Published: Dec 08, 2010

NEW DFG REGULATIONS could eliminate most, if not all private fish stocking


Western Outdoor News

There’s a two-pronged attack from the state to destroy sport fishing in California. Most anglers are familiar with the threat posed by the Marine Life Protection Act, but the latest threat is to freshwater, via the Department of Fish and Game and its writing and implementation of an environmental impact report governing freshwater hatcheries in the state.

     Essentially, private hatcheries  could be  out of business  due to a new layer of expensive, DFG-required testing and regulation. This means most stocking programs, other than those conducted by DFG hatcheries, might cease. The winter trout season as we know it in urban Southern California could become a thing of the past, as well as most of the catfish stocking that occurs in the summer.

     The new regulations are the unexpected and unnecessary ramifications of the lawsuit against the  DFG’s trout and salmon hatchery program.
      In a  lack of foresight, DFG staff wrote the lawsuit-mandated EIR, including the private aquaculture industry in its regulations. The implications are severe.   

     While the DFG’s hatchery environmental impact report (EIR) was mandated by the court, the lawsuit and ruling was only directed at DFG facilities. Currently, private hatcheries and fishing lakes in 37 counties, including most in the southern half of the state are exempt and have been that way for many years.. Those suing the DFG didn’t ask for this, the judge didn’t ask for this and many believe it was the DFG who decided to throw private industry under the bus due to the pressure they were receiving for not getting their court mandated EIR for their own stocking program done in time.

     The DFG staff decided to include private facilities in the new EIR, right along with the state hatcheries. According to the EIR, all of these facilities -- from private hatcheries, to stock ponds, to homeowners associations with their own lakes, to county park lakes, and even golf course ponds -- are going to be required to conduct biological surveys to determine what endangered or “decision” species may exist in their water. The term “decision species” covers almost the universe and goes far beyond what they are legally allowed to do. They will also have to test to determine if the fish being planted in the lake or grown in the hatchery have any diseases or if invasive species like New Zealand mud snails or quagga mussels are present. The invasive species testing would have to be done quarterly and all surveys and testing will have to be done at the expense of the lake or hatchery owner.

     Ironically, California’s private hatcheries already grow some of the healthiest fish in the world because of existing rules and regulations, and because growing healthy fish keep growers in business, but this new layer of expensive bureaucracy will simply run most of them out of business.

     The impacts will be broad-based and dramatic. Many stocking programs will cease at county and private facilities because fish will simply no longer be available. It would even impact the DFG’s own stocking programs because the state contracts with private growers for catfish during the summer months.

 This issue was to go before the state Fish and Game Commission for possible adoption  Dec. 16, but because of the efforts being done by a group of sportsmen and industry leaders, the Commission temporality took it off the Commission Addenda for the Dec. 16 meeeting, so that the Fish and Game Staff and Industry could have the opportunity to set down together, redraft some of the proposed regulations and come to a mutually acceptable solution that will not put industry out of business and ultimately shut down much of the inland fishing in California. 

Without the stocking of trout and many of the warm water species like catfish, how long do you think it would take for all of the waters in California to become fished out?  The group leading this effort has filed suit against the Department and has hired lobbying, PR and fund raising groups to help their cause, but the most important help they could receive is from those most threatened, the fishermen.

 You can learn more and get involved by visiting the California Association of Recreational Fishing (CARF). website. WON urges the Commission not to approve the current EIR, and applauds the Commission for instructing the department to set down and re-work the proposed regulations with industry, and it encourages anglers to join the new group, CARF. For more information, you can visit www.savecalfishing.org.

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