CSPA's Mike Jackson ready to defend the beleaguered Delta Striped Bass in federal court on July 14
By Jerry Neuburger
July 7, 2008. With only a week to go before Judge Wanger's federal district court convenes, CSPA attorney, Mike Jackson, is prepared to intervene in the case of the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta et al vs. The California Department of Fish and Game and the California Fish and Game Commission. Jackson has over 20 years court experience in fisheries and environmental law, acting as CSPA's attorney in numerous state and federal issues. Jackson, in defending DFG and the Commission, will be representing the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, the California Striped Bass Association and the Northern California Council of the Federation of Fly Fishers.
Opposing him are a group of Kern County water agencies posing as environmentalists under the title of The Coalition for a Sustainable Delta. These agencies are consumers of vast amounts of water pumped south through both the state and federal conveyances. A healthy striped bass fishery is a major obstacle in their ever increasing need for delta water since that fishery and the recreational anglers fishing for them represent a sizable lobby more interested in a healthy delta than desert farming of marginal lands using taxpayer heavily subsidized water for cash crops by corporate agri-business.
The Coalition alleges that the Delta Striped Bass is a voracious predator and is one of the prime causes of the collapse of the endangered Delta Smelt and Sacramento Valley Chinook Salmon. They make this claim even though there is no credible evidence that such predation takes place and in fact, the striped bass fishery, the Delta Smelt fishery and the Chinook Salmon fishery have all collapsed at a parallel rate. This rate has drastically accelerated in the last five years. During this same time, exports of water south have increased as much as thirty percent when compared to previous records.
When Bill Jennings, Executive Director of CSPA, heard of the suit he exclaimed, "Striped bass have coexisted with salmon and smelt in the Delta estuary for more than a hundred years. The dramatic almost 30% increase in the amount of water exported in recent years is the one clear culprit that has led to population crashes of numerous species; including salmon, steelhead, striped bass, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, splittail, threadfin shad, among others!"
The suit is seen by most as another means of delay and of obfuscating the real issues surrounding the collapse of all the delta fisheries, the lack of sufficient water for the continued health of the delta. Some believe the powerful water agencies are attempting to extend the debate until the collapse of the fisheries is complete and the once vocal angler and environmental groups fade away. With no one to defend the delta, even more water will be justified as a necessary export for the increasingly voracious demands of southland corporate agri-business.
The issue of the striped bass's predation has been researched and all data indicates that the species does not target either Delta Smelt or Chinook Salmon smolts as a part of its diet. In a recent study, "Diet composition in San Francisco Estuary striped bass: does trophic adaptability have its limits?" By Matthew L. Nobriga & Frederick Feyrer, completed in May of 2008, the researchers document the contents of striper stomachs that were examined over in several studies that took place in a period of over 40 years. In these studies the examiners found that a striped bass's diet consists of less than a half of one percent of Chinook salmon and an even slightly smaller amount of Delta Smelt. While the estuary has changed drastically in those years and the striper's diet has changed with it, threadfin shad and juvenile stripers have consistently shown themselves to be the main finny prey of the Delta Striper.
While motives for the suit are obvious, CSPA, CSBA and the NCCFFF are not taking the outcome of the suit for granted. At stake is the very existence of the Delta Striped Bass. If the Coalition for the Sustainable Delta were to win this suit, it is expected that all DFG management of the Delta Striped Bass fishery would cease. That includes size and bag limits and method of take. Anglers could even be ordered per DFG regs to kill any striped bass caught regardless of size. For a fishery in trouble such as the Delta Striped Bass, this lack of regulation would be the death knell.
Although CSPA has meager funds for supporting the costs of the intervention, the issue is so important that the CSPA Board of Directors felt they had no choice but to join the suit. In order to properly defend the striper's right to exist and its place as one of California's premier game fish. CSPA is requesting that all concerned anglers help contribute to the defense fund coffers in this battle. Those wishing to donate can do so by mail by printing out a CSPA membership form at www.calsport.org/membership.htm or can contribute on line using their credit cards via PayPal at www.calsport.org/paypal.htm. Donors need not be members of PayPal to use this service.