NEWS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, 6:010, Jan. 17, 2006
- Marty Gingras, Senior Biologist, Bay Delta Branch (209) 948-3702
- Steve Martarano, Office of Communications, (916) 654-5866
DFG Announces Plan to Help Boost Sturgeon Populations
The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) announced a plan today to encourage the recovery of California's sturgeon spawning populations.
"If successfully implemented, this plan will improve the ability of California's sturgeon to survive natural and other impacts to their population without affecting the opportunity to fish for sturgeon and with minimal reduction in the opportunity to harvest non-spawning sturgeon," DFG Director Ryan Broddrick said.
DFG's plan includes improving migration of sturgeon to spawning grounds, developing collaborative proposals to change fishing regulations for implementation in 2007, enhanced monitoring of sturgeon populations, and recommending emergency fishing regulations that would lower sturgeon bag limits in the Sacramento-San Joaquin river system, said Broddrick.
Since a 1998 peak of about 144,000, the abundance of California's legal-sized white sturgeon has declined due to a variety of factors such as poor spawning success, impediments to migration, entrainment, and legal and illegal harvest. Information developed in November 2005 suggests that the abundance of legal-sized white sturgeon is now at a 50-year low of about 10,000.
Abundance of green sturgeon has not been estimated using conventional means, but is lower than the abundance of white sturgeon. The National Marine Fisheries Service has proposed listing certain California green sturgeon as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The California Fish and Game Commission plans to consider a proposal from DFG for emergency sport fishing regulations to further protect sturgeon at the Feb. 2 meeting in Sacramento. The proposal is for a zero bag limit of sturgeon in certain Central Valley rivers from March through June 2006 and a zero bag limit of green sturgeon throughout California. In early 2006 DFG will also hold a series of public meetings to discuss the status of California's sturgeon and receive feedback on various potential sport fishing regulations that may replace or complement the proposed emergency regulations.
Current regulations allow for a one-fish daily bag limit, a 46- to 72-inch size limit, and closures in other areas. There is a year-round prohibition on take of sturgeon in Humboldt, Del Norte, Trinity and Siskiyou counties. A Jan. 1 to March 15 closure and the prohibition on take in part of San Francisco Bay would not be affected by the proposed emergency regulations. Commercial catch and sale of sturgeon will remain prohibited.
White sturgeon and green sturgeon are native California sportfishes prized for their large size, flesh and roe, which can be processed into caviar. They are anadromous and slow to mature. White sturgeon can grow to 1,000 pounds and live for 100 years. In California, most of their spawning habitat and population is in the Sacramento River watershed.
Due to their biology and habitat requirements, sturgeon populations worldwide are at particular risk of collapse due to habitat loss and overharvest. Sturgeon populations in the Columbia and the Sacramento-San Joaquin systems were severely depleted by unrestricted commercial fishing in the last two decades of the 19th century. As a result, California closed the sturgeon fishery from 1916 until 1955.