Unite in opposition to AB 1253
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

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Press Release
29 April 2009

Gary Adams, California Striped Bass Association: 925-686-4064
Doug Lovell, Federation of Fly Fishers: 510-520-3146
Robert Johnson Jr., Save Delta Fish: 925-580-4480
Bill Jennings, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance: 209-938-9053
Dave Studeman, Press Inquiries: 925-283-1879/dasutdeman@msn.com

Bakersfield Legislator Falls Prey to Striped Bass Anglers

A combined effort by fisheries groups, scientists, and conservation organizations has stopped a Central Valley legislator from attempting to eradicate striped bass in California.

Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) had previously introduced AB 1253 in the California legislature, declaring war on striped bass and proposing to remove all game fish restrictions. AB 1253 would have removed all harvest restrictions, allowing unlimited take of any size, statewide, even by commercial methods such as netting. AB 1253 would have allowed the sale of striped bass, something California has not permitted since the 1930’s. With a lucrative black market already in place – as evidenced by illegal poaching arrests that occur every few months –Fuller’s proposed legislation would have surely meant the untimely demise of this prized, legally-introduced game fish.

Assemblywoman Fuller discovered she had no supporters of AB 1253 on the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee; accordingly, at the 11th hour, she gutted the bill, deleting all previously-proposed wording and substituting an “amendment.” The “amended” bill calls for a study to compile existing information regarding predation on threatened and endangered smelt, salmon, and steelhead.

On 28 April 2009, the “amended” bill passed the California Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife against the better judgment of Mariko Yamada (D-Vacaville). Assemblywoman Yamada questioned whether further study was appropriate in light of the many existing, completed studies by our State and Federal fish agencies.

“The amended bill does not mention ‘striped bass’ by name, which is a complete 180 from Fuller’s original bill. I trust Fuller’s amended bill will send a strong message that striped bass should no longer be singled out and blamed for the ecosystem troubles” states Gary Adams, former president of the California Striped Bass Association. However, the study called for in the amended bill does not mean that this battle is over. Adams also points out that “the past history involving science by CalFed, the Department of Resources, and the National Marine Fisheries has not been even-handed.”

“As originally proposed, AB 1253 specifically targeted striped bass and did not mention the water and overriding fisheries and habitat issues that need to be addressed. The bill would have diverted efforts from the most significant problems. This kind of red herring legislation is exactly what we don’t need,” states Doug Lovell of the Federation of Fly Fishers.

Assemblywoman Fuller’s bill ultimately provided a rallying cry for fishing stakeholders. Fisheries groups, commercial salmon fisherman, and conservation groups wrote letters of opposition to the bill. As characterized by Dan Blanton, nationally recognized author and striped bass angler, “we came through this fight stronger, more unified, and better organized. We demonstrated that we are in this for the long haul.”

Assemblywoman Fuller’s bill provided yet another rallying point for Bay-Delta advocates as Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta stated, “we must not pit the needs of Central Valley farm workers against those of farm workers in the Bay-Delta estuary – we must provide solutions to benefit us all.” As Save Delta Fish founder Robert Johnson, Jr. stated, “we Californians must now establish 21st Century water policies to solve our State’s water issues, while preserving our Everglades of the West.”

John Beuttler, Conservation Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, summed up the legislative battle: “Of course, one victory does not win the war. Given the opposition and its very effective and well financed water lobby, we must continue to work collectively to engage the legislature if our Bay-Delta fisheries are to have a future, instead of becoming a memory of the past.”

With 25% of all warm water and sportfishing species as well as 80% of the State's commercial fishery species living in or migrating through the Sacramento/San Joaquin Bay-Delta estuary, the water wars in California are far from resolution.