Category Archives: Endangered Species

Low Salmon Projections Lead to Fisheries Restrictions, Some Closures in 2017

Historically low numbers of fall-run and winter-run Chinook salmon have prompted the California Fish and Game Commission (FGC) to drastically limit the state’s salmon fishery for the remainder of 2017.

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In the Klamath Management Zone, which is the area between the Oregon/California border and Horse Mountain (40° 05’ 00” N. latitude), the entire ocean salmon fishery will be closed, as will the fall-run Chinook fishery on both the Klamath and Trinity rivers.

Returning stock projections for fall-run Chinook in the Klamath River Basin are the lowest on record. By limiting, and in some cases closing, the fisheries for the remainder of 2017, the FGC hopes to maximize fall- and winter-run Chinook survival and reproduction and support efforts to rebuild the fisheries.

“Closing an entire fishing season is not something that I take lightly, but the survival of the fall-run Chinook in the Klamath and Trinity rivers is at stake,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham. “CDFW and other fisheries management partners agree that these restrictions are necessary to help recover this vital species.”

Inland, spring-run Chinook fishing will still be allowed through Aug. 14 on the Klamath River and through Aug. 31 on the Trinity River. After these dates, both fisheries will close for the remainder of the calendar year. However, the nearby Smith River will remain open for fall-run Chinook, and there are additional opportunities in southern Oregon rivers. During the salmon season closure, steelhead angling will still be allowed in both the Klamath and Trinity rivers.

The ocean salmon season north of Horse Mountain will be completely closed in 2017. All areas south of Horse Mountain opened on April 1 and will remain open, with some restrictions, as follows.

  • In the Fort Bragg area, which extends from Horse Mountain to Point Arena (38° 57’ 30” N. latitude), the season will continue through May 31, reopening Aug. 15 and extending through Nov. 12 with a 20-inch minimum size limit for the season. The summer closure in this area is also related to the limited numbers of Klamath River fall-run Chinook.
  • In the San Francisco area, which extends from Point Arena to Pigeon Point (37° 11’ 00” N. latitude), the season will close on April 30 under a 24-inch minimum size limit, and reopen on May 15 through Oct. 31 with a 20-inch minimum size limit.
  • In the Monterey area between Pigeon Point and Point Sur (36° 18’ 00” N. latitude), the season will continue through July 15, while areas south of Point Sur will continue through May 31. The minimum size limit south of Pigeon Point will remain 24-inches total length.

Other restrictions for these areas are as follows:

  • The daily bag limit is two salmon per day of any species except coho salmon and no more than two daily bag limits may be possessed when on land. On a vessel in ocean waters, no person shall possess or bring ashore more than one daily bag limit. CDFW reminds anglers that retention of coho (also known as silver salmon) is prohibited in all ocean fisheries.
  • 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 may be used 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 between Horse Mountain and Point Conception.

Shortened ocean salmon seasons in northern California were necessary partly because data show that Klamath River fall-run Chinook are most likely to be caught in ocean areas near the Klamath River mouth, with impacts on this stock decreasing the further south fishing opportunity occurs.

Concerns are also high for endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook, contributing to the decision to shorten ocean fishing seasons in areas south of Pigeon Point. Three consecutive years of low juvenile numbers, coupled with unusually warm and unproductive ocean conditions, led fishery managers and industry representatives to implement protections beyond those required by the Endangered Species Act biological opinion and the federal salmon Fishery Management Plan’s harvest control rule. Fishery data suggest that winter-run Chinook are concentrated south of Pigeon Point, especially south of Point Sur, during the summer and early fall. Ocean fishery closures and size limit restrictions implemented in the Monterey management areas are intended to minimize contact with winter-run Chinook.

Klamath fall-run Chinook are currently classified under the federal plan as “approaching an overfished condition.” Given the poor return of adults to the river the past two years, coupled with returns this fall that are expected to be just as poor or even worse, the stock is expected to be classified as “overfished” in 2018. As a result, CDFW will be working with federal and tribal partners to develop a Rebuilding Plan for Klamath River fall-run Chinook next year.

CDFW and the FGC are tasked with managing the state’s fishery resources to ensure sustainability. Given the stock status, extra precaution is warranted. Every fish counts this year – especially every fish returning to the river to spawn.

Media Contacts:
Karen Mitchell (Klamath and Trinity), CDFW Fisheries Branch, (916) 445-0826
Kandice Morgenstern (Ocean Salmon), CDFW Marine Region, (707) 576-2879
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

There’s Still Time to Help Wildlife With Your State Income Tax Return

With tax returns due April 18, time is running out, but you can still help California’s rare, threatened and endangered species when you file your state return. In the Voluntary Contributions section you can donate any dollar amount to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 and the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program on line 403. These special funds help support California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) endangered species research and conservation programs.

California’s sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) were driven nearly to extinction, then given legal protection that has allowed the population to grow. In recent years, that growth stagnated, and is just starting to grow again, to a few more than 3,000 sea otters in California waters. This small population is vulnerable to oil spills, chemicals and other pollutants in road and agricultural run-off, predation by white sharks and other threats.

Donations to the California Sea Otter Fund (line 410) are split between CDFW and the State Coastal Conservancy. Those contributions have funded studies that link many sea otter deaths to polluted runoff, including fecal parasites, bacterial toxins and chemicals related to coastal land use.

The Southern sea otter is fully protected by the State of California, and take is not allowed except for scientific research and recovery purposes. Additionally, the sea otter is federally listed, and it is illegal to harass, pursue, hunt, catch, capture or kill, or attempt any of those actions on such listed species. Yet, just last year, four were shot and many others were intentionally harassed by people. The California Sea Otter Fund also supports a growing program to reduce human disturbance to sea otters.

Another 83 species of animals and 219 plants are listed by the state as rare, threatened or endangered. Donations to the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program (line 403) pay for essential CDFW research and recovery efforts for these plants and animals, and critical efforts to restore and conserve their habitat.

Past donations to this program have enabled biologists to study the Livermore tarplant (Deinandra bacigalupii) and the critically endangered Slender-petaled mustard (Thelypodium stenopetalum), and implement conservation efforts for the Mohave ground squirrel (Xerospermophilus mohavensis), California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense), Giant garter snake (Thamnophis gigas),Tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor) and Desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius).

“There is no upper limit to voluntary contributions; any dollar amount is welcome. But, with so many species in need of conservation efforts and given the size of the Golden State, we’d like to encourage higher donations,” said CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Esther Burkett. “Can Californians beat last year’s average of $15 per household? These plants and animals are part of our heritage and need your support to survive and thrive.”

If someone else prepares your state tax return, please let him or her know you want to donate to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 or the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program on line 403. If you use Turbo Tax, when you’re near the end of your tax return it should ask if you want to make a voluntary contribution to a special fund. Click “Yes” and go to lines 403 and 410.

CDFW biologists have achieved important recovery milestones and protected vulnerable species, thanks to California taxpayers. More information about how CDFW uses funds in the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program and Sea Otter program is available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/tax-donation and at www.facebook.com/seaotterfundcdfw.

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Media Contact:
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

Threatened Green Sturgeon Rescued from Fremont Weir, Returned to Sacramento River

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Biologists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recently saved a Sacramento River green sturgeon trapped in the Fremont Weir. The five-and-a-half-foot long fish was stranded in the nearly two-mile-long concrete weir when Sacramento River floodwaters receded. Sturgeon in this area are migrating up the Sacramento River to spawn above Red Bluff.

Sacramento River green sturgeon were listed as threatened by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) under the Endangered Species Act in 2006.

“Rescuing adult fish is always important, but because this year’s high flow conditions are optimal for sturgeon, every sturgeon saved is in a good position to spawn,” said CDFW Fisheries Branch Chief Kevin Shaffer. “Every rescue contributes to a brighter future for the species.”

Captured on March 15, the sturgeon was estimated at more than125 pounds and over 50 years of age. Its large size required biologists to encircle it with a net rigged to poles. It was caught by slipping a hoop net over its head and unraveling a sock-like netting down the length of its body to subdue it. The fish was then placed in a specially-designed cradle for transport back to the main channel of the Sacramento River. Biologists took DNA samples, surgically implanted a sonic tracking tag and measured it prior to releasing it.

Rescuing breeding adults is vitally important to the future of the green sturgeon population. This individual’s opportunity to spawn in the future supports the genetic diversity and integrity of the population. Over the last few years, a number of green sturgeon have been acoustically tagged in the greater Sacramento-San Joaquin River system and are being tracked to better estimate population size, distribution and migration patterns.

Recent efforts to assist green sturgeon appear to be helping, according to NOAA green sturgeon recovery coordinator Joe Heublein. He recently stated that he is “cautiously optimistic” that production may start to increase with improvements to spawning habitat accessibility.

Under Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s “California Eco Restore” initiative, a $4.5 million construction project to improve Fremont Weir is slated to start this summer. The changes will improve fish passage back to the Sacramento River as bypass flows recede, reducing the risk of stranding for endangered and threatened salmon and sturgeon.

Recent rescue efforts have saved green and white sturgeon, young fall-, winter- and spring-run Chinook salmon, young and adult steelhead, a lamprey, two species of bass and a host of other native fish.

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Media Contact:
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 323-1478

CDFW Releases First Million of Evacuated Fish into Feather River

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) in cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released one million state and federally listed threatened spring-run Chinook salmon into the Feather River on Monday, March 20.

These were the first fish to be released that were evacuated from the Feather River Hatchery in Oroville on Feb. 9, when the water became dangerously murky following the failure of the Oroville Dam spillway. The fish were moved to the Feather River/Thermalito Annex Hatchery and held there until conditions improved.

“Based on the weather forecast and current reservoir storage, we are anticipating high flows in the Feather River for some time,” said CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Colin Purdy. “Releasing these fish now should allow them to imprint on Feather River water and move downstream before flows drop back down to normal levels.”Annex release 2

Central Valley spring-run Chinook are a state and federally listed species and their abundance has declined considerably during the recent drought. The Feather River Fish Hatchery plays a key role in the state’s efforts to propagate this unique run of Chinook salmon.

“Today’s fish release marks the success of federal and state agencies coordinating and managing valuable resources while ensuring public safety during a crisis situation,” said Howard Brown, NOAA Sacramento River Basin Branch Chief. “NOAA Fisheries remains deeply concerned with the damage of the Oroville spillways and is committed to reducing further threats to California communities and ecosystems.”

“This is another example of the extraordinary multi-agency effort to respond to this unfortunate incident,” said California Department of Water Resources Acting Director Bill Croyle. “We will continue to work closely to protect the Feather River and its fisheries.”

Of the fish that were evacuated, another million spring-run Chinook and three million fall-run Chinook remain at the Annex Hatchery. CDFW and NOAA fisheries staff will continuously evaluate the remaining salmon and begin planting them in northern California Rivers when the fish are mature enough.

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Media Contacts:
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 201-2958
Jim Milbury, NOAA Fisheries, (562) 980-4006

 

2017 Invasive Species Youth Art Contest Kicks Off with “Don’t Let it Loose” Theme

Young artists and future biologists are invited to enter this year’s California Invasive Species Art Contest, sponsored by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). This year’s theme is “Don’t Let it Loose!”

Youths in grades 2 through 12 are eligible to enter. Entries should depict invasive species that might be released into California’s waters, parks and wildlands, along with appropriate messaging such as (but not limited to) the following:2017 CISAW Youth Poster Contest Announcement Flier

  • Releasing invasive species into the wild can harm the environment and California’s native plants and animals
  • Description(s) of one or more species that are commonly released into waters, parks or wildlands
  • Explanations or illustrations showing other ways to rehome unwanted pets or plants

All types of media are welcome and encouraged – drawings, paintings, animations, comic strips, videos, public service announcements, etc. Submissions must be received no later than May 5, 2017, and may be submitted by email or regular mail.

Winners will be chosen in three age divisions: grades 2-4, 5-8 and 9-12. Winners from each division will receive awards and have their posters displayed on CDFW’s Invasive Species Action Week webpage. The submission judged to be the best overall will also receive the “Invasive Species Program Choice” Award.

The entry form and a pdf of the contest announcement flyer can be found online at www.wildlife.ca.gov/CISAW.

The contest is sponsored by CDFW’s Invasive Species Program as part of the 2017 California Invasive Species Action Week, June 3-11. The goal of the Action Week is to increase public awareness of invasive species issues and encourage public participation in the fight against California’s invasive species and their impacts on our natural resources.

Many people don’t realize the potential implications of very simple acts. For example, the release of non-native crayfish used as fishing bait has likely resulted in the decline of California’s native crayfish and impacted other species dependent on the habitat. The dumping of aquarium plants can ultimately end up destroying the quality of our waterways and lands. Red-eared sliders, aquarium fish, and Nerodia watersnakes are other examples of released species that can become invasive and negatively impact native species.

California Invasive Species Action Week activities around the state will include presentations on aquatic and terrestrial invasives, guided outings to observe and assess infested areas, invasive species removal efforts, habitat restoration projects and the announcement of the winners of the youth poster contest. Opportunities for youths and adults to participate or volunteer will be available across the state through participating agencies, organizations and volunteer groups, with information and details to be provided on the Action Week webpage.

More information about CDFW’s Invasive Species Program, including examples of invasive species currently affecting California’s wild lands, can be found at www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/invasives.

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Media Contacts:
Rachael Klopfenstein, CDFW Invasive Species Program, (916) 651-3122
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988