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California | Central Valley | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections

DFG busts diver while Delta pumps kill millions of fish
by Dan Bacher
Sunday Jun 17th, 2012 7:22 AM
While a diver who took a giant sea bass will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law by the DFG, the state and federal governments are allowed to kill tens of millions of fish every year with impunity in order to export massive amounts of Delta water to wealthy corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and southern California water agencies.
giant_sea_bass_head.jpg
giant_sea_bass_head.jpg

DFG busts diver while Delta pumps kill millions of fish

by Dan Bacher

A California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) warden cited a southern California man for an illegal take of a giant (black) sea bass on June 1, according to a DFG news release.

Scott Andrew Carlton, 30, of Corona Del Mar was spear fishing at approximately 7:30 p.m. at Salt Creek Beach at Dana Point in Orange County when he harvested a state protected giant sea bass, commonly called a "black sea bass."

"A concerned citizen took a photo of the man and his catch, then notified a nearby CHP officer," the DFG stated. "The CHP detained Carlton, and notified DFG dispatch. Warden Justin Sandvig arrived and cited Carlton, who claimed ignorance of the law. Take of giant sea bass is a misdemeanor."

The DFG said that prior to the 1950s, a large numbers of giant (black) sea bass could be found in the waters off of southern California, but most of these large creatures were harvested for their value as photographic trophies. Known for their docile behavior, the slow moving black sea bass resides mostly near the shoreline in deep rocky environments and can grow up to 500 pounds and be seven feet long.

“Ignorance of the law is no excuse especially when poaching state protected species,” said Capt. Dan Sforza of DFG’s Law Enforcement Division. “Giant (black) sea bass are endeared by many ocean enthusiasts because of their size and docile nature.”

I’m glad the DFG warden cited Carlton for the illegal take of a giant (black) sea bass. Protected fish like giant sea bass must be protected from poaching – and people who illegally catch them must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

I also agree with Capt. Dan Sforza that “Ignorance of the law is no excuse especially when poaching state protected species.”

However, the DFG leadership refuses to enforce the law when it comes to the biggest poachers of fish in California – the Department of Water of Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The DFG recently released a report documenting the "salvage" of tens of millions of fish including 42 species in the state and federal water export pumping facilities in the South Delta.

A total of 11,817,051 fish of all species were "salvaged" in the state and federal pumps in 2011, a record year for water exports, according to the report that appeared in the Interagency Ecological Program for the San Francisco Estuary Newsletter, Fall/Winter 2012 edition. (http://www.water.ca.gov/iep/newsletters/2012/IEPNewsletter_FinalWINTER2012.pdf http://www.water.ca.gov)

The splittail salvage was 7,660,024 in the federal facilities and 1,326,065 in the state facilities, a total of 8,986,089 fish, nearly 9 million splittail and a new salvage record for the species. The fish, a native member of the minnow family found only in the Central Valley, was formerly listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but is no longer listed.

"Splittail were the most salvaged species at both facilities," the report said. "Threadfin shad (591,111) and American shad (100,233) were the 2nd and 3rd most salvaged fish at TFCF. American shad (558,731) and striped bass (507,619) were the 2nd and 3rd most-salvaged fish at SDFPF.”

The total chinook salmon salvage in the state facilities was 18,830 and the federal facilities was 18,135, a total of 36,965 fish.

However, salvage numbers are only the "tip of the iceberg" of the total fish lost in the pumping facilities.

“Salvage numbers drastically underestimate the actual impact,” according to a Bay Institute report, "Collateral Damage," documenting decades of fish kills at the pumping facilities. “Although the exact numbers are uncertain, it is clear that tens of millions of fish are killed each year, and only a small fraction of this is reflected in the salvage numbers that are reported.” (http://www.bay.org/publications/collateral-damage)

One study of “pre-screen loss” estimated that as many as 19 of every 20 fish perished before being counted (Castillo, 2010). Other studies estimate that the actual loss of fish in the pumping facilities is 5 to 10 times the "salvage" numbers.

So while a diver who took a giant sea bass will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law by the DFG, the state and federal governments are allowed to kill tens of millions of fish every year with impunity in order to export massive amounts of Delta water to wealthy corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and southern California water agencies.

Yet the DFG, rather than protecting the largest and most significant estuary on the West Coast and doing its job, has been a willing party to the destruction of an ecosystem and fish populations. The state and federal governments kill more fish in the Delta pumping facilities every year than all of the poachers in the state combined.

State and federal officials who have increased water exports and increased fish kills in recent years are the worst poachers in all of California, yet they go unpunished because they are the servants of Stewart Resnick, Westlands Water District and the Metropolitan Water District.

This is similar to the case of where a bank robber gets prosecuted to the full extent of the law while the bank CEOs who have ripped off billions of dollars and destroyed millions of lives not only go unpunished, but are bailed out and rewarded for their crimes.

Meanwhile, Natural Resources Secretary John Laird and Governor Jerry Brown are fast-tracking the construction of the peripheral canal or tunnel, a boondoggle that will lead to the extermination of Central Valley chinook salmon, steelhead, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, striped bass, largemouth bass, white sturgeon, green sturgeon, American shad, threadfin shad and other fish populations on the Delta.

The DFG should do its job of protecting fish and oppose the construction of the most environmentally destructive public works project in California history, the peripheral canal, not support it!

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Beeline
Monday Jun 18th, 2012 4:07 PM
Federal and State agencies are far more influenced by corporate power than most people can imagine. In fact some agencies won't make a move unless they have permission from the corporate players, so I'm not surprised that the DFG did not take action. The DFG like other agencies has even taken on the corporate/capitalistic paradigm. Why else would they make a non-science based decision to classify a super destructive species like feral pigs as a game species. It is because they make $21.34 a pop for each pig taken and the supply of pigs is seemingly endless.

Take the Bechtel Corporation which ,as Mr. Bacher has pointed out in many articles, has a "tentacle" in the peripheral canal project. Bechtel is huge, has world wide influence and has 69 subsidiary companies. One of these even took money from the Bin Laden family. Corporations like this one ignore social costs and down play the damage they do but the general public and voters at large don't really seem to care much. Too many folks have bought the "big government is bad" propaganda. Bad for who? Corporations, that's who. Our government servants are supposed to obey the general public but in the face of such power they pretty much ignore us.

The waste of fish at the Delta pumps is truly tragic. The dissolution of our democracy and corruption of our governmental agencies is even worse. Fish populations have been known to recover but I'm not so sure about democracy.