BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



          SENATE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES AND WATER
                             Senator Fran Pavley, Chair
                                2015 - 2016  Regular 

          Bill No:            AB 1201         Hearing Date:    July 14,  
          2015
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          |Author:    |Salas                  |           |                 |
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          |Version:   |July 7, 2015    Amended                              |
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          |Urgency:   |No                     |Fiscal:    |Yes              |
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          |Consultant:|Katharine Moore                                      |
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             Subject:  Fish and wildlife: Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta:  
                           predation by nonnative species.


          BACKGROUND AND EXISTING LAW
          Existing law establishes the Department of Fish and Wildlife  
          (department) in the Natural Resources Agency. The department's  
          mission is to manage California's diverse fish, wildlife, and  
          plant resources, and the habitats upon which they depend, for  
          their ecological values and for their use and enjoyment by the  
          public.

          The Sacramento River - San Joaquin Delta is the largest  
          estuarine system on the west coast.  The Delta is a productive  
          agricultural region as well as important habitat for wildlife,  
          fishes and invertebrates.  The Delta provides essential rearing  
          habitat for Chinook salmon and steelhead and is a transit zone  
          for these species as they emigrate to their adult habitat in the  
          Pacific. Today, the Delta is also the hub of the state's water  
          distribution system. About two-thirds of all Californians and  
          millions of acres of irrigated farmland rely on the Delta for  
          water from the state and federal water projects. However, as  
          noted in a recent review of predation in the Delta, "both the  
          rearing and migratory functions of the Delta have been strongly  
          affected by a long history of water withdrawals, land  
          conversion, and introductions of invasive species."

          Existing law recognizes striped bass as a nonnative introduced  
          sportfish.  It is a popular sportfish and is a predator of other  







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          species, including other fish.  According to a news report,  
          there were as many as 2.5 million adult stripers in the Delta in  
          the mid-1970s, and the population is estimated to have declined  
          to about a million by 2003 due to many of the same factors that  
          threaten other fish in the Delta.

          Existing law places certain restrictions on the striped bass  
          fishery.  The Fish and Game Commission by regulation sets  
          seasons, bag limits and size limits for take of striped bass.  
          Current regulations establish a statewide limit of 2 fish, 18  
          inches minimum in length, except in the Colorado River District,  
          the Southern District and certain lakes, where the limit is 10  
          fish with no minimum size restriction. 

          Declines in salmon populations have been attributed to predation  
          by significant striped bass populations.  Striped bass were the  
          focus of most past efforts investigating predation by nonnative  
          species on native species. Water agencies, particularly in the  
          San Joaquin Valley, have claimed striped bass are a primary  
          cause of the decline of Delta smelt and other pelagic species  
          and not lack of instream flows in the Sacramento and San Joaquin  
          Rivers. Other stakeholders have disagreed citing a lack of  
          instream flows and a loss of habitat as primary stressors on  
          those species. 

          There are native predators, such as the Sacramento pikeminnow,  
          that feed on salmonids as well.  Additionally, some tagging  
          studies have identified "hot spots" in the Delta where many  
          salmon smolts were lost and predation is, at least in part,  
          likely to be responsible.  

          Scientific research on predation of salmonids and other species  
          is currently underway in California. The department reports  
          collaborating with the Department of Water Resources and federal  
          entities on a predation study that started in 2014.   
          Approximately $1.2 million has been spent over the two years the  
          study has been underway.  Additionally the Independent  
          Scientific Review Panel that was set-up as part of a lawsuit  
          settlement (see comment below) received three proposals that  
          will study the recommendations from a 2013 Predation workshop  
          held by the department.  The settlement provides $1 million to  
          evaluate predation.  The Department of Water Resources is also  
          funding predation studies in the Delta area and reports federal  
          agencies are funding studies as well.  The biological opinions  








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          for at least some listed species require these predation  
          studies.

          While predation research is underway, the report from the 2013  
          Predation workshop notes that "[a]vailable data and analyses  
          have generated valuable information regarding aspects of the  
          predation process in the Delta but do not provide unambiguous  
          and comprehensive estimates of fish predation rates on juvenile  
          salmon or steelhead nor on population-level effects for these  
          species in the Delta."

          The report also states that, "[j]uvenile salmon are clearly  
          consumed by fish predators and several studies indicate that the  
          population of predators is large enough to effectively consume  
          all juvenile salmon production.  However, given extensive flow  
          modification, altered habitat conditions, native and non-native  
          fish and avian predators, temperature and dissolved oxygen  
          limitations, and overall reduction in historical salmon  
          population size, it is not clear what proportion of juvenile  
          mortality can be directly attributed to fish predation.  Fish  
          predation may serve as the proximate mechanism of mortality in a  
          large proportion of the population but the ultimate causes of  
          mortality and declines in productivity are less clear.  For  
          example, stress caused by harsh environmental conditions or  
          toxicants will render fish more susceptible to all sources of  
          mortality including predation, disease or physiological stress."

          PROPOSED LAW
          This bill would require the department to develop a  
          science-based approach by June 30, 2016 that helps address  
          predation by non-native species on Delta species listed as  
          threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species  
          Act. The plan would be required to take into consideration  
          predation on all Chinook salmon and other species not listed as  
          threatened or endangered.  The bill would make implementation of  
          the plan subject to the availability of funding. The bill would  
          also make numerous supporting legislative findings.

          ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT
          According to the author, "Over the years, the Delta's ecosystem  
          has deteriorated due to numerous stressors, making it unable to  
          deliver reliable water supplies, sustain native species and  
          accommodate a variety of recreational activities."









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          "Today, the Delta ecosystem is in severe distress, and there is  
          no stressor facing the Delta ecosystem that can be ignored."

          "We need to use science-based data in order to take concerted  
          efforts to help protect the long-term ecological health of the  
          Delta and its native species in order to ensure a reliable and  
          sustainable water supply for all Californians."

          "AB 1201 requires [the department] to develop a science-based  
          approach that helps address predation on endangered Delta  
          species."

          ARGUMENTS IN OPPOSITION
          Writing in opposition, a group of 38 sport fishing organizations  
          and businesses state, "[g]iven the duration and magnitude of the  
          decline of the anadromous fisheries of the Central Valley, the  
          collapse in the productivity of the Delta estuary's ecosystem  
          and the inability of state and federal government to save and  
          restore these extremely valuable public resources over the past  
          fifty years, we are very concerned that this proposed  
          legislation misses the big picture problems suffered by the  
          estuary and will detract from solving them."

          "The impacts to the estuary that occur due to exporting vast  
          amounts of water primarily by the state and federal water  
          projects have been found to be the fundamental cause for the  
          fishery declines according to the best available peer reviewed  
          science."

          "The extensive peer reviewed science on predation in the estuary  
          has relegated predation to be the least important stressor on  
          fisheries" and they further note that "[a]fter five decades of  
          not coming to grips with real solutions, we need to act now  
          while there is time for fisheries to be recovered."

          COMMENTS
           Work is underway at the department now on predation  .  As noted  
          above, the department, as well as other state and federal  
          entities, are currently funding research on predation.  By  
          neglecting these efforts in the bill, the impression may be  
          provided that predation is not being considered.  The committee  
          may wish to correct that oversight. [Amendment 1]

           Salmon and smelt are part of a larger food chain/web  .  As a  








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          recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of  
          Sciences points out, river ecosystem food chains or webs are  
          complicated, non-linear systems that may respond to changing  
          conditions in unexpected ways.  For example, reducing the  
          population of one predator of salmon may result in the emergence  
          of another more voracious predator (including non-fish species)  
          which may result in a net lower population of salmon.  
          Additionally, technical models estimating predation rates  
          generally lack validation and it is difficult to exact level of  
          benefit predator removal will have.  As respected fisheries  
          biologists Peter Moyle and William Bennett wrote "Reducing  
          striped bass and other predator populations is unlikely to make  
          a difference in saving endangered fishes, and will serve only to  
          distract attention from the real problems."

           Hatchery practices may have something to do with the decline in  
          salmon population too  .  Emerging science has revealed that  
          salmon hatchery practices may produce salmonids with lower  
          survival rates and a diminished likelihood of successful  
          procreation compared to wild salmonids.  In 2012, the California  
          Hatchery Review Report was released which provided policy-level  
          recommendations based upon the sound scientific review of  
          available information.  The report made numerous recommendations  
          to more carefully manage hatchery processes to produce more  
          robust fish with emphases on careful monitoring and evaluation  
          programs.  Hatchery production is thought to responsible for  
          all/almost all of the fall-run Central Valley Chinook salmon  
          which supports much of the recreational and commercial salmon  
          fishery.

           Controversy over predation  .  In 2008 the Coalition for a  
          Sustainable Delta, which included southern San Joaquin Valley  
          water districts, sued the department in an attempt to loosen the  
          restriction on striped bass take, arguing that this protection  
          was responsible for significant loss of endangered runs of  
          Chinook salmon.  In 2010, the National Marine Fisheries Service  
          also recommended that the bag limit on stripers be lifted in  
          order to boost endangered salmon populations.  In the 2011  
          settlement, the department agreed to consider a management plan  
          for stripers that took into account the fate of Chinook salmon,  
          steelhead and other native species.  However, in 2012 the Fish  
          and Game Commission voted not to go ahead with the proposed  
          environmental assessment.









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           Recent related legislation
           AB 1253 (Fuller, 2009).  This bill would have removed the  
          existing restrictions on the commercial possession or sale of  
          striped bass, and on the taking of striped bass with nets. (this  
          bill was later amended into a different subject area.) 

          AB 2336 (Fuller, 2010).  This bill would have required the Delta  
          Stewardship Council, in the course developing and adopting the  
          Delta plan, to direct the Delta Independent Science Board to  
          conduct an assessment of other stressors on populations of  
          native species in the Delta. (held in the Senate Natural  
          Resources and Water Committee)

          SUGGESTED AMENDMENTS 
          
          AMENDMENT 1
               On page 2, between lines 31 and 32, insert:

               "(g) The state, including the Department of Fish and  
               Wildlife and the Department of Water Resources, have been  
               and are engaged in sponsoring and conducting scientific  
               research on the effects of predation on native species."

               On page 3, on line 6, after "(a)" add "(1)"

               On page 3, between lines 14 and 15, insert:

               "(2) The department shall incorporate its existing  
               predation research and study design efforts into  
               development of the plan required pursuant to paragraph  
               (1)."

          SUPPORT
          Agricultural Council of California
          Association of California Water Agencies
          California Chamber of Commerce
          California Citrus Mutual
          California Cotton Ginners & Growers Associations
          California Farm Bureau Federation
          California Fresh Fruit Association
          Calleguas Water District
          City of Torrance
          Coachella Valley Water District
          Cucamonga Valley Water District








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          Eastern Municipal Water District
          Family Farm Alliance
          Fresno County Farm Bureau
          Friant Water Authority
          Grassland Water District
          Inland Empire Utilities Agency
          Irvine Ranch Water District
          Kern County Water Agency
          Las Virgenes Municipal Water District
          Mesa Water District
          Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
          Modesto Irrigation District
          Northern California Water Association
          Oakdale Irrigation District
          Pasadena Water and Power
          Robert J. Beste, Public Works Director, City of Torrance
          San Diego County Water Authority
          San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority
          San Luis Water District
          Santa Clara Valley Water District
          Southern California Water Committee
          Three Valleys Municipal Water District
          Turlock Irrigation District
          Western Agricultural Processers Association
          Western Growers Association
          Western United Dairymen
          Westlands Water District

          OPPOSITION
          Black Bass Action Committee
          Bass Classics of Santa Clara
          California Fly Fishers Unlimited
          California Sportfishing Protection Alliance
          California Striped Bass Association
          Chico Flyfishers
          Coastside Fishing Club
          Delta Fly Fishers
          Diablo Valley Fly Fishermen
          E.C. Powell Fly Fishers
          Fishery Foundation of California
          Fly Fishers For Conservation
          Fly Fishers of Davis
          Friends of Butte Creek
          Granite Bay Flycasters








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          Gold County Fly Fishers
          Grizzly Peak Flyfishers
          Golden Gate Angling & Casting Club
          Golden West Women Flyfishers
          Hi's Tackle Box
          ICON Products, Inc.
          Mission Peak Fly Anglers
          NCC - Federation of Fly Fishers
          NORCAL Kayak Anglers
          Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Association
          Pasadena Casting Club
          Peninsula Fly Fishers
          Recreational Fishing Alliance
          Salmon Restoration Association
          Santa Cruz Fly Fishermen
          Shasta Fly Fishers
          SWC - Federation of Fly Fishers
          Striperfest
          Tracy Fly Fishers
          Tri-Valley Fly Fishers
          United Anglers of California
          United Pier & Shore Anglers of California
          USA Fishing
          Wilderness Fly Fishers

          
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