For Immediate Release
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
Chris Frissell, Pacific Rivers Council, (406) 471-3167
Roland Knapp, University of California, Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory, (760) 647-0034
Court Considers Interim Measures to Protect California's Sensitive Native Fish and Amphibians From Fish Stocking
California Department of Fish and Game into talks with Pacific Rivers
Council and the Center for Biological Diversity to develop interim
measures to limit harm to native species caused by fish stocking. The
intent is to minimize the adverse effect that hatchery-raised fish
inflict on sensitive native fish and amphibian species while the
Department prepares an Environmental Impact Report under the California
Environmental Quality Act.
limiting stocking are needed to help save California's native fish and
frogs from extinction," said Noah Greenwald, biodiversity program
director for the Center for Biological Diversity. "Fish and Game should
still be able to stock hatchery fish, but in places where they won't
harm native species."
The court ruled in May 2007
that fish stocking has "significant environmental impacts" on "aquatic
ecosystems" and "in particular, on native species of fish, amphibians
and insects, some of which are threatened or endangered." The court
ordered the Department to analyze and mitigate the impacts of the
stocking program in an Environmental Impact Report, or EIR, by the end
of 2008. The Department returned to court last month to ask for a
one-year extension, to January 2010, because the agency has made little
progress on the EIR.
To reduce the impact of the
Department's delay, the Center and Pacific Rivers Council asked for
interim restrictions on stocking, including not stocking in areas where
sensitive species such as California golden trout, Santa Ana sucker,
mountain yellow-legged frog, and Cascades frog, are known to be present
or where the Department has yet to survey. Judge Patrick Marlette
stated in a tentative order that such interim measures may be
necessary, but gave the Department until November 24th to negotiate an
agreement with the two organizations to determine where stocking could
take place pending completion of the EIR. If no agreement is reached,
the Judge indicated that he would consider limiting stocking only to
water bodies where no at-risk species occur on an interim basis, as
proposed by petitioners.
"The far reaching,
often disastrous consequences of stocking hatchery fish have been known
for decades," said Dr. Chris Frissell, Director of Science and
Conservation for Pacific Rivers Council. "It's far past time the
Department of Fish and Game completed a credible review of the
environmental impacts of its hatchery program and identified the steps
needed to limit its impacts to sensitive native species, as many other
states have done. Interim measures are merely a short-term safety net
to protect vulnerable species and waters until the State meets its
legal mandate to produce a report."
California Environmental Quality Act environmental review will for the
first time provide the public and independent wildlife experts with an
opportunity to actively participate in how the Department can improve
management of the statewide fish-stocking program to better meet the
needs of both California's native species and recreational anglers.
Suspending the stocking of non-native fish in certain areas while the
review is being conducted will allow the Department to keep open as
many options regarding future management as possible by ensuring that
interim stocking does not further jeopardize any of California's
"The Department needs to consider the environmental impacts of its fish-stocking program before
it stocks more fish into aquatic strongholds," said Frissell, who has
published numerous scientific articles on the ecology of native fish
and wildlife species. "This is the only way that the Department can be
sure that it is not causing or contributing to the loss of the last
remaining populations of these native California animals and the
habitat they depend on."
Removing non-native fish
once they have been introduced is difficult, expensive and can cause
further damage to sensitive species. Many of the sensitive fish and
amphibian species are already so seriously depleted by past impacts,
including fish stocking, that even one more year of stocking could
cause irreversible loss of some populations.
mountain yellow-legged frog has disappeared from more than 90% of its
former range in the Sierra Nevada, and introduced trout are an
important cause of this decline," stated research biologist Dr. Roland
Knapp. Likewise, unintended consequences of stocking nonnative trout
without needed precautions have seriously compromised and set back the
State's own conservation and recovery efforts for its imperiled native
golden and redband trout. "On a hopeful note, a cessation of stocking
and the removal of nonnative trout from key sites can allow the
recovery of mountain-yellow legged frogs and other native species."
The Pacific Rivers Council and Center for Biological Diversity are
represented by Deborah A. Sivas of the Environmental Law Clinic, Mills
Legal Clinic at Stanford Law School. For more information about the
lawsuit go to www.pacrivers.org or www.biologicaldiversity.org.
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