A threat to California fish hatcheries now reportedly brews in the State Legislature. Former Mono County Assemblyman Dave Cogdill has gone to battle against Senate Bill 1148. He says it would shift Fish and Game’s mission from hatcheries to wild and native trout programs. That could mean more problems for the Eastern Sierra’s summer fishing economy.
In a letter to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, Cogdill says that the organization CalTrout has tried to undermine his own Assembly Bill 7 which was passed seven years ago to help keep hatcheries funded. He says Fish and Game never gave the law a real effort.
AB7, according to Cogdill, says that programs designed to manage, maintain and improve California’s fish hatcheries are eligible to be funded from sport fishing license fees. The new bill, SB1148, he said, will shift the mission of the Department of Fish and Game to wild and native trout programs over hatchery operations.
In his letter, Cogdill says, “Fishing license owners pay for their licenses and deserve positive fishing experiences. These positive experiences,” he said, “cannot be insured only for the wealthy engaging in fly fishing of the state’s native trout. Hatcheries provide fish to California’s lakes and streams so everyone can enjoy that experience.”
Cogdill also says that Fish and Game never wanted to implement AB7. He says in the seven years since the passage of that law, Fish and Game has “not met the goals of AB7.” Cogdill said AB7 was never given a proper chance and it should be before wholesale changes in the system. He points to the fact that since AB7, license fees have gone to what he calls “exceptional service to sports fishermen and the economies that rely on them and had done so for over 130 years.” He says the new law would create an “unaccountable bureaucracy with a questionable funding source and seemingly no legislative oversight.”
Cogdill asks the Assembly Committee to oppose Senate Bill 1148. This new bill would apparently deprive Eastern Sierra hatcheries of funding. Local officials are just beginning to hear of this legislative and bureaucratic move. Inyo County Supervisor Chair Marty Fortney signed a letter on Friday to the State Assembly Committee strongly urging opposition to SB1148.
Fortney said the new law would limit fishing in California to “specialized fishing techniques for only catch and release native trout.” Fortney’s letter also says that as the State population grows, demand for general fishing will too and could deplete remaining trout populations if hatchery enhanced waters are eliminated and/ or diminished further.
Chairman Fortney said fewer planted fish will ultimately “seriously impact the smaller rural communities, like Inyo County, that depend, in large part, on fishing tourism for their economic stability.”