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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: California | Central Valley | North Coast | Environment & Forest Defense
Wiggins Slams DFG's Lack of Action on Suction Dredge Mining
Senator Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) today blasted the California Department of Fish and Game for its failure to place new restrictions on suction dredge gold mining to protect imperiled salmon populations on the Klamath and other rivers.
Photo: Pat traveled down the Klamath River in August, along with Assemblywoman Patty Berg (D-Eureka) and others. After touring the river, she met with agency and private scientists to discuss the importance and fragility of the Klamath River salmon. Photo credit: Fred Euphrat.
For Release: January 29, 2009
Wiggins Slams Lack of Action by DFG, Says She May Introduce New Legislation to Protect Salmon from Suction Dredge Mining
Sacramento – North Coast State Senator Patricia Wiggins (D – Santa Rosa) today sharply criticized California Department of Fish & Game (DFG) for failing to take emergency steps to prevent salmon fisheries from collapsing. Her critique was issued after the DFG failed to place new restrictions on a gold mining practice that threatens the state’s imperiled salmon populations.
Wiggins, who chairs the legislature’s Joint Committee on Fisheries & Aquaculture, also said she is considering new legislation to limit the use of “suction dredge” gold mining, which involves the use of large dredges to vacuum rock and sand from rivers and creek beds, killing fish. Coho salmon, in particular, are at great risk from this practice.
Wiggins led a group of legislators in writing a letter to DFG officials in support of a petition from environmental organizations and the Karuk Indian Tribe, whose lands include portions of the Klamath River, asking DFG to restrict suction dredge mining along the Klamath. But the department has thus far refused, and officials there have yet to begin a court-ordered review of the situation.
“California’s once-thriving salmon populations have plummeted to the point that they face extinction unless we take immediate action,” Wiggins said. “It will take courage and bold action on all our parts to bring the fisheries back to healthy levels.
“Last year, commercial fishermen were told to stop fishing for ocean salmon, and it is expected they will be told to do so again this year,” she added. “Even though this puts tremendous pressure on them, their families and their local economies, they understand the need to regenerate the stock. However, a small group of recreational miners are allowed to continue suction dredge mining on the streams that serve as nurseries for spawning salmon. It is more than unfair to ask an entire industry to make sacrifices while these other activities continue.”
Wiggins said the lack of appropriate action is one factor contributing to high rates of unemployment in the fishing industry, and that “it’s time for our government to step up. If the Department of Fish and Game is unwilling to place the burden of rebuilding fisheries fairly upon all users, I will continue to take legislative action to get government to do its job.”
Accordingly, Wiggins says she is considering re-introducing a measure that would put a temporary halt on suction dredge mining until DFG completes its court-ordered mandate to fix long-term regulations.
Wiggins represents California’s 2nd Senate District, which includes Humboldt County (and is also comprised of portions or all of Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Solano and Sonoma Counties).
Senator Patricia Wiggins, Chair
Committee on Local Government
Select Committee on California's Wine Industry
Joint Committee on Fisheries & Aquaculture
Tel: (916) 651-1897
Fax: (916) 324-3036