in various locations throughout the Sacramento and San Joaquin River systems, the Delta, San Pablo Bay and into a coastal net pen. These fish will return as adults to Central Valley tributaries to spawn in two to five years. They will provide a bulk of the commercial and sport catch of Chinook salmon off the California coast. Similarly, annual returns of hatchery reared salmon provide a large portion of the in-river sport fishing catch of Chinook salmon.

“This year was especially challenging with the restrictions involved due to COVID-19,” said Colin Purdy. “But rearing, tagging and releasing these young salmon was vital and essential to the future of our Chinook salmon stocks in the Central Valley. The whole process started last fall when eggs were taken at the hatcheries.”

In 2019, an estimated 271,697 Chinook salmon were harvested off the California coast by commercial fishermen, while approximately 88,464 were caught by recreational anglers and inland river fishermen reeled in more than 28,000. The four Central Valley hatcheries operated by CDFW, and Coleman National Fish Hatchery operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, produced the bulk of the 2019 harvest. California’s commercial and recreational salmon fishery is estimated to generate more than $500 million in annual income.

Feather River Hatchery produced 6.4 million fall-run Chinook salmon and 1.75 million spring-run Chinook salmon. Nimbus Fish Hatchery produced 4.4 million fall-run Chinook salmon and Merced River Hatchery produced 1.1 million fall-run Chinook salmon. Mokelumne River Hatchery produced 4.3 million fall-run Chinook salmon for their mitigation program, and an additional 3 million (also fall-run) for the Commercial Salmon Trollers Enhancement and Restoration Program.

Once the hatcheries rear the young salmon, the second phase of CDFW’s work is to tag a defined portion of the total production with tiny coded wire tags to allow scientist to track their eventual contribution to sport and commercial fisheries and their return rates. The last stage is releasing them in a variety of locations and in a manner that balances maximum survival for commercial and recreational fisheries and protection of genetic fitness to ensure long-term survival of the species. Releases take place at various locations along their home rivers, downstream in the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, and into net pens in San Pablo Bay or along the coast.

Giant tanker trucks specially modified to carry salmon smolts are used to release millions of smolts from late February until June. They deliver hundreds of thousands of smolts weekly, via more than 50 individual releases. In most cases three to five truckloads of smolts are delivered during each release. The Feather River Hatchery routinely releases smolts into San Pablo Bay, a 250-mile roundtrip, while the longest run is from Mokelumne Hatchery to Monterey, at 340 miles.

“The coordination and logistics of spawning, rearing, tagging, transporting and releasing millions of smolts is a challenging job under normal circumstances,” Purdy said. “More than 100 employees, from fish pathologists to hatchery managers, staff and truck drivers, have to be scheduled throughout the cycle, well in advance of final release of fish. In light of this year’s rapidly evolving conditions and challenges, the completion of our 2020 releases is an especially sweet success.”

Hatchery workers typically have a wide range of job skills, making it possible to keep operations running even though hiring, training and supervising new workers during the last few months was not possible.

Each of CDFW hatcheries receives operational funding from various water managers, utility districts and water districts to provide mitigation for habitat lost due to dams. In addition, more than $250,000 in funding was provided by the commercial salmon industry to help raise 3 million smolts to benefit commercial ocean salmon fisheries.

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Media Contacts:
Colin Purdy, CDFW Fisheries Branch, (916) 358-2943
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169