Tag Archives: research

Elkhorn Slough OtterCam Goes High Definition

The Elkhorn Slough OtterCam has been upgraded from standard to high-definition, and there is now a second HD video camera focused on sea otters, thanks to the generous support of the Acacia Foundation and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Now anyone can watch California’s adorable sea otters in HD by going to www.elkhornslough.org/ottercam.

Located in areas of the Elkhorn Slough Reserve’s salt marshes where sea otters often congregate, the two new cameras offer great image clarity and fine detail for viewing this iconic Monterey Bay marine mammal and a teeming cast of other Elkhorn Slough wildlife. Elkhorn Slough Ecological Reserve is managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

The Elkhorn Slough OtterCam HD video streams will be featured as part of the PBS/BBC Big Blue Live television and online event, Aug. 31 through Sept. 2 (at www.pbs.org/big-blue-live/live-cams/elkhorn-slough-otter-cam). Anchored from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the three-day, live televised event will highlight the amazing marine life that converges off California’s central coast. The Big Blue Live website links to live cameras, including the Elkhorn Slough OtterCam.

Elkhorn Slough is home to the largest concentration of endangered southern sea otters (enhydra lutris nereis) on the California coast, and the first webcam dedicated to streaming live video of wild southern sea otters in their natural habitat. The Elkhorn Slough OtterCam has been streaming live video online from the tidal salt marshes of the Elkhorn Slough Reserve since 2012. The upgrade to high-definition enhances the OtterCam for both researchers and visitors.

For almost two years, researchers have used the Elkhorn Slough OtterCam to observe sea otter behavior such as foraging, grooming and raising pups. Stationed on the edge of the slough, the camera looks across pickleweed marsh and tidal channels of the slough. These channels are frequented largely by female otters and appear to be used as a nursery, as sea otters with pups are regularly seen in the meandering channels. During the past three years, the camera has provided video and still photographs documenting the growth of otter pups, interactions with harbor seals and other wildlife, and the movement of otters throughout the slough.

“The OtterCam has opened a unique window on the lives of sea otters. There are times we are seeing 25 or more otters in the protected channels of the slough’s marsh,” Elkhorn Slough Foundation (ESF) Executive Director Mark Silberstein said. “This suggests there may be more otters residing in the slough than previously thought. We’ve witnessed some unique behaviors, such as hauling out of the water, resting and grooming in the pickleweed marshes.”

Research is underway to better understand how sea otters are using the estuary, with the hope of helping southern sea otters recover in other parts of their historic range. In turn, recent evidence suggests that sea otters may yield important ecological benefits to the estuaries they inhabit. A study published by reserve researcher Brent Hughes in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that sea otters enhance the health of subtidal seagrass beds, as they do in kelp forests.

“We are pleased to present these remarkable images from the Elkhorn Slough Reserve, and shine a light on sea otter use of the estuary,” Reserve Manager Dave Feliz said. “The behavior of these animals in a salt marsh is little understood, yet the story is unfolding before the eyes of the world on ElkhornSlough.org. CDFW is happy to be a part of this new chapter in sea otter life history.”

Elkhorn Slough, in the central Monterey Bay area, encompasses a wide variety of habitats – oak woodlands, maritime chaparral, coastal prairie and the largest tract of tidal salt marsh in California south of San Francisco Bay – that support an incredible abundance and diversity of life. Elkhorn Slough hosts 550 species of marine invertebrates and 100 species of fish, as well as resident sea lions, harbor seals and the highest concentration of southern sea otters on the West Coast. On the Pacific flyway, Elkhorn Slough bird numbers can soar during migration seasons, nearly doubling the resident bird counts. The slough is designated a Globally Important Bird area, with more than 340 species identified in and around the slough.

ESF is a community-supported non-profit land trust whose mission is to conserve and restore the Elkhorn Slough and its watershed. ESF protects 4,000 acres of rare habitat including oak woodlands, maritime chaparral and wetlands. Since 1982, ESF has been the non-profit partner of the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (ESNERR).

ESNERR is managed by CDFW with administrative assistance from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. ESNERR is one of 28 reserves established nationwide to support long-term research, water-quality monitoring, environmental education and coastal stewardship.

For information about ESF and ESNERR, and to support the conservation of Elkhorn Slough, please visit ElkhornSlough.org and CDFW Elkhorn Slough.

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Media Contacts:
Dave Feliz, CDFW Elkhorn Slough Reserve, (831) 728-2822
Scott Nichols, Elkhorn Slough Foundation, (831) 728-5939
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

Help Endangered Species With Your Tax Return

Would you like to help protect California’s rare, threatened and endangered species? The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) invites you to do that by making a voluntary contribution to the Rare and Endangered Species Protection Program and/or the

two sea otters floating on their backs, touching forepaws, with caption "Will U Be My Valentine?"
California Sea Otter Fund Valentine. Joe Robertson photo used with permission.

California Sea Otter Fund on your California income tax return. Just enter the dollar amount you wish to donate on lines 403 and/or 410 of your tax return (form 540). If you itemize deductions, you can deduct the amount you donate on next year’s return.

“Donations to these funds have helped CDFW study species that are in trouble, determine what they need to thrive and develop ways to improve their health and populations,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “Californians continue to show they understand and care about threatened and endangered species, and the need to protect their habitat.”

One of CDFW’s tax donation funds facilitates recovery of the southern sea otter, which is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act and as a Fully Protected Species under state law. A 2014 survey indicated there are fewer than 3,000 sea otters in California waters – a fraction of their historic numbers. This small population is vulnerable to oil spills, environmental pollution, predation by white sharks and other threats.

Donations to the California Sea Otter Fund support research by CDFW scientists, who are currently studying 15 years of sea otter mortality information and recently discovered viruses not previously known in sea otters. These studies should provide a better understanding of mortality causes and contribute to population recovery efforts.

Donations to the Rare and Endangered Species Protection Program support numerous conservation projects for California’s rare, threatened and endangered species, including:

a dark gray salamander on wet dirt
Santa Cruz Long-Toed Salamander. David Laabs photo.
  • Santa Cruz long-toed salamander: Known to exist in only a few locations in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. CDFW works with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Santa Cruz County Resource Conservation District to create and enhance habitat for this species on preserves that have been set aside for its conservation.

    Small island fox pup held in gloved hands
    Island fox pup. Deana Clifford photo
  • Island fox: Small foxes that live on the Channel Islands off of Southern California. CDFW has worked with public and private partners to increase the number of foxes on all of the islands from a few hundred to more than 5,800 foxes.
  • Yellow-billed cuckoo: Rare and secretive birds that have declined markedly with the destruction of riparian habitat in California. CDFW is working with multiple partners to survey and monitor them and to implement recovery actions.

    Brown and orange giant garter snake
    Female orange giant garter snake. Eric Hansen photo
  • Giant garter snake: A highly aquatic snake whose marsh habitat in the Central Valley has likely been further reduced in some areas by drought. CDFW has been working with the multiple partners to ensure water is delivered to important areas for the species’ survival.

    Tan and brown giant garter snake
    Female, standard brown giant garter snake. Eric Hansen photo
  • California tiger salamander: The vernal pools that this species typically breeds in have also likely been impacted by the drought in some areas. CDFW is working with multiple partners to coordinate studies of these colorful salamanders and to protect their habitat.

    a dark gray salamander on wet dirt
    Santa Cruz Long-Toed Salamander. David Laabs photo.

CDFW biologists have been able to achieve important recovery milestones to conserve vulnerable species, thanks to California taxpayers like you. More information about how CDFW uses funds in the Rare and Endangered Species Protection and Sea Otter programs is available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Tax-Donation and www.facebook.com/SeaOtterFundCDFW.

If someone else prepares your state tax return, please let him or her know you want to donate to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 or the Rare and Endangered Species Protection Program on line 403. If you use Turbo Tax, when you’re near the end of your tax return it should ask if you want to make a voluntary contribution to a special fund. Click “Yes” and go to lines 403 and 410.

The state has listed more than 200 species of plants and 80 species of animals as rare, threatened or endangered. Money raised through the tax donation program helps pay for essential CDFW research and recovery efforts for these plants and animals, and critical efforts to restore and conserve their habitat.

Media Contacts:
Laird Henkel, Sea Otter Program, (831) 469-1726
Esther Burkett, CDFW Nongame Wildlife Program, (916) 531-1594
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

CDFW to Hold Public Meetings on Draft Regulations Changes for Scientific Collecting Permits

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will hold three public meetings about proposed regulation changes relative to Scientific Collecting Permits. At these meetings, CDFW staff will address common concerns received during initial stakeholder outreach conducted in 2012 and 2013, and discuss improvements anticipated with the proposed regulations

The proposed regulation changes adjust permit fees, extend the duration of permit terms, establish procedures relative to permit program administration, and clarify entity permits and the relationship between Scientific Collecting Permits and state-listed threatened, endangered, candidate and fully protected species. CDFW will be working through the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) rulemaking process in 2015, with an anticipated effective date of Jan. 1, 2016.

CDFW invites comments and suggestions prior to initiating the formal APA rulemaking process. This pre-notice period provides opportunity for input as the draft regulations are written. The three meetings will be held from 1:30 – 4 p.m. on the following dates:

Thursday, February 19
Resources Building Auditorium
1416 Ninth St.
Sacramento (95814)

Wednesday, March 4
Humboldt Area Foundation, Emmerson Room
363 Indianola Rd.
Bayside (95524)

Wednesday, April 1
West Ed Building, Ed Meyers Classroom
4655 Lampson Ave., Suite A
Los Alamitos (90720)

Online participation via a web-based conference tool (WebEx) will be available to those who cannot attend a meeting in person. Due to space and staffing limitations, CDFW requests that interested parties RSVP with their intent to attend in person or via WebEx at least one week prior to the meeting they wish to attend. Please send an email with your name, affiliation, phone number and preferred meeting location to SCPermits@wildlife.ca.gov.

Written comments regarding the proposed regulation changes may also be submitted by mail to the CDFW’s Regulations Unit, 1416 Ninth St., Room 1342-A, Sacramento, 95814 or by email to SCPermits@wildlife.ca.gov. All pre-notice comments must be postmarked or received by Friday, April 17, 2015 to be considered by CDFW in this round of drafting the proposed regulations.

Interested parties will have an additional opportunity to comment on the proposed regulations during the official 45-day public comment period, expected to start in July 2015.

Additional information for permit applicants and permittees will be available on the CDFW website in spring 2015, at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Licensing/Scientific-Collecting.

Media Contacts:
Ona Alminas, CDFW Regulations Unit and Fisheries Branch, (916) 651-9167
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

California Fish and Game Celebrates 100th Anniversary

cover page of the plant issue features orange and blue flowers in a green field
The first of four centennial issues of California Fish and Game focuses on plants.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has published the highly respected scientific journal California Fish and Game continuously for an entire century. To commemorate the anniversary, CDFW is creating four special issues this year.

Promoting “Conservation Through Education,” California Fish and Game is an internationally recognized research publication read primarily by scientists in the fields of conservation, ecology and natural resource management. It focuses on the wildlife of North America’s west coast (primarily California) and the eastern North Pacific Ocean, but occasionally includes material from elsewhere.

For the first time ever, the quarterly journal is devoting an issue entirely to California’s native plants. This is the first of the four special 2014 issues that will focus on different areas of conservation by CDFW scientists and collaborators from other organizations, including the California Native Plant Society (CNPS).

The idea for an all-plants issue arose during a conversation between CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham and CNPS Executive Director Dan Gluesenkamp about CDFW’s desire for the 100th anniversary issues to be special. The plant issue (Vol. 100, Issue 1) includes the description of a newly discovered species of plant, Silene krantzii, endemic to the San Bernardino Mountains.

“I’m proud to have been the editor of this important scientific journal for the past four years and to bring it to its centennial issue,” said Dr. Vern Bleich. “I believe it highlights the important work that we’re doing as a conservation agency.”

The plant issue features an introduction by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., and a co-authored introduction by Bonham and Gluesenkamp. The other three 100th Anniversary issues will focus on marine life, ecology of freshwater organisms and terrestrial wildlife. They, too, will be introduced by prominent Californians who support the conservation of our native flora and fauna. Volume 100(1) is available online, free of charge, at www.dfg.ca.gov/publications/journal.

Media Contacts:
Dr. Vern Bleich, California Fish and Game Editor, (916) 322-8911
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

DFG Surveys Salmon Anglers on Central Valley Rivers

The Department of Fish and Game’s (DFG) Central Valley angler surveys have begun on the American, Feather, Mokelumne and Sacramento rivers. Over the next five months, survey crews will repeatedly visit 20 different sections of river to cover the full extent of the inland salmon fishery. Survey crews count the number of boats and anglers, weigh and measure each fish caught and collect the heads of those salmon imbedded with a coded wire tag.

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“The information the survey crews collect is vital to understanding the dynamics of the salmon fishery resource and for setting seasons in the future,” said Mike Brown, a DFG environmental scientist. “The collection of salmon heads imbedded with tiny coded wire tags provides a history of how each hatchery release has fared and gives us information that can help guide salmon management in future years.”

During the 2011 Central Valley fall-run Chinook salmon sport fishery survey, crews contacted more than 4,000 fishing parties, measured 2,805 salmon and collected 652 salmon heads with coded wire tags in them. This and other baseline information were fed into a computer program that estimated the total effort and harvest of Chinook salmon in the 2011 Central Valley river sport fishery.

Those results showed approximately 60,500 salmon were caught and kept and 10,990 salmon were released for a total catch of 71,489. Seventy percent of the salmon kept were 2-year-olds, also known as “jacks.” Anglers fished on average about 14 hours to catch a salmon.

The 2012 salmon season is anticipated to be more productive than 2011.

Since 2007, 25 percent of salmon smolts released at each of the five Central Valley salmon hatcheries had their adipose fin clipped and a tiny coded wire tag inserted into the fleshy portion of their snout. Samplers check each salmon to see if its adopse fin, the small fleshy lobe on the fish’s back between the dorsal fin and the tail fin, is missing. If it is missing, the fish bears a coded wire tag.

During the survey, samplers carry large plastic bags for anglers to carry salmon after heads are removed. Upon request, the angler survey will provide the angler with a recognition letter containing information about their catch, including hatchery origin, age and release information.   Although anglers on occasion do not want samplers to take the head of their catch, most voluntarily comply once the reason for the collection is explained.

Section 8226 of the Fish and Game Code states, “Anglers upon request by an authorized agent of the Department, [must] immediately relinquish the head of the salmon to the State.”

The data collected by survey crews is essential for management of the highly popular salmon fishery.

Anglers can review a summary of the Central Valley Fall-Run Sports Fishery for 2011 at:

 http://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=43505&inline=1

Media Contacts:
Mike Brown, DFG Environmental Scientist, (916) 227-4989
Harry Morse, DFG Communications, (916) 323-1478

DFG Launches Science Institute to Showcase Decades of Scientific Work and Support its Scientific Future

Media Contacts:
Jordan Traverso, DFG Deputy Director, (916) 654-9937

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) publicly announced the first phase of its new Science Institute, available for viewing at www.dfg.ca.gov/Science.

“This website is the first part of a multi-phase approach intended to highlight the exceptional work that DFG scientists have been doing for many, many years and support our scientific future,” said Charlton H. Bonham, Director of DFG. “Our goal is that this Institute will help develop our current scientists professionally, by increasing skills, resources, collaboration and notoriety, as well as attract new scientists to help us plan for the years ahead.”

The website launch is phase one of the Institute. Future phases will include an archive of scientific presentations, professional development tools, better access for DFG scientists to outside science and scientific literature, a science symposium and much more.

Director Bonham prepared a video message for this website launch which can be viewed at http://youtu.be/S2Injj4sWx8.

Fish Passage Reference Database Now Available on the Web

Media Contacts:
Marcin Whitman, DFG Engineering, (916) 445-3832
Dana Michaels, DFG Communications, (916) 322-2420

Underwater close-up of two American River Chinook salmon.
American River Chinook Salmon. DFG photo by Matt Elyash

Department of Fish and Game biologists, managers, engineers and others have a new tool for fisheries management. It is an online database of citations of current and historic literature on the technical aspects of fish passage including engineering, biology, design and other relevant disciplines.

The American Society of Civil Engineers Environmental and Water Resources Institute (ASCE/EWRI)-American Fisheries Society Bioengineering Section (AFS/BES) Partnership Development Ad Hoc Committee announced the availability of the Joint EWRI-AFS Fish Passage Reference Database last week at Fish Passage 2012, a national meeting in Massachusetts.

The EWRI-AFS Partnership Development Ad Hoc Committee, chaired by DFG Engineer Marcin Whitman, has created this database as part of its goal to develop initiatives for new projects to facilitate the transfer of fish passage information and technology. The database includes compilations of existing literature databases and bibliographies from multiple sources, both published and unpublished (i.e., reports, gray literature). It is intended to be a clearinghouse for new literature as it becomes available. The database will provide a resource for use by fishery biologists, managers, engineers and people in both the public and private sectors seeking information about fish passage.

“This database represents many hours of work by the committee as well as fiscal donations by ASCE, the Bureau of Reclamation, University of Massachusetts and others,” said Whitman. “This group has been the highest-performing professional volunteer group I have ever worked with and we hope this will serve as a useful resource to promote fish passage.”

The database can be accessed via http://scholarworks.umass.edu/fishpassage/. Database users may search for citations (many with accompanying abstracts) using author, journal and/or subject keywords, and may add new citations to the database through the Scholarworks web portal.

To enhance the effectiveness of the database and its repository function, practitioners in fish passage can also add records to the database using the “author’s corner” on the Fish Passage Reference Database website.

Support for the database was provided by the University of Massachusetts Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Hydraulic Investigations and Laboratory Services Group, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Region 5) and the U.S. Geological Survey S.O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research Laboratory.

DFG Releases Halibut Stock Assessment Report

Media Contacts:
Paul Reilly, DFG Marine Region, (831) 649-2879
Kirsten Macintyre, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8988

The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) has completed its first-ever stock assessment of California halibut. The assessment results are now available to the public at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/sfmp/halibut-assessment.asp.

Completed in July 2011, the assessment examined two separate halibut stocks off the coast of California, with the boundary drawn at Point Conception. The results from central California indicated that the halibut stock in those waters is healthy and that fishing is currently not the major factor in controlling the abundance level of the central California population. Instead, abundance in that area is driven by pulses of large numbers of young halibut which only occur in some years. These pulses are probably environmentally influenced.

The assessment of the Southern California population showed that the stock in those waters has been depressed over the last 40 years. The southern population is nevertheless above a level which can still produce a sustainable fishery, albeit at relatively low levels. A lack of good recruitment (young halibut entering the fishery) during the last decade has prevented the stock from achieving higher abundance levels in recent years.

Funded by DFG, the assessment was conducted under contract by Dr. Mark Maunder, an internationally recognized authority on fishery modeling. DFG staff collaborated on the effort by providing numerous databases relative to the recent and historical monitoring of the commercial and recreational fisheries and from fishery-independent surveys. The final report was subjected to an independent peer review before being released.

DFG staff will be conducting three public meetings in Southern California to explain the results of the stock assessment and how it may affect halibut management. These meetings will be held on the following dates:

Tuesday, Sept. 20, 5 to 7 p.m.
Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute
Shedd Auditorium
2595 Ingraham St.
San Diego

Wednesday, Sept. 21, 5 to 7 p.m.
Veteran’s Memorial Building Auditorium
112 West Cabrillo Blvd.
Santa Barbara

Friday, Sept. 23, 5 to 7 p.m.
Community Room
Burton W. Chace Park
13650 Mindanao Way
Marina Del Rey

Questions about the stock assessment documents may be directed to Travis Tanaka, DFG Marine Region, 20 Lower Ragsdale Drive, Suite 100, Monterey CA 93940, or by e-mail to ttanaka@dfg.ca.gov.

DFG Releases the 2010-2011 Proposal Solicitation Package for the CALFED Bay-Delta Ecosystem Restoration Program

Media Contacts:
Dave Zezulak, Ph. D., DFG Water Branch (916) 445-3960
Kyle Orr, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8958

Public Contact:
Terry Roscoe, DFG Water Branch, (916) 445-0604

The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) has announced the public release of the Ecological Restoration Program (ERP) 2010-2011 Proposal Solicitation Package (PSP). The ERP is requesting grant applications for habitat conservation, restoration and research to increase our scientific understanding of ecological processes and species responses to habitat restoration in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Suisun Marsh.

The grant application can be found on DFG’s Water Branch website at www.dfg.ca.gov/ERP.

Grant proposals should be sent to David S. Zezulak, Ph.D., DFG Water Branch Office, 830 S Street, Sacramento, CA, 95811, by close of business on March 1, 2011.

The ERP will be awarding up to $20 million in grant funding from Propositions 204, 13 and 84. DFG is the state implementing agency for the CALFED ERP and administers the program with its federal counterparts the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This proposal is focused on actions that will contribute to the conservation and restoration of the Delta ecosystem. Proposals should be responsive to the goals and objectives described in the ERP Stage 2 Conservation Strategy for the Delta and Suisun Marsh www.bcdc.ca.gov/laws_plans/plans/suisun_marsh.shtml and the ERP Strategic Plan www.dfg.ca.gov/ERP.

The ERP is a comprehensive, transparent, science-based approach to restoring ecological functions and listed species of the Bay-Delta and its tributary watersheds. This solicitation will support the objectives of the Delta Reform Act of 2009 and other planning initiatives including the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and the Delta Stewardship Council Comprehensive Plan to restore the Delta ecosystem.

DFG will consider project applications previously submitted to the Delta Stewardship Council’s Science Program PSP for projects which would be consistent with and further the goals of this ERP PSP.