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Winnemem Wintu leader will speak on salmon at Fisheries Forum
by Dan Bacher
Wednesday Feb 22nd, 2012 9:05 AM
“The Fisheries Forum is the primary opportunity in California for those involved in fishing and aquaculture to come together and speak directly to the Legislature about issues of critical importance to them,” said Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro (D – North Coast) . “California’s fisheries and aquaculture industry are vital to the state’s economy and serve as an indicator of the health of our entire aquatic environment.”

Photo of Caleen Sisk courtesy of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe.
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Winnemem Wintu leader will speak on salmon at Fisheries Forum

by Dan Bacher

Caleen Sisk, the Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, will speak during a four person panel on the state of salmon in California at the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture’s 39th Annual Fisheries Forum scheduled for today, Feb. 22, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Room 4202 in the State Capitol in Sacramento.

Sisk's Tribe is opposing the Obama administration's plan to raise Shasta Dam and state/federal plans to build the peripheral canal. Sisk recently slammed as a "dehumanizing document" the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's controversial draft report claiming that a $1.07 billion plan to raise Shasta Dam by 18-1/2 feet is "feasible" and "economically justified" because it would flood the Tribe's sacred sites on the McCloud River and pave the way for more water exports to corporate agribusiness and southern California.

"How do they justify flooding the Winnemem Wintu people out twice?" asked Sisk. "They still haven’t fulfilled the 1941 Act of Congress that said they are to provide like lands and pay for all the allotment and communal lands. They still haven’t fixed the cemetery problems as it’s still illegal for us to bury our people in the cemetery they set up, because it is held by the Bureau Land Management instead of the Bureau of Indian Affair like the Act called for. And the Shasta Dam is still not paid for by the public."

The dam raise occurs in the context of Obama and Brown administration plans to export more water from northern California, including the McCloud River, to southern California water agencies and the "Corporate Agribusiness Welfare Kings" on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. Delta advocates believe the construction of the canal will lead to the extinction of Central Valley steellhead, Sacramento River chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt, Sacramento splittail, green sturgeon and southern resident killer whales, which feed on the salmon.

Sisk and the Tribe are working on an ambitious project with the New Zealand government, Maori Nations and NOAA Fisheries to restore winter run chinook salmon, now thriving in the Rakaira River in New Zealand, to the McCloud above Lake Shasta.

Appearing on the salmon panel with Sisk will be Dave Bitts of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association, Linda Sheehan from the Earth Law Center and Victor Gonella from the Golden Gate Salmon Association.

Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro (D – North Coast), who chairs the Fisheries Committee, explained the reason for the annual forum.

“The Fisheries Forum is the primary opportunity in California for those involved in fishing and aquaculture to come together and speak directly to the Legislature about issues of critical importance to them,” said Chesbro. “California’s fisheries and aquaculture industry are vital to the state’s economy and serve as an indicator of the health of our entire aquatic environment.”

After opening remarks by Chesbro and other legislators who serve on the Committee, the agenda includes presentations from Charlton Bonham, director of the state Department of Fish and Game; Sonke Mastrup, executive director of the California Fish and Game Commission and Rod McInnis, regional administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The forum will also feature reports from the California Advisory Committee on Salmon and Steelhead Trout, the California Salmon Stamp program, the California Dungeness Crab Task Force, the Sea Urchin Commission and the Aquaculture Development Committee.

“We will also hear from many of our hardworking fishing men and women, members of the aquaculture community, and conservation groups,” Chesbro said.

Former Senate Majority Leader Barry Keene started the annual hearing, formerly known as the Fishermen’s Forum, in 1973. Initially established to address issues confronting North Coast commercial fishermen, the Forum has since expanded to cover issues statewide concerning commercial and sport fisheries, aquaculture and fisheries research. Since 1981 the Forum has been hosted by the Legislature's Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture. Many laws protecting fisheries, aquaculture and marine interests were developed as a result of information gathered at past Forums.

The public is welcome to attend the Forum. There is no cost. There will also be time for public comments.

Record fish kill and exports, MLPA Initiative are not on agenda

While many good topics will be covered at the forum, missing from the agenda are specific panels covering three of the biggest, most controversial fishery issues in California in 2011 - the record fish kill and record water exports at the Delta pumps, the Brown administration's decision to forge ahead with Arnold Schwarzenegger's privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, and the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral canal.

Hopefully, these huge issues will be covered during the other panels, but it would have much better to feature these issues as specific agenda items to be discussed by speakers from different perspectives.

Today I reiterate my call to DFG Director Chuck Bonham, who will speak first on the agency panel, to show some courage and take the following crucial actions to save our imperiled fish populations and fishing communities.

1. Bonham should call for an investigation into the record "salvage" of over 11 million fish, including 9 million imperiled Sacramento splittail, during 2011, a export record pumping year, and direct staff to find a way to stop or at least reduce the carnage at the predatory state and federal export pumping facilities in the South Delta. Scientists estimate that the actual amount of fish lost in the pumps is 5 to 10 times the "salvage" numbers.

2. He should support the call by anglers, grassroots environmentalists and advocates of openness and transparency in government to suspend the corrupt Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, including the so-called "marine protected areas" created under the leadership of South Coast MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force Chair Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association. The initiative creates so-called "marine protected areas" that fail to protect the ocean from oil spills and drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture, wind and wave energy projects and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

The DFG wardens would be very happy to hear that they don't have to enforce new "marine protected areas" when they don't have enough staff or boats to patrol the existing ones. That's why the California Fish and Game Wardens Association has repeatedly called on the Fish and Game Commission not to approve any new marine protected areas until the Department has enough staff and money to enforce the existing MPAs.

3. He should urge the Brown and Obama administrations to halt the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral canal, a project that will lead to the deaths of more Central Valley chinook salmon, steelhead, striped bass, American shad, Sacramento splittail, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, largemouth bass, white and green sturgeon and other species than all of the poachers in the state combined could possibly kill.

Below is the final agenda for the forum. The California Channel will webcast the entire forum live, and archive the broadcast at its website, http://www.calchannel.com.

39th Annual Fisheries Forum
Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture
State Capitol, Room 4202
February 22, 2012 9:30am – 5pm

I. Welcoming Remarks
Chairman Wesley Chesbro
Opening Statements by Members of the Joint Committee

II. Agency Updates – Priorities for 2012
Charlton Bonham – Director, Department of Fish and Game
Sonke Mastrup – Executive Director, Fish and Game Commission
Rod McInnis – Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service

III. Committee Reports
California Advisory Committee on Salmon and Steelhead Trout – Vivian Helliwell
California Salmon Stamp Committee – Mike Ricketts
California Dungeness Crab Task Force – Mike Cunningham
California Sea Urchin Commission – Tom Trumper/Bob Bertelli
Aquaculture Development Committee – Tony Schuur

IV. Ocean Science and Monitoring
Dean Wendt Ph.D. – SLOSEA, Center for Coastal Marine Sciences, CPSU
Dave Rudie - San Diego Oceans Foundation

V. Tuna/Herring/Abalone
Wayne Heikkila – Western Fishboat Owners Association
Ernie Koepf – California Herring Association
Jim Martin – Sonoma County Abalone Network

LUNCH

VI. California Fisheries – Permits, Sustainability and Fishermen Initiatives
Ronnie Pellegrini – Humboldt Fisherman’s Marketing Association
Pete Halmay – San Diego Fishermen’s Working Group
Stephanie Mutz – Commercial Fishermen of Santa Barbara, Inc
Mike McCorkle – Southern California Trawlers Association
Kenny Belov – FISH Restaurant


VII. Groundfish
Zeke Grader – Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations
Roger Thomas – Golden Gate Fishermen’s Association

VIII. Marijuana Cultivation Impacts on Watersheds and Fish
Nancy Foley/TBD – Department of Fish and Game
Greg Giusti – UC Forest Advisor
Scott Greacen – Friends of the Eel River

Break

IX. Salmon
Dave Bitts – Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations
Linda Sheehan – Earth Law Center
Victor Gonella – Golden Gate Salmon Association
Caleen Sisk – Winnemem Wintu Tribe

X. Aquaculture Development
Ken Beer – The Fishery
Greg Dale – Coast Seafood Oyster Co.
Mark Drawbridge – Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute
Don Kent – Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute

XI. Public Comment (2 minutes each)

XII. Closing Comments by Committee Chair