fire damage at ecological reserve

Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve Closed Due to Fire

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has announced the immediate closure of the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve in Riverside County as a result of the Tenaja Incident (fire). Although the fire was largely under control as of Friday, Sept. 13, CDFW staff has closed the reserve to public access in order to perform repairs to critical infrastructure and allow firefighters to completely extinguish parts of the property that may still be smoldering.

The 7,500-acre reserve will be closed to all public access and activities, including biking, hiking and equestrian use, until further notice.

 

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Media Contacts:
Richard Kim, CDFW Inland Deserts Region, (760) 922-6783
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

Sacramento River Closure to Go Into Effect April 1

A temporary emergency regulation closing all fishing within 5.5 miles of spawning habitat on the Upper Sacramento River begins on April 1, 2016 and will remain in effect through July 31, 2016. Enhanced protective measures are also proposed in the ocean sport and commercial salmon fisheries regulations for the 2016 season.

The temporary emergency regulation closes all fishing on the 5.5 mile stretch of the Sacramento River from the Highway 44 Bridge where it crosses the Sacramento River upstream to Keswick Dam. The area is currently closed to salmon fishing but was open to trout fishing. The temporary closure will protect critical spawning habitat and eliminate any incidental stress or hooking mortality of winter-run Chinook salmon by anglers.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) scientists believe the additional protection provided in the emergency river closure and potential ocean fishing restrictions will help avoid a third year of substantial winter-run Chinook salmon loss.

Historically, winter-run Chinook spawned in the upper reaches of Sacramento River tributaries, including the McCloud, Pit, and Little Sacramento rivers. Shasta and Keswick dams now block access to the historic spawning areas. Winter-run Chinook, however, were able to take advantage of cool summer water releases downstream of Keswick Dam. In the 1940s and 1950s, the population recovered, but beginning in 1970, the population experienced a dramatic decline, to a low of approximately 200 spawners by the early 1990s. The run was classified as endangered under the state Endangered Species Act in 1989, and as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1994.

The Fish and Game Commission adopted CDFW’s proposal for the 2016 temporary closure at its regularly scheduled February meeting.

Media Contact:
Jason Roberts, CDFW Northern Region, (530) 225-2131
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

State Seeks Federal Disaster Declarations for Commercial Crab Fishing

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. today requested federal declarations of a fishery disaster and a commercial fishery failure in response to the continued presence of unsafe levels of domoic acid, a potent neurotoxin, in Dungeness and rock crab fisheries across California and the corresponding closures of those fisheries.

“Crabs are a vital component of California’s natural resources and provide significant aesthetic, recreational, commercial, cultural and economic benefits to our state,” Governor Brown said in the letter to Secretary Pritzker. “Economic assistance will be critical for the well-being of our fishing industry and our state.”

In early November 2015, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), in consultation with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), recommended a closure based on unsafe levels of domoic acid found in crab tissue that was likely to pose a human health risk. Domoic acid is a potent neurotoxin that can accumulate in shellfish and other invertebrates. At high levels, it can cause persistent short-term memory loss, seizures and death. At low levels, domoic acid can cause nausea, diarrhea and dizziness.

In response to the health and safety risk, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the California Fish and Game Commission took emergency regulatory action to delay the commercial and recreational fisheries for Dungeness crab and close the commercial and recreational fisheries for rock crab north of the Santa Barbara/Ventura County line. CDFW and the Ocean Protection Council, within the California Natural Resources Agency, have continued to work closely with the Dungeness Crab Task Force in seeking advice from fishing representatives.

CDFW has continued to vigilantly monitor the health risks in coordination with OEHHA, CDPH and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. Domoic acid levels have remained at unsafe levels in California fisheries and it remains unclear when it will be safe to reopen these fisheries. The Dungeness crab industry alone is one of the highest valued commercial fisheries in California with a value of up to $90 million a year.

“The federal declaration of a commercial fishery failure will help hardworking Californians who have lost their livelihood to this natural disaster to receive vital economic assistance,” said Charlton H. Bonham, Director of CDFW. “We remain committed to doing everything we can for the affected fishing families and businesses–and communities that depend upon them–across every sector of the crab industry.”

In December 2015, Director Bonham told a Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture that the department was building a case for federal assistance. In January 2016, Governor’s Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci wrote Tanya Garfield, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Director of Disaster Field Operations Center requesting that 15 California counties affected by the crab closure be declared a disaster area to provide Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program assistance to impacted businesses.

The Governor’s request to the Secretary of Commerce initiates the evaluation of a federal fishery resource disaster under the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act of 1986 and a commercial fishery failure under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976. Should a determination be made to declare a disaster and failure, this enables state and federal agencies to work together to determine the full economic impact of the disaster and to provide economic relief to affected crabbers and related businesses.

“CDFW remains committed to working with federal officials to complete the required review for a fishery resource disaster declaration and a commercial fishery failure declaration,” Bonham said.

For more information on the state’s ongoing responses to the health and safety issues posed by high domoic acid levels in California crab fisheries please visit www.cdph.ca.gov/healthinfo/pages/fdbdomoicacidinfo.aspx.

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

Public Meeting to be Held on Proposed Closure of Part of Sacramento River

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is holding a public meeting to solicit comments on a proposed emergency fishing closure of 5.5 miles of the Sacramento River above the Highway 44 Bridge in Redding to the Keswick Dam. CDFW has determined this closure is necessary to protect endangered winter-run Chinook salmon. The anticipated dates of closure are April 1 through July 31.

The meeting will be held Friday, Jan. 29, from 4-5:30 p.m. at the Redding Public Library, 1100 Parkview Ave., Redding (96001).

“Because of the drought, we had to close the river last year to save as many of these fish as possible,” said Lt. Richard Wharton, CDFW Law Enforcement supervisor in Redding. “The great news is we had widespread cooperation from Shasta County anglers, who clearly demonstrated they care about this dwindling species.”

CDFW is proposing a complete fishing closure in this critical holding and spawning area to ensure added protection for the federal and state endangered winter-run Chinook, which face high risk of extinction. Given the gravity of the current situation, it is imperative that each and every adult fish be given maximum protection. Current regulations do not allow fishing for Chinook, but incidental catch by anglers who are targeting trout could occur.

An additional measure taken was an agreement with the city of Redding to reduce the amount of artificial light from the Sundial Bridge during the critical stages of salmon migration. The bright lights were causing the fish to stop their journey at the bridge; by dimming the lights, city officials removed the deterrent while still sufficiently illuminating the bridge for tourists.

“We appreciate the city stepping up to help conservation efforts by lowering the lights on one of the city’s most popular attractions,” said Neil Manji, CDFW Northern Region Manager. “In our studies we found that once the light levels came down, the fish immediately swam under the bridge on their way to the sea.”

This reach is the principal winter-run Chinook spawning area during these extraordinary drought conditions. An estimated 98 percent of 2014 and 2015 in-river spawning occurred in the 5.5 mile stretch under consideration for closure. This section represents only 10 percent of the waters currently open to fishing upstream of the Red Bluff Diversion Dam.

In 2014 and 2015, approximately 95 percent of eggs and young winter-run Chinook were lost due to elevated river temperatures. Given current drought conditions, it is likely the 2016-year eggs and young salmon will again be subject to extremely trying conditions.

CDFW is tasked by the Governor to work with the California Fish and Game Commission to determine whether fishing restrictions in certain areas are necessary and prudent as drought conditions persist. The proposed closure is also in accordance with the state and federal Endangered Species Acts.

 

a crab pot, or trap, held on a boat deck, over water

Emergency Crab Closure Recommended, Commission to Meet Thursday

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a health advisory warning individuals to avoid eating rock and Dungeness crab due to the detection of high levels of domoic acid. The advisory was followed by a recommendation from the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) to the California Fish and Game Commission and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to delay the start of the Dungeness crab season and close the rock crab fishery. These actions would apply to each fishery from the Oregon border to the southern Santa Barbara County line.

The OEHHA recommendation has prompted an emergency meeting of the Commission, which will take place at 8 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 5 (agenda and meeting information). At that time, the Commission will consider voting to delay the opening of the recreational Dungeness crab fishery. The recreational Dungeness crab season is currently scheduled to start Saturday, Nov. 7.

Also based on the recommendation from OEHHA, CDFW will act on its authority to delay the start of the commercial Dungeness crab season. The commercial Dungeness crab season is currently scheduled to start Sunday, Nov. 15 in most of the state.

Similar action will be considered by the Commission and CDFW to close the recreational and commercial rock crab fisheries in the affected area. Both recreational and commercial rock crab seasons are open all year.

“These are incredibly important fisheries to our coastal economies and fresh crab is highly anticipated and widely enjoyed this time of year. Of course, delaying or closing the season is disappointing,” said CDFW Marine Regional Manager Craig Shuman. “But public health and safety is our top priority.”

CDFW, along with the OEHHA and CDPH, has been actively testing crabs since early September. OEHHA announced today that consumption of Dungeness and rock crabs is likely to pose a significant human health risk as a result of high levels of domoic acid. CDFW will continue to coordinate with OEHHA and CDPH to test domoic acid levels in crab along the coast to determine when the fisheries can safely be opened.

Domoic acid is a potent neurotoxin that can accumulate in shellfish, other invertebrates and sometimes fish. It causes illness and sometimes death in a variety of birds and marine mammals that consume affected organisms. At low levels, domoic acid exposure can cause nausea, diarrhea and dizziness in humans. At higher levels, it can cause persistent short-term memory loss, seizures and can in some cases be fatal.

Domoic acid is produced from some species of the marine diatom Pseudo-nitzschia. Currently, a massive toxic bloom of Pseudo-nitzschia has developed, significantly impacting marine life along California’s coast. State scientists have been testing crab from eight fishing ports from Morro Bay to Crescent City, and have determined that the neurotoxin has spread throughout the fishery grounds.

Algal blooms are common, but this one is particularly large and persistent. Warmer ocean water temperatures associated with the El Niño event California is experiencing is likely a major contributing factor to the size and persistence of this bloom.

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