Striped Bass Stamp Renewed, In Spite of CSBA’s Opposition
By: Dan Bacher
January 24, 2002
Under legislation signed by Governor Gray Davis that took effect on Tuesday, January 1, The California Department of Fish and Game’s Striped Bass Stamp program was extended for two more years. The California Striped Bass Association (CSBA) opposed the renewal of the program, while United Anglers of California (UAC) and other fishery conservation organizations supported it.
UAC supported the striped bass stamp extension, in spite of the DFG’s halt to its Delta striped bass planting program and support for the mobile pen-rearing program of the Fishery Foundation of California, because of unfounded concerns by the National Marine Fisheries Service that the stripers would feed upon endangered winter-run chinook salmon and Delta smelt.
“The DFG is no longer planting striped bass in the bay and estuary, under pressure from the federal government,” said Bob Strickland, president of United Anglers of California. “However, they are still planning to stock 150,000 stripers in San Luis, Millerton and Mendocino lakes. This will benefit anglers fishing these lakes.”
The CSBA opposed the renewal of the stamp because of their concern that anglers were being charged another fee without the benefit of the Delta striper planting program that was one of the main purposes for the stamp.
“I was the only one on the Striped Bass Stamp Advisory Committee that voted against the stamp’s extension,” said Red Bartley, president of the California Striped Bass Association. “We opposed the stamp’s renewal because the DFG did away with the striped bass planting program and the Fishery Foundation’s striper pen rearing program in the Delta. We’re upset that they’re not going to plant fish in the Bay and Delta.”
Now that the Delta pen rearing program is gone, the state will again be tossing the striped bass salvaged from the screens of the state and federal water projects back into their dumping sites on the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers, where they will be subject to predation by other fish and birds, said Bartley. When the pen rearing program was still operating in the Delta, these salvaged fish were raised to a size where they had a better chance of survival when released.
The contention over the stamp arose after National Marine Fishery Service bureaucrats, with absolutely no scientific data whatsoever, determined that the stripers were gorging on juvenile salmon and smelt, even though all three species had successfully coexisted since the striped bass’s introduction to the West Coast in the late 1870’s. The controversial federal agency constantly delayed giving the Fishery Foundation a Section 10 Permit, required under the Endangered Species Act, for the pen rearing program run by Tom Hampson.
Finally, last year the federal agency ordered an end to the planting and pen rearing programs in the Delta after DFG tag studies determined that the population of adult striped bass had increased from about 600,000 in 1994 to nearly 2 million in 2000, even though the population is still less than its historical peak in the early 1960’s of nearly 4.5 million adult fish.
“By agreement with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, DFG has suspended stocking of striped bass in the San Francisco Bay-Delta to ensure that the recovery of the bass population does not inhibit the recovery of native species such as Delta smelt and winter run chinook salmon,” according to Heather McIntire, Associate Biologist, Central Valley Bay Delta Branch. “Stocking is likely to continue in San Luis Reservoir and other inland water bodies with existing striped bass populations.”
Under the two year extension provided by the legislation, the DFG and the advisory committee will identify projects that significantly benefit the striped bass population, yet protect threatened and endangered native species, added McIntire.
Governor Davis in October signed Assembly Bill 1673, which extended the requirement that anglers fishing for striped bass have a Striped Bass Stamp affixed to the fishing license. The price of the stamps remains the same at $3.70 from most authorized license agents and $3.50 from most DFG offices. Sales of Striped Bass Stamps generate about $1 million annually, which has historically supported striped bass monitoring and research, enhanced law enforcement and – until recently – the rearing of and stocking of striped bass in the estuary.
In recent years, stocked striped bass have made up 2 percent to 6 percent of the adult population of the San Francisco Bay-Delta region. The DFG has been ssisted in deciding how to expend stamp revenues by the Striped Bass Stamp Fund Advisory Committee, a group appointment by the DFG Director.
The CSBA opposed the stamp’s renewal, but in light of the stamp’s reauthorization, they continue to support Tom Hampson’s pen rearing program, now operating on San Luis Reservoir instead in the Delta.
“He is raising 50,000 fish there now, partially through stamp monies,” said Bartley. “He will begin releasing 1-1/2 year old stripers starting in March. Some will be stocked in San Luis and others in Millerton and Mendocino lakes.”
Bartley emphasized, “If we can keep this program alive, we will still have a pen rearing program to put back in the estuary if something bad happens to the wild striped bass population or the federal government changes its policies.”
The stupidity of the federal and state and federal bureaucrats and lack of any science but “political science” in backing decisions like the halt to the Delta pen rearing program always amazes me. The striped bass had no problem coexisting with salmon and smelt for 130 years.
The demise of all three species has nothing to do with predation by one species upon other, but is caused by one common factor – the massive export of northern California water to southern California and the water-wasting Westlands Water District by the state and federal governments!