FEDERAL JUDGE SAYS NO
DELAY FOR NEW SF DELTA SMELT
AND SALMON BI-OPS:
On 30 January, a federal judge rejected motions by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to give the federal fishery agencies more time to update their biological opinions (Bi-Ops) for ESA-listed fish species in California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence O’Neill refused to give the federal fishery agencies more time to revise their plans for the protection and recovery of Delta smelt, along with winter and spring-run chinook salmon, that reside in or migrate through the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary. O’Neill’s predecessor on the federal bench, Judge Oliver Wanger, had ordered modification to the Bi-Ops that were initially put in place following a 2007 Wanger decision finding State and Federal pumping of freshwater from the Delta was harming the fish species protected under the Endangered Species Act. The pumping was also the proximate cause of the collapse of Central Valley fall-run chinook stocks and the resultant closure of most salmon fishing along the Pacific Coast in 2008 and 2009. Judge Wanger recently retired.
The litigation against the increased level of Delta pumping was initiated in 2004 following a political decision by the agencies to overrule their scientists and rule that the diversion at the two pumping facilities at the southern end of the estuary would “not harm” the protected fish species. Two different lawsuits were then filed; one by conservation and sportfishing groups against USFWS over the delta smelt, and a second by fishing and conservation groups (PCFFA, et al. v. Gutierrez) against NMFS over the salmon. Plaintiffs are represented by Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The matter has been in court since 2004, with Wanger’s 2007 decision in favor of the plaintiffs and subsequent appeals by the water contractors and water agencies.
Under the schedule that had previously been set up by Judge Wanger, USFWS has until 1 December 2013 to revise its Delta smelt Bi-Op, and NMFS has until 2016 to submit a modified salmon Bi-Op to the District Court in Fresno. Defendant government agencies had sought the delay claiming they were strapped for resources because of staff assigned to work on the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), a massive water project also proposed for the Delta – one that could take even more water south – under the rubric of being a habitat conservation plan (HCP) pursuant to the ESA. Plaintiffs opposed any delay.
To see a copy of Judge O’Neill’s 30 January smelt/salmon Bi-Op decision. To read more, see the John Ellis 30 January Fresno Bee article.
he proposed changes to sturgeon regulations were apparently approved by the California Fish and Game Commission at their meeting on Thursday 11-8, and this issue has quietly fallen under the radar without a significant amount of angler outcry. These changes will not come into effect until for a couple of months but once it gets through the whole process early this coming year.
(c) Size limit: No fish less than 46 40 inches total fork length or greater than 66 60 inches total fork length may be taken or possessed.
(d) Methods of take: Only one single point, single shank, barbless hook may be used on a line when taking sturgeon. The sturgeon must voluntarily take the bait or lure in its mouth. No sturgeon may be taken by trolling, snagging or by the use of firearms. Sturgeon may not be gaffed, nor shall any person use any type of firearm or snare to assist in landing or killing any sturgeon.
For the purposes of this section, a snare is a flexible loop made from any material that can be tightened like a noose around any part of the fish.
(e) Removal from water. Any sturgeon greater than 68 inches fork length may not be removed from the water and shall be released immediately.]
(e) (f) Report card required: Any person fishing for or taking sturgeon shall have in their possession a nontransferable Sturgeon Fishing Report Card issued by the department and shall adhere to all reporting and tagging requirements for sturgeon defined in Sections 1.74 and 27.92, Title 14, CCR.
(f) (g) For regulations on take and possession of sturgeon in inland waters as defined in Section 1.53, see Section 5.80 and Section 5.81.
(g) (h) Boat limits, as defined in Subsection 27.60(c) and Section 195, are not
authorized for sturgeon fishing and shall not apply to the take, possession or retention of white sturgeon.
Note: Authority cited: Sections 200, 202, 205 and 220, Fish and Game Code.
Reference: Sections 200, 205 and 206, Fish and Game Code.
This proposal recommends amending sections 5.80 and 27.90 to also prohibit use of snares, hooks other than one single point, single shank, barbless, removal of fish greater than 68 inches long fork length (FL) from the water; and to require use of fork length measurements.
This proposal includes charging a fee for issuance of each Card. The Department is proposing Section 701 be amended for public notice with a Sturgeon Fishing Report Card fee of $7.50. The events of today’s meeting can be seen on the following web link.