Bacterial Outbreak Forces Euthanization of Fish at Three Southern California Hatcheries

Three California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) fish hatchery facilities in the eastern Sierra and Southern California have been battling a bacterial outbreak that has affected 3.2 million fish. This week, after consultation with fish pathology experts and exhausting all avenues of treatment, CDFW announced that the fish, which are all trout, at the affected facilities must be euthanized in order to stop the spread of the outbreak.

The affected facilities – Mojave River Hatchery, Black Rock Hatchery and Fish Springs Hatchery – usually provide fish for stocking waterways in CDFW’s South Coast Region and Inland Deserts Region. The euthanization of all the fish at these facilities will have a profound effect on CDFW’s ability to stock fish for anglers in those regions in the near future.

“Euthanizing our hatchery stocks was not a decision we came to lightly, but it had to be done,” said Jay Rowan environmental program manager for CDFW hatcheries. “This bacterium is resistant to all the treatment options we have available for fish. The fish losses were getting worse despite our treatments. The best option we have available that will get us back to planting fish from these hatcheries in the shortest timeline is to clear the raceways, thoroughly disinfect the facilities, and start over.”

CDFW has had the three facilities under quarantine for more than a month, while pathologists and hatchery staff treated the affected fish and researched potential options. The outbreak of Lactococcus garvieae, which is similar to streptococcus, has been reported in cattle and poultry farms as well as fresh and salt water fish and shellfish hatcheries around the world, but had never before been detected in fish in California. Research of treatment options employed at trout farms in Europe and other parts of the world show there is almost no chance for successfully eliminating the bacteria from a facility without depopulation and disinfection.

Fish that are infected with Lactococcus garvieae can show symptoms including bulging eyes, lethargic or erratic swimming and increased mortality, or be asymptomatic and show no signs of infection depending on a several factors including water temperature and stress. Fish-to-human transmission of this bacteria is rare and unlikely but there are several documented instances associated with immunocompromised people consuming infected raw fish and unpasteurized milk products.

Hot Creek Hatchery in the eastern Sierra has tested negative for the bacteria and is still planting eight waters in Inyo and Mono counties. CDFW is in the process of developing a modified stocking plan to reallocate fish from central and northern California hatcheries to a small number of high angler use, easily accessible waters in geographically distinct parts of the eastern Sierra and Southern California.

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.

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.

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Media Contacts:
Jay Rowan, CDFW Hatchery Program, (916) 212-3164
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169

Mojave River Hatchery raceway

Bacterial Outbreak at CDFW Hatcheries Temporarily Halts Fish Stocking in Southern California

Several California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) fish hatchery facilities in the eastern Sierra and Southern California are battling a bacterial outbreak that has the potential to cause significant losses to both hatchery and wild fish populations. The outbreak of Lactococcus garvieae, which is similar to streptococcus, has sickened fish at the Mojave River Hatchery and has been detected at both the Black Rock and Fish Springs hatcheries. A fourth CDFW hatchery, Hot Creek Hatchery, was originally quarantined out of caution but after testing that quarantine has been lifted.

The L. garvieae bacteria has never before been detected in fish in California, and CDFW must take a cautious and careful approach to ensure the protection of the state’s aquatic resources – fish, hatchery facilities and public waterways. Infected fish can show symptoms including bulging eyes, lethargic or erratic swimming and increased mortality, or be asymptomatic and show no signs of infection depending on a several factors including water temperature and stress. Fish-to-human transmission of this bacteria is rare and unlikely.

Fish stocking has temporarily been halted from the facilities under quarantine while hatchery staff treats the affected fish populations and takes measures to prevent the spread of the bacteria. Planting will resume when fish have recovered from the infections and fisheries pathologists have determined that they no longer present a threat to the environment.

“This is a challenge for our hatcheries because the bacteria is previously unknown in California, and we don’t have tried-and-true strategies on hand to combat it,” said Jay Rowan, environmental program manager for CDFW’s Hatchery Production and Fish Health Laboratory. “A successful approach will have three components: Treating the affected fish at the hatcheries, finding the origin of the outbreak, and planning ahead to contain and prevent the spread of the bacteria. Unfortunately, we may be in for a long battle here, which means there will not be a lot of fish plants in the near future in the eastern Sierra and Southern California. I wish we could give anglers a target date for when we think we can start planting again, but it’s all up to how fast and how well the fish respond to the treatments.”

Current treatment measures at the hatcheries include keeping water temperatures low, reducing stress due to crowding and other factors, introducing antibiotic medication and special diet in order to assist the fish in fighting off the infection. CDFW is currently investigating the source of the outbreak. For additional information, please see CDFW’s frequently asked questions about the L. garvieae outbreak.

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Media Contacts:
Jay Rowan, CDFW Hatchery Program, (916) 212-3164
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169

Hatchery truck planting salmon smolts

CDFW Hatcheries Complete Release of 20 Million Young Salmon

Hatcheries operated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) in the Central Valley just completed the final release of young Chinook salmon raised this year. More than 20 million young salmon, called smolts, raised in four state-run hatcheries were released in various locations throughout the Sacramento and San Joaquin River systems, the Delta, San Pablo Bay and into a coastal net pen. These fish will return as adults to Central Valley tributaries to spawn in two to five years. They will provide a bulk of the commercial and sport catch of Chinook salmon off the California coast. Similarly, annual returns of hatchery reared salmon provide a large portion of the in-river sport fishing catch of Chinook salmon.

“This year was especially challenging with the restrictions involved due to COVID-19,” said Colin Purdy. “But rearing, tagging and releasing these young salmon was vital and essential to the future of our Chinook salmon stocks in the Central Valley. The whole process started last fall when eggs were taken at the hatcheries.”

In 2019, an estimated 271,697 Chinook salmon were harvested off the California coast by commercial fishermen, while approximately 88,464 were caught by recreational anglers and inland river fishermen reeled in more than 28,000. The four Central Valley hatcheries operated by CDFW, and Coleman National Fish Hatchery operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, produced the bulk of the 2019 harvest. California’s commercial and recreational salmon fishery is estimated to generate more than $500 million in annual income.

Feather River Hatchery produced 6.4 million fall-run Chinook salmon and 1.75 million spring-run Chinook salmon. Nimbus Fish Hatchery produced 4.4 million fall-run Chinook salmon and Merced River Hatchery produced 1.1 million fall-run Chinook salmon. Mokelumne River Hatchery produced 4.3 million fall-run Chinook salmon for their mitigation program, and an additional 3 million (also fall-run) for the Commercial Salmon Trollers Enhancement and Restoration Program.

Once the hatcheries rear the young salmon, the second phase of CDFW’s work is to tag a defined portion of the total production with tiny coded wire tags to allow scientist to track their eventual contribution to sport and commercial fisheries and their return rates. The last stage is releasing them in a variety of locations and in a manner that balances maximum survival for commercial and recreational fisheries and protection of genetic fitness to ensure long-term survival of the species. Releases take place at various locations along their home rivers, downstream in the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, and into net pens in San Pablo Bay or along the coast.

Giant tanker trucks specially modified to carry salmon smolts are used to release millions of smolts from late February until June. They deliver hundreds of thousands of smolts weekly, via more than 50 individual releases. In most cases three to five truckloads of smolts are delivered during each release. The Feather River Hatchery routinely releases smolts into San Pablo Bay, a 250-mile roundtrip, while the longest run is from Mokelumne Hatchery to Monterey, at 340 miles.

“The coordination and logistics of spawning, rearing, tagging, transporting and releasing millions of smolts is a challenging job under normal circumstances,” Purdy said. “More than 100 employees, from fish pathologists to hatchery managers, staff and truck drivers, have to be scheduled throughout the cycle, well in advance of final release of fish. In light of this year’s rapidly evolving conditions and challenges, the completion of our 2020 releases is an especially sweet success.”

Hatchery workers typically have a wide range of job skills, making it possible to keep operations running even though hiring, training and supervising new workers during the last few months was not possible.

Each of CDFW hatcheries receives operational funding from various water managers, utility districts and water districts to provide mitigation for habitat lost due to dams. In addition, more than $250,000 in funding was provided by the commercial salmon industry to help raise 3 million smolts to benefit commercial ocean salmon fisheries.

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Media Contacts:
Colin Purdy, CDFW Fisheries Branch, (916) 358-2943
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169

California Fish and Game Commission to Hold Emergency Meeting

The California Fish and Game Commission will remotely meet to discuss delegating temporary authority to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to delay, suspend or restrict sport or recreational fishing if the director of CDFW, in consultation with the president of the Commission, finds that such action is necessary to protect against the threat from COVID-19 based on state, federal, local, and tribal public health guidance and public safety needs.

When:            Thursday, April 9, 2020 at 8:30 a.m.

Where:          Via teleconference and webinar. Members of the public will have the opportunity to comment on the proposed emergency regulation by calling (877) 402-9753 or (636) 651-3141; access code 832 4310. Webinar details are on the agenda.

More:             The meeting agenda and documents are available on the Commission’s website at https://fgc.ca.gov/Meetings/2020

Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission will discuss whether or not to temporarily grant authority to CDFW to decide whether to delay, restrict, or suspend sport or recreational fishing in order to prevent and mitigate public health risks that may arise when people travel for fishing trips or congregate while participating in available fishing opportunities. CDFW and the Commission have received requests from county representatives and local health authorities requesting delays to recreational fish openers such as the Eastern Sierra trout opener scheduled for April 25, 2020.

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

Commission logoCDFW logo

Rush Ranch, landscape photo

CDFW Awards $37 Million for Ecosystem and Watershed Restoration, Protection and Scientific Study Projects

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today announced the selection of 40 multi-benefit ecosystem restoration and protection projects to receive funding under its Proposition 1 and Proposition 68 grant programs.

The awards, totaling $37 million, were made under CDFW’s 2020 Proposition 1 and Proposition 68 Grant Opportunities Proposal Solicitation Notice.

Of the $37 million, approximately $24 million was awarded to 19 projects statewide through the Proposition 1 Watershed Restoration Grant Program. Approximately $7 million was awarded to seven projects through the Proposition 1 Delta Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program to projects that directly benefit the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Approximately $6 million was awarded to 14 projects through the Proposition 68 Rivers and Streams Grant Program.

While California faces numerous challenges related to COVID-19 (coronavirus), CDFW will continue to administer its grant programs and will implement awarded grant projects while working with grantees to incorporate necessary accommodations under these circumstances.

“We are all currently going to get through this public health emergency together. In the longer term, this year’s awards represent a visionary effort to invest in our ecosystems statewide which will outlast our current challenges,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “These awards represent our focus on continuing necessary support for our restoration partners in local government, Tribes, nongovernmental organizations and communities who support these efforts, which is why we wanted to keep this business going in this difficult time with the announcement of these awards.”

The awarded projects represent priorities outlined in the solicitation, as well as the California Water Action Plan, State Wildlife Action Plan, Sacramento Valley Salmon Resiliency Strategy, Delta Plan, California EcoRestore, Safeguarding California Plan, the California Biodiversity Initiative and the fulfillment of CDFW’s mission.

The following projects were approved for funding through the Proposition 1 Watershed Grant Program.

Acquisition Projects:

  • Wagner Forest Conservation Easement ($5,000,000 to Northcoast Regional Land Trust)
  • Ocean Song Conservation Project – Myers Property Acquisition ($2,423,431 to LandPaths)
  • Snell Valley Ranch Conservation Easement ($1,337,500 to Land Trust of Napa County)
  • Mountain Meadows Conservation Project-Phase 2 ($1,342,449 to The Trust for Public Land)
  • Wright Ranch Conservation Easement Acquisition Project ($821,393 to Sierra Foothill Conservancy)
  • Butte Creek Water Right Acquisition ($791,892 to Friends of Butte Creek)

Implementation Projects:

  • Trout Creek Restoration Reaches 4 and 5 ($2,310,000 to Town of Truckee)
  • Napa River Restoration: Oakville to Oak Knoll, Group D ($2,235,000 to County of Napa)
  • Bear Creek Lower Meadow Restoration ($1,357,606 to Truckee River Watershed Council)
  • Cochran Creek (Humboldt Bay) Fish Passage and Habitat Rehabilitation Implementation Project ($996,986 to California Trout, Inc.)
  • Llano Seco/M&T Ranch Cone Fish Screen Project ($895,701 to Family Water Alliance)
  • Middle Stewart Canyon Creek Restoration Project ($864,317 to City of Ojai)
  • Escondido Creek Watershed Invasive Plant Control, Restoration and Fire Prevention Program ($552,097 to The Escondido Creek Conservancy)

Planning Projects:

  • Golden Trout Wilderness – Kern Plateau Meadows Restoration Planning Project ($834,799 to Trout Unlimited)
  • Atascadero Creek Sedimentation Analysis and Fish Passage Restoration 65 Percent Design Project ($551,220 to Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District)
  • Making the Most of the Urban Landspace: Habitat Restoration and Stormwater Banking for Coho Recovery and Watershed Health in the San Geronimo Valley (536,091 to Salmon Protection and Watershed Network)
  • Tijuana River Valley Regional Park Invasive Species Removal and Restoration Plan ($520,168 to County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation)
  • Southern Los Cerritos Wetlands Restoration Planning ($405,828 to Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority)
  • The Alamo and New Rivers Riparian Habitat Restoration Planning and Permitting Project ($321,332 to River Partners)

The following projects were approved for funding through the Proposition 1 Delta Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program.

Implementation Projects:

  • Lower Walnut Creek Restoration Project ($1,350,000 to Contra Costa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District)

Planning Projects:

  • Analysis of opportunities for island-wide improvements that includes a mosaic of multiple land uses for subsidence reversal, sustainable agricultural practices, carbon sequestration, water quality and habitat restoration ($1,131,942 to Metropolitan Water District of Southern California)

Scientific Studies:

  • Interior Delta Export Effects Study ($1,689,432 to State Water Contractors)
  • Ecosystem Engineering Impacts of Water Primrose in the Delta ($952,844 to University of California, Merced)
  • Identifying Cyanobacterial Harmful Algal Bloom Toxins in Delta Invertebrates: Implications for Native Species and Human Health ($823,415 to San Francisco Estuary Institute)
  • Impacts of storm-driven contaminants on larval delta smelt and the community scale adaptive capacity of prey items to handle those stressors ($659,991 to University of California, Davis)
  • Willow Bend Floodplain Monitoring ($338,282 to River Partners)

The following projects were approved for funding through the Proposition 68 Rivers and Streams Grant Program.

Implementation Projects:

  • East Fork Scott – Meadow Enhancement and Large Woody Debris Addition ($92,299 to U.S. Forest Service – Klamath National Forest)
  • Riprap and Ditch Removal to Restore Merced River Riparian and Meadow Habitat ($293,933 to Yosemite National Park)
  • Restoring Riparian Habitat for Native Aquatic Species in Southern Sierra Watersheds ($264,442 to Yosemite National Park)

Planning Projects:

    • Final Fish Passage Design for the I-5 and Metrolink barriers in Trabuco Creek ($1,499,499 to California Trout, Inc.)
    • Russian River Floodplain Restoration Planning Grant ($717,900 to Endangered Habitats Conservancy)
    • Final Design for Santa Margarita River Fish Passage Project and Bridge Replacement ($714,865 to California Trout, Inc.)
    • Lower Sutter Bypass Anadromous Fish Habitat Restoration Planning ($500,000 to River Partners)
    • Upper Rose Bar Restoration Project: Planning ($365,157 to South Yuba River Citizens League)
    • Lakeville Creek Restoration Project, Phase 1 Planning ($332,495 to Sonoma Land Trust)
    • Lagunitas Creek Watershed Enhancement Plan ($300,000 to Marin Municipal Water District)
    • Advancing Fish Passage in the Little Shasta Watershed ($292,405 to California Trout, Inc.)
    • Sulphur Creek Fish Passage Improvement Project – 100 Percent Designs ($220,000 to California Trout, Inc.)

 

  • Chadd Creek Fish Passage Enhancement Planning Project ($189,780 to Humboldt County Public Works
  • Tenmile Creek Bridge Design Project ($169,945 to Eel River Watershed Improvement Group (ERWIG))

 

General information about CDFW’s Prop. 1 and Prop. 68 Restoration Grant Programs, as well as a schedule for upcoming grant solicitations, once available, can be found at wildlife.ca.gov/grants.

Funding for these projects comes from Prop. 1 and Prop. 68 bond funds, a portion of which are allocated annually through the California State Budget Act. More information about Prop. 1 and Prop. 68 can be found on the California Natural Resources Agency website.

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Media Contacts:
Matt Wells, CDFW Watershed Restoration Grant Branch, (916) 216-7848
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714