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DFG DIRECTOR SUSPENDS STRIPED BASS PLANTING IN DELTA, CITING NEED TO PROTECT WINTER-RUN SALMON

 DFG DIRECTOR SUSPENDS STRIPED BASS PLANTING IN DELTA,
 CITING NEED TO PROTECT WINTER-RUN SALMON
 SACRAMENTO, Calif., May 28 /PRNewswire/ -- Boyd Gibbons, director of the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) today announced he is temporarily suspending the artificial rearing and planting of striped bass in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
 Citing the virtual collapse of winter-run Chinook salmon populations and concern for the long-term health of the Delta ecosystem, Gibbons said the action is intended to help protect winter-run salmon from striper predation. Under California law, the winter-run Chinook is listed as endangered while the federal government lists it as threatened with extinction.
 Gibbons said research indicates "that striped bass do occasionally prey on young salmon." While striper predation had scant impact when waters were healthy and fish abundant, Gibbons said the current "degraded" Delta environment has altered the old balance between predator and prey.
 "Though researchers indicate a minimal risk that planted striped bass will push the winter-run to extinction, I am not prepared to take that risk.
 "Dams, diversions from the rivers and Delta, and pollution have all combined to degrade the habitat of the winter-run and help cause its near demise. The situation is exacerbated by an unprecedented sixth year of drought," said Gibbons.
 "This beautiful fish is at the precipice because of the imperiled health of its habitat, particularly the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. At one time, the winter-run numbered nearly 200,000. Last year, fewer than 200 returned to spawn."
 Currently, the DFG has a total of 2.8 million yearling striped bass under contract with private hatcheries and another 200,000 in the DFG's Central Valley Hatchery. Of the 2.8 million fish in private hatcheries, 2.5 million are funded by the Department of Water Resources and 300,000 by PG&E company as mitigation for their projects.
 The DFG is exploring options for alternative placement of the fish slated for planting in 1992, including the possibility of sale to other states. Some of the yearlings will be planted in California waters, including the California Aqueduct and San Luis Reservoir.
 Gibbons also stressed that the DFG will continue to study and refine its assessment of conditions in the Delta and causes of decline of all species.
 Gibbons termed today's action "an interim step" that does not close the door to future plantings. He stressed that he is not seeking a "temporary fix but looking toward the long-term health of the Delta and the Central Valley rivers which drain into it."
 Gibbons said that Gov. Wilson's water policy calls for interim water quality standards for the Delta by the end of 1992. Gibbons noted that the DFG will present alternatives for restoring that ecosystem when the State Water Resources Control Board next month opens hearings on the subject.
 Today's decision to halt the striper rearing and planting program was a "difficult" one, said Gibbons, "but to bring back salmon, Delta smelt, and stripers, it is necessary to restore the health of the aquatic environment in which they swim. The fish will return when their ecosystem returns.
 "Like physicians, we who are charged with protecting the environment must treat the illness and not just the symptoms," said Gibbons.
 -0- 5/28/92
 /CONTACT: Howard Sarasohn of the California Department of Fish and Game, 916-653-7556/ CO: California Department of Fish and Game ST: California IN: SU:


MC-MM -- SF007 -- 5012 05/28/92 20:02 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:May 28, 1992
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