|In addition to destroying and threatening thousands of homes and businesses, the devastating Glass Fire in Napa and Sonoma counties jeopardized the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Inland Chinook Salmon Program – until the Feather River Fish Hatchery in Oroville came to the rescue. The Feather River Fish Hatchery is owned and maintained by the California Department of Water Resources – and operated by CDFW.|
Each year, CDFW raises approximately 800,000 Chinook salmon smolts and fingerlings for planting and recreational fishing in large foothill and valley reservoirs from Fresno County to Trinity County. These landlocked salmon often grow quite large and fill an ecological and recreational angling niche in these deep-water impoundments not typically occupied by other fish species.
The state record inland Chinook salmon came from Trinity Lake in 2013 weighing 20 pounds, 15 ounces. Anglers regularly catch inland Chinook salmon weighing 7 to 8 pounds at Lake Oroville and 5 to 6 pounds at Folsom Lake.
The inland Chinook salmon originate with eggs collected and spawned at the Feather River Fish Hatchery each fall from salmon returning to the Feather River. The eggs and fish are excess to the hatchery’s annual production goals. About 1.4 million Chinook salmon eggs were collected from the Feather River Fish Hatchery in early October and designated for the Inland Chinook Salmon Program.
Ordinarily, most of these eggs are taken to CDFW’s Silverado Fisheries Base in Napa County for incubation, where they remain until the baby salmon are big enough for stocking. The Silverado Fisheries Base suffered power outages and came under threat of evacuation as a result of the Glass Fire.
In response to the emergency and with assistance from CDFW’s Inland Chinook Salmon Program staff, temporary adjustments were made at the Feather River Fish Hatchery to keep the eggs, incubate them and grow out the salmon until the Silverado Fisheries Base is once again able to accommodate the fish, likely in November.
CDFW staff set up additional fish-rearing incubators in their Inland Chinook Salmon Building. That building typically only has space to hold 300,000 eggs and baby salmon destined for Lake Oroville. Thanks to the extra effort, the Feather River Hatchery is now holding 1.4 million eggs that represent the entire annual production of the state’s Inland Chinook Salmon Program.
“Understanding the inherent risk of losing an entire year’s production, CDFW staff will play a crucial role in ensuring future inland Chinook fisheries in Folsom, Oroville and eight other lakes and reservoirs,” said Kyle Murphy, a senior environmental scientist with CDFW’s Fisheries Branch. “This interagency teamwork will have long-reaching effects for thousands of anglers in central and northern California.”
Adding to the stress, the Feather River Fish Hatchery itself was ordered to evacuate for a day Oct. 15 due to a nearby fire in Oroville. Both the Oroville fire and the Glass Fire have been contained and no longer pose threats to either facility.
Jay Rowan, CDFW Fisheries Branch, (916) 212-3164
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714
At its Oct. 14, 2020 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 adopted changes to the statewide sportfishing regulations to make them more user friendly. The regulation is the culmination of years of work by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife including input from stakeholders to overhaul and simplify these regulations. This effort will result in a 52 percent increase in fishing opportunity in special regulated waters and open up significant opportunities for the remaining inland waters across the state. The regulation is expected to take effect March 1, 2021, after final approval by the Office of Administrative Law.
Recreational and commercial groundfish regulations were adopted for consistency with federal regulations.
Three new wild trout waters were designated as Trout Heritage Waters, while the designation was removed for one section of waterway.
The Commission heard from stakeholders about extending the sunset date on the current recreational red abalone closure, amending recreational take of crab regulations to provide additional whale and turtle protections in the trap fishery, and amending regulations to allow for additional recreational take of sea urchins. The items were discussions only and no action was taken today.
In a unanimous vote, the Commission determined that changing the status the Mohave Desert Tortoise from threatened to endangered under the California Endangered Species Act may be warranted.
The full commission – President Eric Sklar, Vice President Samantha Murray and Commissioners Jacque Hostler-Carmesin and Peter Silva – was present. President Sklar announced that former Commissioner Russell Burns recently resigned from the Commission and the seat he vacated is now open.
As a reminder, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting budget gap in California, Commission meetings through June 2021 will be held via webinar and teleconference.
The 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 Dec. 9-10, 2020.
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.
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937
According to a 2019 United Nations report on species extinction, an estimated one million animal and plant species worldwide are now threatened with extinction, many within decades, more than ever before in human history. Still, there is plenty we can do to address the challenges facing listed species. Several state and federal natural resource agencies recently partnered to produce a video series and educational website highlighting successful conservation efforts to preserve some of California’s threatened and endangered species.
Saving Species Together, a joint project between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, illustrates how resource agencies, private landowners, non-profits and citizens have come together to help some of California’s vulnerable species. A half-hour program compiled from the videos will be airing on PBS starting in November as well.
The four listed species to be highlighted by Saving Species Together include:
- Western snowy plover: Resource managers and volunteers help protect and restore habitat for the western snowy plover at Point Reyes National Seashore and the Mike Thompson Wildlife Area, South Spit Humboldt Bay.
- Coho salmon: Coho specialists from a timber company, a non-profit and NOAA Fisheries help juvenile Coho salmon in the Eel River Watershed.
- San Joaquin kit fox: Resource managers, non-profits and a solar company find ways to protect the endangered San Joaquin kit fox in urban environments and on a 26,500-acre preserve in the Central Valley.
- California tiger salamander: Resource managers, private developers and biological consultants work together to protect the California tiger salamander in native habitat in northern California grasslands.
The SavingSpeciesTogether.org website is hosted by CDFW. It includes the videos, information about the featured species, information on what private landowners and the public can do to help listed species, campaign outreach materials and many other resources.
The videos were produced by Full Frame Productions. The program was funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation with community service funds paid by the defendant in a securities fraud case captioned as United States of America v. Wildlife Management, LLC (N.D. California).
Bridget Kennedy, CDFW Education and Outreach, (916) 502-7472
California is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, with more than 30,000 species of insects, 6,500 plants, 650 birds, 220 mammals, 100 reptiles, 75 amphibians, 70 freshwater fish and 100 species of marine fish and mammals. We celebrate the unique diversity of living things found in our state, and encourage actions to protect them, on California Biodiversity Day, held Sept. 7 of each year. In 2020, the celebration coincides with Labor Day.
Although physical distancing restrictions and other COVID-19 precaution have prevented California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) ecological reserves and wildlife areas from planning the “open house” style celebrations that were hosted last year, where large groups of people could gather, CDFW staff across the state have created a roster of ways – both virtual and outdoors – for Californians to explore and learn about the biodiversity found on state lands. A master list of California Biodiversity Day events can be found at https://resources.ca.gov/biodiversityday2020.
This year’s virtual events, self-guided tours and outdoor opportunities lend themselves to physical distancing. The events will be held over the course of a week, from September 5-13, 2020.
A sampling of California Biodiversity Day 2020 events, many of which feature the use of the free iNaturalist app, include the following:
- Take one of the many self-guided tours available at CDFW properties throughout the state. Use the iNaturalist app to learn and document any plants, animals or other organisms you encounter while exploring CDFW ecological reserves and wildlife areas.
- Challenge yourself with a self-guided bioblitz at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Contribute observations of organisms spotted while exploring the park between September 5 and 13.
- Play along in the bioblitz competition between Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Support your favorite park in their quest to log the highest number of bioblitz participants.
- Play California Biodiversity Bingo! Download the California Academy of Science’s bingo card and see if you can find enough common species in your backyard or neighborhood to make a bingo.
- Challenge your family to with a bioblitz at the greater Mono Lake area, including Lee Vining Canyon and Lundy Canyon. Share what you see, from bird nests to scat samples!
- Get ideas for kid-friendly activities on the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History’s website. Learn about ways to engage kids at home in exploring and learning about biodiversity.
- Venture out on a virtual scavenger hunt at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery. Walk along the Discovery Trail and try to find as many of the species on the list as you can!
Please visit the website for a full list of events and details.
All proposed in-person activities will take place outdoors and involve minimal contact between participants and any staff present, with a minimum physical distance of 6 feet from individuals from different households observed by all.
Forty Environmental Violations Document Abuse of Local Watershed
On Aug. 4, wildlife officers with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) with support from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, California Department of Food and Agriculture and other allied agencies, served a search warrant spanning two parcels in the Scotts Valley area of Lakeport in Lake County.
The warrant stemmed from an investigation involving environmental damage associated with illegal commercial cannabis cultivation. The operation involved personnel from six separate agencies. This effort could not have been accomplished without this successful collaboration.
A records check confirmed that neither of the parcels were licensed by the state for commercial cannabis cultivation.
“An illegal cannabis cultivation operation of this magnitude has severe impacts to California’s natural resources and the legal cannabis industry. Unpermitted cannabis grows will not be tolerated especially those presenting such a huge environmental and public safety threat,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division.
On site, officers and staff eradicated 51,799 illegal cannabis plants, confiscated seven firearms, seized over $27,000 in cash and documented approximately 40 Fish and Game Code crimes.
Violations included garbage piled up near various waterways, numerous unpermitted water diversions, illegal grading of the landscape resulting in sediment discharge and stockpiles of chemicals near waterways. One cultivation site was built over an existing stream resulting in a modified channel into a ditch with polluted water. Each violation alone can have a detrimental environmental impact but combined are degrading entire watersheds at the expense of California’s diverse fish, wildlife and plant resources and the habitats they depend upon for survival.
“CDFW is obligated, by statute, to protect California’s natural resources, which are held in trust by the state for use and enjoyment by the public,” said Jeremy Valverde, CDFW’s Cannabis Policy Director. “Large, illegal cultivation operations like these can create significant environmental impacts that can last years. We continue to encourage those wanting to cultivate commercially to become permitted and licensed.”
Twenty-six individuals were detained during the operation including two minors, a 16-year-old girl and 17-year-old boy, working at the site. Criminal charges will be filed with the Lake County District Attorney’s Office.
CDFW encourages the public to report illegal cannabis cultivation and environmental crimes such as water pollution, water diversions and poaching to the CalTIP hotline by calling (888) 334-2258 or texting information to “TIP411” (847411).
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 207-7891