Category Archives: California Endangered Species Act

CDFW Approves Yolo Habitat Conservation Plan and Natural Community Conservation Plan

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has approved the Yolo Habitat Conservation Plan and Natural Community Conservation Plan (HCP/NCCP). CDFW’s NCCP program takes a broad-based ecosystem approach to planning for the protection and perpetuation of biological diversity. It is the state-level complement to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s HCP program. The issuance of an NCCP permit ensures regional protection of plants, animals and their habitats, while allowing compatible and appropriate economic activity.

The Yolo HCP/NCCP is the 16th NCCP permit issued by CDFW since the original NCCP Act was created in 1991, and is the third NCCP approved in northern California. Altogether, the 16 permitted NCCPs will permanently conserve over one million acres in California. The Yolo HCP/NCCP alone will conserve more than 32,000 acres of habitat for 12 covered species, including Swainson’s hawk (state threatened), giant garter snake (state and federally threatened) and the tricolored blackbird (which the Fish and Game Commission recently voted to list as state threatened).

The Yolo HCP/NCCP is also the first NCCP to focus on conserving working landscapes (primarily agriculture) to meet species conservation needs. The approved HCP/NCCP will allow for streamlined species permitting at the local level by Yolo County, City of Davis, City of West Sacramento, City of Winters and City of Woodland for infrastructure and development activities that are consistent with the plan.

The final Yolo HCP/NCCP is posted online at www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/planning/nccp/plans/yolo.

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Media Contacts: 
Jennifer Nguyen, CDFW North Central Region, (916) 365-5570 
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988 

Commission Accepts Listing Petition; Requires Closure of Some Recreational Fishing in Klamath Basin

At its February 2019 meeting in Sacramento, the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) took action on a number of issues affecting California’s natural resources.

The Commission accepted a petition to list Upper Klamath-Trinity River Spring Chinook Salmon as endangered, setting into motion a status review to be completed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

The petitioners, the Karuk Tribe and Salmon River Restoration Council, submitted information suggesting declining population trends and a low abundance, making this stock of salmon vulnerable to extinction. The Commission action results in Spring Chinook Salmon being designated as a Candidate Species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA), which provides Candidate Species the same protections as species listed as endangered and threatened under CESA.

CDFW also requested the Commission adopt emergency fishing regulations necessary to reconcile them with the CESA protections. CDFW will also be in consultation with federal regulatory bodies concerning ocean fishing regulations.

Acceptance of the petition triggers a one-year status review by CDFW to determine if a CESA listing by the Commission may be warranted. CDFW, after review of the best scientific information available, will make a recommendation to the Commission on whether to list Spring Chinook Salmon as either endangered or threatened, or that listing is not warranted at this time.

The following inland salmon fishing closures were approved by the Commission through the emergency regulations:

  1. Klamath River main stem from the mouth of the river to Iron Gate dam. Closed to salmon fishing from the anticipated effective date of February 22 (subject to approval from the Office of Administrative Law (OAL)) to August 14.
  2. Trinity River main stem from its confluence to the Highway 299 Bridge at Cedar Flat. Closed to salmon fishing from the anticipated effective date of February 22 (subject to OAL approval) to August 31.
  3. Trinity River main stem from upstream of the Highway 299 Bridge at Cedar Flat to Old Lewiston Bridge. Closed to salmon fishing from the anticipated effective date of February 22 (subject to OAL approval) to October 15.

Fishing for Upper Klamath-Trinity River Fall Chinook Salmon will be allowed in these areas after the closure dates listed above. Quotas and bag and possession limits for Fall Chinook Salmon will be adopted by the Commission in May of this year. Steelhead fishing will be allowed year-round with normal bag and possession limits.

Along with its adoption of the emergency regulations, the Commission also directed CDFW to work with stakeholders, including affected counties, fishing organizations, Tribes and conservation groups, to investigate options to allow some Spring Chinook Salmon fishing in 2019. Under Section of 2084 of Fish and Game Code, the Commission can consider hook-and-line recreational fishing on a Candidate Species. CDFW will present the results of that stakeholder collaboration and potential options using Section 2084 at the Commission’s next public meeting, which will be held April 17 in Santa Monica.

The public may keep track of the quota status of open and closed sections of the Klamath and Trinity rivers by calling the information hotline at (800) 564-6479.

Additional information can be found in the “2018-2019 California Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations” and the “2018-2019 California Supplement Sport Fishing Regulations.”

The Commission also voted to re-elect Commissioner Eric Sklar as president and Commissioner Jacque Hostler-Carmesin as vice president. In addition to Sklar and Hostler-Carmesin, Commissioners Russell Burns and Peter Silva were present. One seat is vacant.

The full Commission agenda, supporting information and a schedule of upcoming meetings are available at www.fgc.ca.gov. An archived video will also be available in coming days.

Media Contacts:
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169
Kevin Shaffer, CDFW Fisheries Branch, (916) 327-8841

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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.

 

 

 

 

Attorney General Becerra and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Issue Legal Advisory on Migratory Bird Treaty Act

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today jointly released a legal advisory regarding the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and California’s protections for migratory birds. The advisory affirms that despite any reinterpretation of the MBTA by the federal government, California law continues to provide robust protections for birds, including the prohibition on incidental take of migratory birds.

The advisory – and a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Becerra as part of a multistate coalition in September 2018 – follows a decision by the federal government to roll back protections under the MBTA. The MBTA protects more than 1,000 native U.S. species of birds, including the bald eagle, America’s national bird, and other bird species that were near extinction before MBTA protections were put in place in 1918.

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Media Contacts:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 212-7352
Press Office for Attorney General Becerra, (916) 210-6000

 

California Sea Otter Numbers Take a Slight Dip From Last Year, but Average Count Exceeds 3,090 for Third Consecutive Year

Southern sea otter numbers have declined off the coast of California since peaking in 2016, but the average population count remains above 3,090 for the third consecutive year. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southern Sea Otter Recovery Plan, the population average count would have to exceed 3,090 for three consecutive years for southern sea otters to be considered for delisting under the Endangered Species Act.

Despite the recent dip in numbers, the population average count this year has reached this three-year threshold.

According to data just released by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), this year’s average count of 3,128 was 58 sea otters lower than the 2017 survey. Southern sea otters, Enhydra lutris nereis, are designated as threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

“Reaching this threshold is a milestone in southern sea otter recovery, but it will be important to review all factors influencing the population to determine whether or not delisting is appropriate using the best available science,” said Lilian Carswell, southern sea otter recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “For the southern sea otter, those factors include ongoing threats such as shark bite mortality, lack of range expansion, and changes in prey.”

In part, this year’s dip reflects a 2.2 percent decrease in the three-year average count of the sea otter’s mainland population, which stretches from about Point Año Nuevo in San Mateo County to a few kilometers west of Gaviota State Beach in Santa Barbara County. In contrast, the small sea otter population at San Nicolas Island continues to increase.

“Surface kelp canopies were abundant this year within the otter’s mainland range compared to last year when they were very sparse,” said Brian Hatfield, the USGS wildlife biologist coordinating the annual range-wide survey. “This may have influenced sea otter distribution and contributed to the higher count in the center of their range.”

Scientists from CDFW, USGS and the Monterey Bay Aquarium have conducted this range-wide census of southern sea otter populations every year since the 1980s, except for 2011, when poor weather conditions prevented completion of the field research. Researchers compute the annual population index and evaluate population trends, providing the USFWS and other resource agencies with insight into southern sea otter abundance and distribution.

The mainland population of sea otters was largest in the central part of the species’ range, which is between Seaside and Cayucos; it increased slightly in the southern part of the range. North of the central region, however, the five-year trend in sea otter populations continued to drop. Changes at the range ends have implications for the long-term outlook for sea otter recovery.

“We continue to recover high numbers of shark-bitten sea otters along the northern and southern ends of the range. These are the same areas we’ve documented a decrease in abundance. This trend is concerning and is likely impacting population expansion and recovery,” said Mike Harris, senior environmental scientist with CDFW.

In addition to the sea otter population along the mainland California coast, USGS and partners also survey the sea otters at San Nicolas Island in the Southern California Bight. This population, established by introducing sea otters back into the area in the late 1980s, struggled at low numbers through the 1990s. However, over the last decade, the population has grown rapidly at an average rate of about 10 percent per year.

The sea otter survey and stranding programs are just one part of a larger research program investigating sea otters and their role as predators in coastal ecosystems. As a “keystone” species, sea otters can give scientists clues on the health of Pacific nearshore ecosystems, which support diverse wildlife species and provide economic support for coastal communities. To keep a finger on the pulse of sea otter populations, USGS researchers monitor changes in the kelp forest ecosystems that provide sea otters with suitable resting and feeding habitat. USGS also collaborates with CDFW and the Monterey Bay Aquarium in running a sea otter stranding network. The findings from these coordinated efforts inform and support effective management of sea otter populations to guide them toward recovery.

Survey Methodology

  • The annual population index is calculated from visual surveys conducted via telescope observations from shore and via low-flying aircraft along the California coastline by researchers, students and volunteers from CDFW’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response, Monterey Bay Aquarium, USGS, UCSC, USFWS and the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
  • This year, the surveyed coastline spanned from Pillar Point in San Mateo County, south to Rincon Point near the Santa Barbara/Ventura County line, and included San Nicolas Island.

About the Sea Otter

  • Sea otters were presumed extinct in California after the fur trade years, but they were rediscovered in the 1930s, when about 50 animals were documented near Bixby Creek north of Big Sur.
  • Sea otters are considered a keystone species of rocky sub-tidal ecosystems because they prey on sea urchins that, if left unchecked, can decimate kelp beds.
  • Scientists also study sea otters as an indicator of nearshore ecosystem health, since sea otters feed and live near the coast and often are the first predators exposed to pollutants and pathogens washed down from coastlands, such as the microbial toxin microcystin.
  • The public can report sightings of stranded sea otters to institutions listed on this webpage.

More detailed survey results and maps are available in the full report “Spring 2018 California Sea Otter Census Results,” which is available online.

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Media Contacts:
Steve Gonzalez, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, (916) 715-9072
Michael Harris, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, (805) 772-1135
Ashley McConnell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (805) 320-6225
Robyn Gerstenslager
, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (805) 701-5751

 

California Fish and Game Commission Meets in Fortuna

At its August 2018 meeting in Fortuna, the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) took action on a number of issues affecting California’s natural resources. The following are just a few items of interest from the meeting.FGC logo

Commission President Eric Sklar, Commissioner Jacque Hostler-Carmesin and Commissioner Peter Silva were present. Commission Vice President Anthony Williams and Commissioner Russell Burns were absent.

In response to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) findings of declining density and poor ocean conditions, in December 2017, the Commission adopted regulations to close the recreational abalone fishery for the 2018 season. Unfortunately, ocean conditions are not improving for California’s red abalone, and populations continue to decline due to severe starvation conditions. Consequently, on Aug. 22, the Commission voted unanimously to authorize publication of notice of intent to amend regulations to extend the fishery closure sunset date for the recreational red abalone fishery another two years (through April 2021). They will take action on whether or not to extend the closure the season at their December meeting.

On Aug. 23, The Commission voted unanimously to list the Humboldt marten as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act.

The Commission also received an update from CDFW regarding cutting-edge rehabilitation techniques being utilized on wildlife severely burned in wildfires. Typically wildlife finds ways to flee from wildfire and CDFW does not anticipate large scale population declines associated with the fires. However, some animals have been deemed suitable for rehabilitation and have been taken in for treatment. Thus far, three bears and one mountain lion have been treated for burns with sterilized tilapia skin. CDFW released a time-lapse video of one of the bears undergoing the treatment.

The full Commission summary and supporting information can be found at www.fgc.ca.gov. An archived video will soon be available.

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 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.

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Media Contact:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937