For Immediate Release, January 18, 2010
||Noah Greenwald, (503) 494-7495
Dr. Roland Knapp, (760) 647-0034
California Fish and Game Releases Flawed Report on Fish-stocking Impacts,
Fails to Propose Measures to Protect Native Fish
SACRAMENTO, Calif.— In response to lawsuits brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and Pacific Rivers Council, the California Department of Fish and Game has released a final environmental impact report analyzing the impacts of stocking of hatchery trout and salmon on native species, including native trout and salmon and amphibians deeply hurt by a century of planting of millions of hatchery fish. Although the report disclosed many severe impacts of the program, it failed to analyze the full impacts of stocking or adopt adequate measures to reduce the program’s harm.
“California Department of Fish and Game has utterly failed to mitigate the devastating impacts of stocking hatchery fish on our native species, being driven to extinction,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center. “Fish and Game needs to redo the report and propose concrete actions to reduce the destructive impacts of fish stocking.”
Rather than consider the cumulative impacts of a century of introducing nonnative fish, the report sets the baseline for analysis as the current fish-stocking program, dodging the obvious need to assess declines in native species caused by previous stocking.
“A century of stocking hatchery fish has had devastating effects on California’s native wildlife,” said Greenwald. Stocking of nonnative trout has contributed to declines of many native species, particularly amphibians such as the mountain yellow-legged frog, Cascades frog, and long-toed salamander, which need fishless, high mountain lakes for survival. Rather than adopting a policy of ceasing stocking in waters where such sensitive aquatic species occur, Fish and Game has stated that it will “consider” not stocking if it believes stocking will have a significant impact.
The report defines the purpose of the stocking program as the maintenance of existing flawed stocking policies, rather than providing quality opportunities for recreational fishing while protecting native species. Fish and Game’s limited consideration of alternatives focused on creating fisheries by intensive stocking, rather than simply maintaining wild fisheries in suitable waters. Yet a number of studies suggest wild fisheries can provide better fishing opportunities than artificially stocked waters.
“Fish and Game has missed the mark with this review, which fails to consider alternatives that better meet their mission to conserve native wildlife,” said Greenwald. “On top of that, it’s questionable whether the current fish-stocking program effectively provides fish for recreation or commercial purposes.”
Scientists with the National Marine Fisheries Service have determined that in addition to widespread habitat degradation, hatchery stocking is an important factor in the recent collapse of salmon stocks that led to a complete shutdown of commercial salmon fishing in much of California and Oregon for the last two years. One federal study concluded that the “longstanding and ongoing degradation of freshwater and estuarine habitats and the subsequent heavy reliance on hatchery production were also likely contributors to the collapse” of salmon stocks. The state’s new report does not propose any specific mitigations to address the impacts of hatchery fish on native salmon stocks.
Roland Knapp, a biologist at the University of California’s Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory, has studied the decline of the mountain yellow-legged frog for more than a decade. Said Knapp: “The Department of Fish and Game had a unique opportunity with this environmental analysis to develop fish-stocking options that could benefit both native species and anglers. Instead, they’ve produced an EIR that will benefit neither. That is truly a lost opportunity.”
“Because of Fish and Game’s wholesale failure to consider or mitigate the impacts of fish stocking on native species, we have no choice but to consider our legal options for forcing the Department to reevaluate,” said Greenwald.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 255,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.