First White Abalone Release Marks Major Milestone for Species Facing Extinction

A career dedicated to mollusks isn’t always easy. Sometimes progress can occur at a snail’s pace.

But a team of scientists are close to reaching a significant milestone in their efforts to bring white abalone — a species of sea snail — back from the brink of extinction.

During the week of Nov. 18, thousands of white abalone hatched in a marine lab will be planted in the ocean near Los Angeles and San Diego. It will be the first time that scientists attempt to introduce captive-bred white abalone into the wild.

“It’s thrilling to think that our hard work is going to pay off as far as putting juvenile white abalone in the wild and setting them free,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) co-lead researcher Dr. Laura Rogers-Bennett.

California’s abalone population has been decimated by a combination of commercial overfishing, ocean warming and poor kelp growth. White abalone, sought by divers because of its tender meat, was hit especially hard. The declines resulted in a 1997 ban on all recreational and commercial abalone fishing south of San Francisco, and in 2001 white abalone became the first marine invertebrate to be listed as an endangered species.

It’s been almost two decades since Dr. Rogers-Bennett and her team have found a live juvenile white abalone in the wild.

“Captive breeding might be the only way this population can recover,” she said.

From 1999 to 2004, a team of divers including Dr. Rogers-Bennett and co-lead researcher Ian Taniguchi collected 21 white abalone from the deep reefs in the Channel Islands. Those 21 abalone ultimately led to the production of thousands of offspring at the Bodega Marine Laboratory at University of California, Davis (UC Davis).

CDFW estimates there are only 2,400 wild white abalone living in the ocean off California’s coast. They plan to plant more than 3,000 during the week of Nov. 18.

“It’s a huge milestone, but it’s also just the beginning,” said Taniguchi. “We hope this will be the first of many successful outplants aimed at reestablishing a self-sustaining wild population.”

CDFW is grateful to its many conservation partners for their collaboration on this project including the UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, The Bay Foundation and Aquarium of the Pacific. This project would not have been possible without significant funding provided by NOAA through its Section 6 grant program.

Media Contacts:

Ken Paglia, CDFW Communications, (916) 825-7120

Dr. Laura Rogers-Bennett, Senior Env. Scientist, (707) 875-2035

San Bernardino kangaroo rat

CDFW Seeks Information Related to San Bernardino Kangaroo Rat

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is seeking information relevant to a proposal to list the San Bernardino kangaroo rat (Dipodomys merriami parvus) as an endangered species under the California Endangered Species Act.

In March 2019, the Endangered Habitats League submitted a petition to the California Fish and Game Commission to formally list the San Bernardino kangaroo rat as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. The listing petition and CDFW’s petition evaluation described a variety of threats to the survival of the species in California. These include direct and indirect impacts associated with habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, habitat degradation, small and fragmented subpopulations, loss of ecological processes maintaining habitat suitability, low genetic diversity and climate change. CDFW recommended and the Commission voted to advance the species to candidacy on Aug. 7, 2019. The Commission published findings of this decision on Aug. 23, 2019, triggering a 12-month period during which CDFW will conduct a status review to inform the Commission’s decision on whether to list the species.

As part of the status review process, CDFW is soliciting information from the public regarding the San Bernardino kangaroo rat’s ecology, genetics, life history, distribution, abundance, habitat, the degree and immediacy of threats to reproduction or survival, adequacy of existing management and recommendations for management of the species. Comments, data and other information can be submitted in writing to:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Attn: Scott Osborn
1812 Ninth St.
Sacramento, CA 95811

Comments may also be submitted by email to wildlifemgt@wildlife.ca.gov. If submitting comments by email, please include “SBKR” in the subject heading.

All comments received by Sept. 27, 2019 will be evaluated prior to submittal of the CDFW status review report to the Commission. Receipt of the report will be placed on the agenda for the next available meeting of the Commission after delivery and the report will be made available to the public at that time. Following the receipt of the CDFW report, the Commission will allow a 30-day public comment period prior to taking any action on CDFW’s recommendation.

The listing petition and CDFW’s petition evaluation for the kangaroo rat is available at
https://fgc.ca.gov/cesa#sbkr.

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Media Contacts:
Scott Osborn, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 324-3564
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

California Fish and Game Commission Meets in Sacramento

At its August 2019 meeting in Sacramento, 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 two-day meeting.

The Commission and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division David Bess presented an award to Jessica Brown, who earned the title of 2018 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year. Brown is Supervising City Attorney for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Environmental Justice Unit. As she accepted the award, Brown acknowledged her team of superb prosecutors, all of whom are highly dedicated to the successful prosecution of fish and wildlife cases. Brown, along with her team, has shown steadfast dedication to CDFW’s cases and to protecting and conserving California’s natural resources.

At the Commission meeting Chief Bess also presented the Wildlife Officer of the Year Award to Warden Anastasia Norris for her exceptional efforts to investigate highly technical petroleum pollution cases and guide them to conviction. She took the initiative to become a pipeline and corrosion expert and this has benefitted CDFW in many oil spill cases. Her work on the May 2015 Refugio oil spill in Santa Barbara kept her stationed away from her family for three months. Norris accepted the award with her family present.

The Commission honored Valerie Termini for her service as Executive Director from 2016-2018. Termini was the first ever female Executive Director of the Commission and brought integrity and professionalism to the position. President Eric Sklar presented Termini with a Commission resolution and gift from the commissioners. Termini served as Executive Director until CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham requested she serve in an acting role as CDFW Chief Deputy Director in November, a position to which she was officially appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom in June.

The Commission began the regulatory process to ban possession of live nutria, a large, brown, fur-bearing, aquatic rodent native to South America. CDFW is seeking a regulatory change from the Commission in order to prevent further spread of this persistent invasive species. In California, nutria pose a significant threat as an agricultural pest, a destroyer of critical wetlands needed by native wildlife, and a public safety risk as their destructive burrowing jeopardizes the state’s water delivery and flood control infrastructure. CDFW has a robust detection and eradication effort underway in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in order to limit the invasive rodents’ spread and impact on California’s most important water resource and the heart of the state’s water delivery and infrastructure.

The Commission also determined that listing San Bernardino kangaroo rat as threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species Act may be warranted. This commences a one-year status review of the species and the Commission will make a final decision at a future meeting. During the status review, the San Bernardino kangaroo rat is protected under CESA as a candidate species.

The Commission also directed staff to continue working with CDFW and stakeholders to revise a draft Delta fisheries management policy, including potential revisions to the existing striped bass policy.

President Sklar and Commissioners Russell Burns, Samantha Murray and Peter Silva were present. Commission Vice President Jacque Hostler-Carmesin was absent.

The full Commission agenda for this meeting along with supporting information is available at www.fgc.ca.gov. An archived video will also be available in coming days.

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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.

 

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

Mohave ground squirrel

CDFW Completes Conservation Strategy for Threatened Mohave Ground Squirrel

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has completed its Conservation Strategy for the Mohave Ground Squirrel, a species listed as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act. The 129-page document, which is available on CDFW’s website, summarizes the available scientific information on the species and lays the foundation for its conservation and recovery in California.

The Mohave ground squirrel, Xerospermophilus mohavensis, is a small day-active rodent endemic to the western Mojave Desert of California. It has one of the smallest geographic ranges of any North American ground squirrel and spends much of the year in underground burrows to avoid the harsh conditions of its desert environment. It is threatened by climate change, habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation, and small population size, among other stressors.

CDFW has been engaged in conservation planning for the Mohave ground squirrel since it was listed as Rare in 1971; however, with recent emphasis on development of large-scale renewable energy facilities in California’s desert came recognition that such development could pose additional risks to the species. CDFW finalized the Mohave Ground Squirrel Conservation Strategy to help guide renewable energy and other development projects to ensure they are consistent with the conservation needs of the squirrel.

The document consists of three main parts: a comprehensive list of conservation goals, objectives and measures; background information on the squirrel’s ecology and conservation status; and a summary of actions for the species by the various wildlife and land management agencies with jurisdiction in the species’ geographic range. The document can be considered CDFW’s policy for conservation of the Mohave ground squirrel and may be referenced in making decisions in the environmental review process, funding for habitat protection and restoration activities and prioritizing research and information needs.

The Mohave Ground Squirrel Conservation Strategy may also be used as the foundation for recovery planning for the species. Under newly enacted state law, CDFW may prepare recovery plans for listed species if funding is available.

According to Scott Osborn, CDFW wildlife ecologist and co-author of the document, such planning is an essential next step to help the species persist. “The Strategy provides good guidance, but real recovery of the Mohave ground squirrel requires implementation of specific actions for its conservation. Such actions need to be planned using a comprehensive and scientific process.”

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Media Contacts:
Scott Osborn, CDFW Nongame Wildlife Program, (916) 324-3564
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

Crotch bumble bee

CDFW Seeks Information Related to Listing of Bumble Bees

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is seeking information relevant to a proposal to list the Crotch bumble bee, Franklin’s bumble bee, Western bumble bee and Suckley cuckoo bumble bee as endangered species.

In October 2018, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Food Safety submitted a petition to the California Fish and Game Commission to formally list the four species as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. The listing petition and CDFW’s petition evaluation described several threats to the survival of the four bumble bee species in California, including direct and indirect impacts associated with habitat loss and alteration, disease, pesticides, competition and small population sizes.

CDFW recommended and the Commission voted to advance the species to candidacy on June 12, 2019. The Commission published findings of this decision on June 28, 2019, triggering a 12-month period during which CDFW will conduct status reviews to inform the Commission’s ultimate decision whether to list the species.

As part of the status review process, CDFW is soliciting information from the public regarding the bumble bees’ ecology, genetics, life history, distribution, abundance, habitat, the degree and immediacy of threats to reproduction or survival, adequacy of existing management and recommendations for management of the species. Comments, data and other information can be submitted in writing to:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Attn: David Wright
1812 Ninth St.
Sacramento, CA 95811

Comments may also be submitted by email to wildlifemgt@wildlife.ca.gov. If submitting comments by email, please include “Bumble Bees” in the subject heading.

All comments received by Aug. 16, 2019, will be evaluated prior to the submittal of CDFW’s final status review reports to the Commission. Once CDFW submits the final status review reports to the Commission, they will be placed on the agenda for discussion at the next available Commission meeting. Comments also will be made available to the public at that time.

Following receipt of CDFW’s status review reports, the Commission will allow a 30-day public comment period prior to taking any action on CDFW’s recommendations.

The listing petition and CDFW’s petition evaluation for the four species are available at https://fgc.ca.gov/CESA#bb.

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Media Contacts:
Erin Chappell, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3685
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988