October 26, 2009

Fish Stocking EIR/EIS - Part 1

As stated in last week's blog post, the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) recently released their draft fish stocking EIR/EIS to the public. Comments are due on November 16. When the CDFG was ordered by the court to conduct this environmental analysis I had some hope that the CDFG would use this as an opportunity to fully evaluate their current stocking program and make changes that would benefit native wildlife (e.g., native amphibians and fish) and improve fisheries. Unfortunately, a read of the document's objectives statement indicates that this environmental analysis was largely an effort to justify the current fish stocking program. The objectives statement (page 5) reads, "The fundamental objectives of DFG’s Program are to continue the rearing and stocking of fish from its existing hatchery facilities for the recreational use of anglers, for mitigation of habitat loss attributable to dam construction and blocked access to upstream spawning areas, for mitigation of fish losses caused by operation of the state‐operated Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta pumps, and for conservation and species restoration."

This objectives statement ignores abundant evidence that the stocking of trout and salmon can actually have negative effects on the resident fishery. For example, stocking of "catchable" trout into streams results in high levels of competition between stocked and resident trout. The end result is often a reduction in the total number of trout present. Similar problems beset stocking of salmon species. Given an abundance of these sorts of findings it is not at all clear that fish stocking is always the preferred means of providing recreational angling opportunities or that stocking can in fact mitigate for habitat loss caused by dams. As such the objectives statement in the EIR/EIS indicates the CDFGs interest in continuing the current stocking program regardless of whether some aspects of that program actually have negative effects on fisheries.

I would have liked to see an objectives statement such as the following: "To provide a stocking program that supports diverse anadromous and inland salmonid fisheries and protects native species and natural resources from adverse impacts from stocking." This statement makes it clear that fish stocking is a management tool that would be used when necessary to improve fisheries. I proposed this objectives statement to the CDFG some months ago but obviously my suggestion fell on deaf ears.

Given the flawed objectives statement upon which the EIR/EIS is based it is little surprise that the environmental analysis supports the continued fish stocking program with few meaningful changes. Next week I'll discuss the CDFGs flawed evaluation of fish stocking impacts.

Back to The Mountain Yellow-legged Frog Site.

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