Two men with ocean salmon catch

CDFW to Host Public Meeting on Ocean Salmon Fisheries

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) invites the public to attend its upcoming annual Salmon Information Meeting. The meeting will feature the outlook for this year’s sport and commercial ocean salmon fisheries, in addition to a review of last year’s salmon fisheries and spawning escapement.

The meeting will be held Thursday, Feb. 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sonoma County Water Agency, 404 Aviation Blvd. in Santa Rosa.

Stakeholders are encouraged to provide input on potential fishing seasons to a panel of California salmon scientists, managers and representatives who will be directly involved in the upcoming Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meetings in March and April.

The 2020 Salmon Information Meeting marks the beginning of a two-month long public process used to develop annual sport and commercial ocean salmon fishing recommendations. The process involves collaborative negotiations with west coast states, federal and tribal agencies, and stakeholders interested in salmon fishery management and conservation. Public input will help California representatives develop a range of recommended season alternatives during the March 3-9 PFMC meeting in Rohnert Park. The PFMC will finalize the recommended season dates at its April 4-10 meeting in Vancouver, Wash.

A list of additional meetings and other opportunities for public engagement in the season-setting process is available on CDFW’s ocean salmon web page, wildlife.ca.gov/oceansalmon/preseason.

The meeting agenda and handouts, including presentations, will be posted online as soon as they become available.

Persons with disabilities needing reasonable accommodation to participate in the public meetings or other CDFW activities are invited to contact the Accessibility Coordinator at (916) 653-9089 or send an email request to eeo@wildlife.ca.gov.

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Media Contacts:
Pete McHugh, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 576-2870

Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8933

Little North Fork of the Navarro River, Mendocino County.

CDFW Awards $10.1 Million for Fisheries Habitat Restoration and Forest Legacy Projects

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today announced the selection of 31 projects that will receive funding for the restoration, enhancement and protection of anadromous salmonid habitat in California watersheds, as well as forest legacy restoration.

The grants, which total $10.1 million, are distributed through CDFW’s Fisheries Restoration Grant Program (FRGP). They include $256,440 allocated for timber legacy restoration projects and approximately $9.8 million for anadromous salmonid restoration projects. FRGP monies come from a combination of state sources and the federal Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund.

“We are excited to further the restoration of river ecosystems critical to California’s salmon and steelhead,” CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham said. “Several of this year’s projects incorporate process-based restoration to address the root of ecological degradation and benefits all species using the waterway, including salmonids.”

In response to the 2019 Fisheries Habitat Restoration Grant Solicitation, CDFW received 70 proposals requesting more than $38 million in funding. All proposals underwent an initial administrative review. Those that passed were then evaluated through a technical review process that included reviews by CDFW and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists.

The 31 approved projects will further the objectives of state and federal fisheries recovery plans, including removing barriers to fish migration, restoring riparian habitat, monitoring of listed populations and creating a more resilient and sustainably managed water resources system (e.g., water supply, water quality and habitat) that can better withstand drought conditions. These projects further the goals of California’s Water Action Plan and CDFW’s State Wildlife Action Plan, as well as addressing limiting factors specified in state and federal recovery plans.

The list of approved projects is available on the FRGP web page.

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Media Contacts:
Matt Wells, CDFW Watershed Restoration Grants Branch, (916) 445-1285
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

Dungeness Crab Commercial Season Update

Based on updated information and in response to concerns from the commercial Dungeness crab fleet, including written requests from Port Associations to further delay, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham intends to further delay the start date for the California Dungeness crab fishery south of the Mendocino/Sonoma county line.

Today, Director Bonham issued a preliminary determination that the Nov. 22, 2019 start date poses a significant risk of marine life entanglement. The anticipated management response is a further delay of the opening of the commercial Dungeness crab fishery in that area until Dec. 15, 2019.

An aerial survey conducted by CDFW within Greater Farallones and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries on Monday, Nov. 18 showed whales throughout the survey area with concentrations foraging in depths between 30 and 50 fathoms off Point Reyes and Half Moon Bay. CDFW is working to schedule a follow up aerial reconnaissance flight to further evaluate whale presence in advance of Dec. 15 and will convene the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group the first week of December to conduct a risk evaluation.

Under the authority of Fish and Game Code, section 8276.1(c)(1), the Director may restrict take of commercial Dungeness crab if there is a significant risk of marine life entanglement due to fishing gear. As required in Fish and Game Code, section 8276.1(c)(4), the Director is providing 48 hours’ notice to the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group and other stakeholders.

Director Bonham will consider any recommendations or new information provided by 4:45 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 22, 2019. Anyone with recommendations and information related to this preliminary determination should submit it to whalesafefisheries@wildlife.ca.gov by that deadline.

No vessel may take, possess or land crab in an area closed for a significant entanglement risk. Fishing gear may not be deployed in any area closed to fishing.

CDFW, the fleet and the interested stakeholders are still at the start of an emerging effort to implement real-time decision-making processes. For the last 24 hours, CDFW has been engaged in real-time discussion and decision making, responding to industry requests for further delay.

Everyone recognizes the risks and all are committed to addressing that risk and developing the tools to assess and manage risk with more refinement. CDFW is committed to continuing to evaluate information as it is available in real-time to ensure that restrictions on the fishery are lifted as expeditiously as possible. CDFW appreciates the challenges and difficulties that come with the beginning of a new approach, and we appreciate the understanding of the public, the fleet, the Working Group and Californians hungry for crabs.

In related news, test results received today from the California Department of Public Health show there is no longer a public health concern regarding the safety of crab from the Mendocino/Sonoma county line to the California/Mexico border.

For the latest information on the Dungeness crab season, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/crab and 2019-2020 Dungeness Crab Fishery Best Practices Guide.

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Media Contacts:
Ryan Bartling, CDFW Marine Region, (415) 761-1843
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

sturgeon tag

Angling for a Big Sturgeon? Keep an Eye Out for a Reward Tag!

Tags, Report Cards are Important Data Collection Tools for Biologists

Every year, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) scientists rely on help from California anglers in order to monitor and manage our White Sturgeon population. White sturgeon anglers who are already familiar with the requirement to purchase an annual Sturgeon Report Card know that by Jan. 31 of the following year, they must return their card (by mail) or report their card information (online). Anglers must report even if no sturgeon were caught or if the angler did not go sturgeon fishing. Card data are extremely valuable, providing fisheries scientists with information about seasonal and geographic catch and harvest along with a measure of fishing effort.

But anglers should also be on the lookout for White Sturgeon carrying a disc tag. Every year between August and October, CDFW fisheries biologists conduct a survey of White Sturgeon. Fish are captured by net, counted and measured. A small plastic disc tag is affixed to White Sturgeon that are between approximately 3-6 feet in length. The tag is placed at the base of the dorsal fin (see photo), and the sturgeon is then released. Information collected from returned disc tags allows CDFW fisheries staff to produce more accurate population metrics.

CDFW currently offers rewards of $50, $100 or $150 per disc tag, although older fish with a $20 tag are sometimes caught. Tags must be physically returned to CDFW to be counted and the reward claimed; photographs cannot be accepted. However, the tags will be returned to the angler upon request. Anglers will also receive a commendation card with information about the fish, along with the specified reward amount.

Anglers can submit reward disc tags by filling out CDFW’s fish tag recovery form and mailing it to:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Attn: Sportfish Unit
2109 Arch-Airport Road, Suite 100
Stockton, CA 95206

Please make a note on the form if you would like the tag returned to you.

Anglers can also report Sturgeon Report Card information online or return the cards by mail to:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Sturgeon Fishing Report Card
P.O. Box 944209
Sacramento CA 94244-2090

CDFW reminds all anglers that no White Sturgeon larger than 68 inches, and no Green Sturgeon of any size, should be removed from the water. CDFW appreciates anglers’ assistance in managing California’s White Sturgeon population.

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Media Contacts:
Jason DuBois, CDFW Bay Delta Region, (209) 234-3668

Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

Feather River Smolt Release to Help Biologists Study Salmon Life Cycle

On May 8, CDFW released about 1 million fall run Chinook Salmon smolts into the Feather River at the Boyd’s Pump Launch facility. This experimental in-river release will provide fisheries biologists an important opportunity to study how fish respond under specific environmental conditions, as compared to fish released at other points in the river system.

Anglers have expressed concern that striped bass predation is high during this time period on the Feather River. While predation is always a threat to the young salmon, it is only one of the challenges they face throughout their complicated life cycle. The good news is that current high river flows favor increased downriver salmon survival.

“It’s critical that a portion of the population survives the treacherous journey downriver, eventually returning to pass their genes to their offspring,” said Jay Rowan, CDFW supervising fisheries biologist. “The traits those survivors pass on will help the species adapt to current conditions and better prepare them for long-term challenges such as climate change.”

Central Valley rivers like the Sacramento, Feather, American and Mokelumne have been modified through the addition of dams, river channelization and flow control. To maximize returns and allow for naturally occurring genetic variation, hatcheries in each river system have begun to utilize a variety of release strategies including trucking a portion of the fish downstream, utilizing ocean net pens and varying release sites to improve overall salmon resiliency and survival.

More than 30 million Chinook Salmon smolts are released from hatcheries throughout California’s Central Valley each year. This upcoming release of 1 million smolts on the Feather River is only one of almost 100 different releases taking place this spring up and down Central Valley rivers, San Pablo Bay, San Francisco Bay and into coastal net pens. Each release has a different intent and goals for contributions to ocean and inland fisheries, returns to the river and returns to the hatchery.

Feather River Hatchery alone will release 7 million fall run Chinook Salmon in 2019. In addition to the 1 million that will be released this week, another million will be trucked to Fort Baker in the San Francisco Bay and 5 million will be trucked to acclimation net pens in the San Pablo Bay.

Survival prospects for all releases are very good. This year’s large snow pack and high river flows are a far cry from the drought years with low clear water conditions that foster higher levels of predation, disease and other stressors. Survival out of the system should contribute to improved harvest opportunities in the near future.

Last month, CDFW released 600 spring run Chinook Salmon smolts into the Feather River. The fish were implanted with acoustic tags before their release, and preliminary data indicates that this group is showing a significantly higher survival rate as they travel downriver than fish that were released during low water years.

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Media Contacts:
Colin Purdy, CDFW North Central Region, (916) 358-2943
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8911