Elkhorn Slough

Celebrate California Biodiversity Day 2020 by Exploring Nature, In Person or Online

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.

###

Media Contacts:
Kim Tenggardjaja, CDFW Science Institute, (916) 704-3092
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

CDFW employee stocking eastern Sierra waters with trout

Fish Plants Continue in Eastern Sierra Waters

After a massive loss of fish at three hatchery facilities in the eastern Sierra and Southern California this summer, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has implemented an updated stocking plan to continue putting trout into waters that are popular with anglers.

Waterways in CDFW’s South Coast Region and Inland Deserts Region are typically stocked with trout from Mojave River Hatchery, Black Rock Hatchery and Fish Springs Hatchery, but this year, fish at all three facilities were contaminated by a bacterial outbreak. On July 20, CDFW announced that extensive effort to treat the fish had been unsuccessful, and pathologists recommended euthanizing 3.2 million fish and decontaminating the facilities in order to stop the spread of Lactococcus garvieae, which is similar to streptococcus.

“Euthanization was not the outcome we hoped for, but after exhausting all treatments, it was apparent that clearing the raceways, sterilizing the facilities and starting over was the only option,” said Jay Rowan, CDFW’s Statewide Hatchery Program Manager.

Anglers were understandably concerned about reduced fishing opportunity for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021, and CDFW Hatchery Program staff immediately began to construct a “Plan B” to ensure that planting could continue in some capacity.

CDFW’s multiphase stocking plan calls for the reallocation of fish from lower priority waters in other parts of the state to the highest use waters in areas normally planted by the depopulated hatcheries this time of year. During “phase one” (which began the last week of July and will run through mid-October), 16 water bodies in the Inland Desert and South Coast regions will be stocked with fish from the Moccasin Creek and San Joaquin hatcheries. During “phase two” (which runs from the second half of October through early spring), additional waters in Southern California will be stocked by Fillmore Hatchery. Phase two is dependent on water temperatures cooling enough to plant. During “phase 3” (spring and summer 2021), CDFW will address stocking for the trout openers and summer angling opportunities.

CDFW is still finalizing the list of waters, as well as fish numbers, that will be stocked in phases 2 and 3.

“The loss of 3.2 million fish is staggering, but we absolutely recognize the importance of these fisheries, and we are doing everything we can to minimize the impact of this loss to anglers and the communities that depend on them, while balancing the needs of the rest of the state,” Rowan explained.

In addition to the reallocation plans, Hot Creek Hatchery near the town of Mammoth was not affected by the bacterial outbreak and has continued with its scheduled plants in the eastern Sierra.

Meanwhile, the three affected facilities – Mojave River Hatchery, Black Rock Hatchery and Fish Springs Hatchery – are undergoing extensive cleaning. All surfaces that have come in contact with fish or water on the hatchery grounds are being pressure washed, allowed to dry in the summer sun and then decontaminated with a hydrogen peroxide solution that breaks down the biofilm the bacteria uses to survive on surfaces. Another drying period follows. After decontamination is complete, all new fish and eggs brought into the hatcheries will have to be vaccinated to prevent a recurrence of the bacterial outbreak.

The current goal is for the three hatcheries to be back to full capacity by the fall or winter of 2021.

For real-time updates, California anglers can refer to CDFW’s Fish Planting Schedule. This schedule is updated directly by CDFW hatchery staff. Although it contains current information, all fish plants are subject to change depending on road, water, weather and operational conditions.

Trout fishing can be a safe outdoor activity that maintains physical distancing from others as we work to minimize transmission of COVID-19. Anglers must make sure to stay six feet from anyone not in their same household, wear a face mask, wash hands with soap and water whenever possible, follow all fishing regulations and stay safe.

For additional information, please see CDFW’s frequently asked questions about the L. garvieae outbreak. Also, members of the public can email questions to hatcherybacteriainfo@wildlife.ca.gov.

###

Media Contacts:
Jay Rowan, CDFW Hatchery Program, (916) 212-3164
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

Pacific halibut being measured on a boat

Recreational Pacific Halibut Fishery to End Aug. 11

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announces the recreational Pacific halibut fishery will close Tuesday, Aug. 11 at 11:59 p.m. for the remainder of 2020. Based on the latest catch projections, CDFW expects the 2020 California recreational quota of 39,000 pounds has been taken.

The quota amount is determined annually through an international process and is largely driven by results from the annual stock assessment conducted by the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC). CDFW tracks the progress of the fishery each year to ensure catch amounts do not exceed the California quota. CDFW field staff sample public launch ramps and charter boat landings to monitor catches of Pacific halibut throughout the season, along with other marine sportfish species.

During the last week of July and beginning of August, CDFW field staff recorded a record high number of Pacific halibut being caught.

“Reports from the public also confirmed an extremely hot Pacific halibut bite during the second half of July, with some anglers catching their limits by 8 a.m.,” said Marci Yaremko, environmental program manager with CDFW. “The significant number of fish caught during this time is unprecedented in California’s fishery, and the quota was reached very quickly.”

Using this information, CDFW conferred with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the IPHC and the Pacific Fishery Management Council to review projected catch amounts and to determine the 2020 quota had been attained. Formal authority to close the fishery resides with NMFS, which took action to close the fishery following consultation with CDFW.

Pacific halibut are a different species from California halibut, and occupy a large geographic range, from the Aleutian Islands eastward through Alaska to British Columbia and throughout ocean waters of the Pacific Northwest. Along the West Coast, they are commonly found as far south as Point Arena in Mendocino County.

For current information about the Pacific halibut fishery, science or management, please check one of the following resources:

###

Media Contacts:
Marci Yaremko, CDFW Marine Region, (858) 442-3004

Melanie Parker, CDFW Marine Region, (831) 649-2814
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

crab in tidepool

CDFW Reminds Beach Visitors of Tidepool Collection Regulations

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has noted an increase in the number of visitors to our rocky seashore this summer, and reminds people they must know the rules governing harvest and should do what they can to protect these amazing places.

“Regulations that either prohibit or limit the collection of species like turban snails, hermit crabs and mussels are meant to protect our tidepools, which are full of fascinating life that’s important to the marine ecosystem,” said Dr. Craig Shuman, CDFW Marine Region Manager.

Individuals should not remove any animals from tidepools that they don’t plan on keeping and should also be aware that even walking over some sensitive areas can unintentionally harm tidepool plants and animals.

“It is important to watch where you walk, not only to avoid unintentionally harming the myriad of sea life that call California’s tidepools home, but to avoid an accidental fall,” Shuman said.

Tidepool animals have special regulations that limit the species and numbers that can be taken (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.05). Most species found in tidepools can only be collected by hand. The use of pry bars, knives or other devices to remove them from the rocks is not allowed. There are also regulations that cover fish found in tidepools, which can only be taken by hook and line or hand. No nets or other devices can be used. In addition, the California Department of Public Health’s annual mussel quarantine is in effect until at least Nov. 1, because eating mussels at this time of year may be hazardous to your health. Mussels can be collected for bait but may not be taken for human consumption during this period.

“People may not realize that anyone age 16 or older must have a valid sport fishing license to collect tidepool animals, and that there are limits to how many can be taken,” said Assistant Chief Mike Stefanak of the CDFW Marine Law Enforcement Division. “In Southern California, an Ocean Enhancement Validation is also required for tidepool collection.”

Most marine protected areas (MPAs) do not allow collection of tidepool animals. MPA maps and regulations are available on CDFW’s MPA web page, and on the mobile-friendly Ocean Sport Fishing interactive web map. Local authorities may also close off other areas to tidepool collecting.

Tidepooling and legal collecting can be a safe outdoor activity that maintains physical distancing from others as we work to minimize transmission of COVID-19. Those interested in participating must make sure to stay six feet from anyone not in their same household, wear a face mask, follow all fishing regulations, watch for incoming waves and where they step, and stay safe. Any wildlife crimes witnessed can be easily reported to CDFW’s “CalTIP” hotline, by calling 1-888-334-2258, or by texting “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message, to 847-411 (tip411).

###

Media Contacts:
John Ugoretz, CDFW Marine Region, (562) 338-3068

Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

California Fisheries Relief Funding Soon to be Available for Select Sectors Affected by COVID-19

Coastal and marine fishery participants – including licensed commercial fishermen, fish buyers, aquaculture businesses, charter boat owners and guides – who have experienced a loss of income due to the effects of COVID-19 may be eligible for federal relief funding disbursed through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

The funding is part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This more than $2 trillion economic relief package provides direct economic assistance for American workers, families and small businesses that have been impacted COVID-19. About $18 million in CARES funding was earmarked specifically for fisheries assistance in California.

CDFW estimates that there are more than 11,500 potentially eligible applicants for this funding, including individuals who work in the offshore, shoreside, aquaculture, commercial passenger fishing vessel and guide sectors.

Eligibility will be based on, among other things, a minimum 35 percent loss of fishing related income due to COVID-19 between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2020. Applicants must also submit documentation demonstrating active involvement in a qualifying sector. See the approved disbursement plan.

The Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC) is serving as fiscal agent for these funds. PSMFC will mail claim forms to all potentially eligible applicants to the address on file with CDFW. Forms and documentation must be returned within 30 days to be eligible for disbursement. Following the close of the 30-day response period, final disbursement totals will be calculated and relief checks will be issued to qualified applicants. CDFW is requesting all potentially eligible applicants update their address on file by Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. See the address verification instructions.

For more information, please refer to CDFW’s web page for the CARES Act. Email inquiries can be sent to CDFW at CARESfisheriesInfo@wildlife.ca.gov.

###

Media Contacts:
Craig Shuman, CDFW Marine Region, (916) 215-9694
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714