The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, working with California Fish and Game, has issued a notice of intent to run the state fish hatchery program through the California and federal environmental protection process. What impacts this environmental review will have on trout fishing in California is yet to be seen.
An environmental lawsuit and court order over the impacts of fish stocking on native species like the mountain yellow legged frog spurred this statewide review. Added to the list of levers pushing on Fish and Game is AB 7, the new state law that requires Fish and Game to increase trout production based on how many licenses are sold in California.
Jim Starr with Fish and Game explained that the 23 hatcheries in California stock fish in almost every body of water across the state. With federal money used to help fund some trout programs, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is involved as well. The result will be a joint Environmental Impact Report and Federal Environmental Impact Statement to basically look at where Fish and Game plants trout.
What impact the EIR/EIS will have on trout stocking is too early to tell, but one area of potential conflict is the high mountain lakes.
Before stocking started in the 1880s, very few lakes in the High Sierra contained trout. Scientists who have studied the decline of the Mountain Yellow Legged frog have listed introduced trout as a major factor in the decline of these amphibians. Whether trout will be removed from certain hHgh Sierra lakes, or the department will stop stocking these high mountain lakes is not known, but Starr says that the potential does exist.
When asked if the EIR/EIS would have any effect on trout stocking in reservoirs like Crowley and South Lake, Starr said that its too early to know for sure but that he doubts that stocking reservoirs would change much.
With AB 7, the new law that sets trout production numbers, there is the potential that some areas where there are no endangered species could see an increase in stocked fish. Some areas where there is a conflict could see trout removal. Starr explained that other areas could see management of both trout and native species.
The first public meetings on this EIS/EIR are scheduled for September 8, in Sacramento and September 11th, in Carson, California.
The full documents on this hatchery EIR/EIS can be found on the California Fish and Game Website under Public Notices.