Category Archives: Enforcement

2016 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year Announced

(Photo, left to right: California Fish and Game Commission President Eric Sklar, Fresno County Deputy District Attorney Sabrina Ashjian, CDFW Chief of Enforcement David Bess.)

The California Fish and Game Commission has honored Fresno County Deputy District Attorney (DDA) Sabrina Ashjian as the Commission’s 2016 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year. The selection process was based upon nominations from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Law Enforcement Division, whose wildlife officers regularly work with all 58 District Attorneys’ offices.

The award was presented to DDA Ashjian amongst her peers last night at the California District Attorneys Association annual summer conference in South Lake Tahoe.

“We recognize prosecuting attorneys as an integral partner in the effort to conserve California’s fish and wildlife resources for its intrinsic value and for future generations,” said Fish and Game Commission President Eric Sklar. President Sklar was in South Lake Tahoe to present the award.

CDFW and the Commission recognize many prosecuting attorneys who go above and beyond to prosecute the state’s poachers and polluters, but this year, DDA Ashjian stood out among the rest.

Ashjian was always willing to meet with wildlife officers in Fresno County on moment’s notice, after hours, and on weekends to review details of investigations. During many investigations of the most egregious poaching cases, Ashjian remained available and supportive every step of the way. She even took the initiative to ride-along on patrol with wildlife officers to better understand the challenging investigations and unique nature of a wildlife officer’s work.

Ashjian has gone out of her way to be a liaison between CDFW and the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office. During her tenure, she has taken time to educate and share insight about CDFW and resource crimes to her co-workers and in turn has educated wildlife officers about the challenges of prosecutions and how to overcome them.

“As passionate as our wildlife officers are at bringing suspected poachers to justice, DDA Ashjian is at prosecuting them,” said David Bess, Chief of the CDFW Law Enforcement Division. Chief Bess was also on hand to present the award last night.

# # #

Media Contacts:
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-9982
Cpt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-6692

 CDFW Reminds Anglers that White Sharks are Protected from Fishing

 

As the summer months approach and with increased sightings of White Sharks off Southern California beaches, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is issuing a reminder that White Sharks are a protected species under both state and federal fisheries laws and regulations.

“White Sharks are regularly found in Southern California in summer months, usually heading to Mexico in the winter,” said John Ugoretz, CDFW’s Pelagic Fisheries and Ecosystem Program Manager. “With relatively warm water last year, the sharks may have stayed closer and in greater numbers. Many anglers are wondering if they can catch a White Shark but, as a top level predator critical to the marine ecosystem, White Sharks are protected.”

In 1994, White Sharks received special protected status in California law, which prohibits take of White Sharks, except by special permit and some commercial incidental take allowances. Additionally, state regulations protect White Sharks from recreational fishing. Federal regulations implemented in 2004 prohibit White Shark retention in California, requiring their immediate release if caught. Under these protections, it is illegal to fish for or purposely attract White Sharks and they must be released immediately if incidentally caught while fishing for other species.

These laws and regulations are in place because of White Shark biology. As a top-level predator with naturally low reproduction, white sharks are susceptible to overfishing. Additionally, nearshore areas in northern Baja and Southern California are known as a “nursery ground” for juvenile White Sharks. Most of the sharks observed off Southern California beaches are sub-adults that typically feed on fish. Sharks in this high human population area can be particularly vulnerable to capture and incidental take.

According to CDFW Law Enforcement Division Captain Rebecca Hartman, “it is illegal not only to catch and keep a White Shark, but to pursue one as well.” This means intentionally pursuing or otherwise attracting White Sharks is prohibited.

With White Sharks near Southern California beaches, CDFW Wildlife Officers will be looking for people trying to catch them. “We want to protect the sharks and the public,” said Captain Hartman. “Our biggest concern is that someone will accidentally hurt themselves or someone else while illegally trying to catch a White Shark.”

To learn more about White Sharks in California, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/White-Shark.

Media Contacts:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937
John Ugoretz, CDFW Marine Region, (805) 568-1226
Rebecca Hartman, CDFW Law Enforcement, (310) 678-4864

 

# # #

California Wildlife Officers Recognized for Special Service Acts, with Medal of Valor Awards

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers Chad Edwards and Michael Dilts received awards today at the 2017 Governor’s State Employee Medal of Valor Ceremony in Sacramento. These annual awards recognize state employees for heroic acts of bravery. Wardens Edwards and Dilts each received the “Special Service Award” (Silver Medal): For an act of heroism by a State employee extending above and beyond the normal call of duty or service performed at personal risk to his or her safety to save human life or State property.
 
Edwards, Chad 2Warden Chad Edwards (Siskiyou County)

In September 2014, an arsonist ignited a brush fire on the outskirts of the town of Weed. The fire spread into town where it burned more than 150 homes and numerous commercial structures in a matter of hours. Warden Edwards heard the radio traffic regarding the fire and immediately responded to the area. He evacuated homes by transporting people in his patrol truck and flagged down other evacuees with empty seats in their cars, and coordinated for them to shuttle people out. Working through the chaos of the actively burning areas and aerial retardant dump, Warden Edwards made trip after trip into the burning neighborhoods to rescue stranded families, senior citizens and pets. He was ultimately an integral part of the investigation that brought the arsonist to justice. Warden Edwards acted with bravery and heroism extending above and beyond the normal call of duty to save human life. Amazingly, no lives were lost in this fire, due in part to the actions of Warden Edwards.

Dilts, Michael (1)Warden Michael Dilts  (Patrol Vessel Coho, Los Angeles County)
In July 2016, Warden Dilts was patrolling in the Seal Beach area near the San Gabriel River when he was flagged down by two pedestrians who told him that a vehicle was in the river and the female driver still inside. In the front seat of the partially submerged van, Warden Dilts found a woman who was making no attempt to escape. He immediately radioed for additional officer assistance, removed and secured his heavy duty belt and entered the water. Warden Dilts swam to the sinking van, extricated the driver and, relying upon lifeguard skills from past employment, pulled her back to shore. Thanks to the quick actions and dedication of Warden Dilts, the driver was rescued and the fully submerged van was recovered from the river.
 

“Year after year I find myself awestruck and proud of the outstanding service and brave acts of our fine wildlife officers,” said CDFW Chief of Law Enforcement David Bess. “The daily duties of our peace officers, like all others, comes with a known and certain inherent risk of danger, yet without hesitation they accept these risks and responsibilities. These awards recognize our officers who, through their selfless acts, exuded confidence in their training and preparedness to take their public service responsibilities to a level of heroism.”

 

###

 
Media Contacts:
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-6692

Joe DeAnda, CalHR, (916) 322-6944

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

Recreational Ocean Salmon Fishery to Open South of Horse Mountain on April 1

California’s recreational salmon fishery will open in ocean waters on Saturday, April 1, 2017, from Horse Mountain (40° 05’ 00” N. latitude) south to the U.S./Mexico border. The recreational salmon fishery north of Horse Mountain will remain closed for all of 2017 due to historically low numbers of Klamath River fall Chinook salmon.

The April 1 opening was set to provide angling opportunity until the remainder of the 2017 salmon seasons are decided next month by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) during its April 6-11 meeting in Sacramento, and by the Fish and Game Commission at its April 13 teleconference.

The daily bag limit is two Chinook per day 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. For complete ocean salmon regulations in effect during the month of April, please visit the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) ocean salmon webpage at www.wildlife.ca.gov/oceansalmon or call the Ocean Salmon Regulations Hotline at (707) 576-3429.

“Salmon abundance estimates are down this year, which is likely due to California’s recent drought and ocean conditions that were poor for salmon survival. Low forecasts for Klamath River fall run and continued concern over Sacramento River winter run are expected to limit fishing opportunity for the 2017 season,” said CDFW environmental scientist Kandice Morgenstern.

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 shall 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 Arena (38° 57’ 30” N. latitude), the minimum size limit is 20 inches total length. For areas south of Point Arena, the minimum size limit is 24 inches total length.

As seasons may close early or be subject to closure periods in 2017, anglers are advised to visit CDFW’s ocean salmon webpage or call the Ocean Salmon Regulations Hotline for the latest information on open fishing dates and locations. Many areas are likely to see reduced fishing opportunities this year compared with 2016 due to lower estimates of salmon stocks.

The PFMC is currently considering three alternatives for California’s 2017 commercial and recreational ocean salmon regulations, including season dates and size limits. The public is encouraged to comment on any of the proposed alternatives that can be found on the PFMC website at www.pcouncil.org.

Final sport regulations will be published in the 2017-2018 Supplemental Sport Fishing Regulations booklet, which will be posted online in May at www.wildlife.ca.gov/regulations.

CDFW reminds anglers that retention of coho salmon is prohibited in all ocean fisheries.

Media Contacts:
Kandice Morgenstern, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 576-2879
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 323-1478