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Anti-striper bill filleted by opposition

Outdoors
By: J.D. Richey Journal Outdoors Columnist
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Well, a hearty thank you is in order to any of you who showed up at the State Capitol in the early morning hours Tuesday to show your opposition to Assembly Bill 1253, the anti-striper legislation. A good turnout of anglers, guides and fishing club members crammed the meeting room at the State Assembly’s Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee and well over 70 individuals spoke out against AB 1253. In case you missed it, the intent of the bill, introduced by Assemblywoman Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield), was to remove the gamefish status from California’s striped bass. In other words, there would be no limitations on the take of stripers — no size restrictions and no bag limits. In that case, stripers would be opened up to commercial fishing with nets — and it doesn’t take a vivid imagination to figure out how destructive that would be. Additionally, AB 1253 prohibited any future planting of striped bass in the state and would made it illegal for any funding to be used to benefit any striped bass fisheries. In short, the whole thing was a bad idea. Fuller couched the bill as a way to help protect dwindling salmon and Delta smelt populations from the predatory stripers, which are not native to California. However, there is no biological evidence to suggest that striped bass eat enough of those species to make much of a difference. Her logic is especially flawed when you consider a recently released report by a collaboration of state and federal biologists has cited poor ocean feeding conditions and freshwater habitat degradation (i.e. water diversions, pollution, etc.) as the primary sources for the salmon’s precipitous decline. Stripers were not even in the conversation — and when you look back to the huge salmon years like 2002, you’ll see that we also had good striper populations. No, this bill had nothing to do with helping salmon or Delta smelt — and all you have to do is take a look at who it was backed by — major corporate agribusiness. So, what happened Tuesday morning? Well, the bill was passed through the Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee… but most of the sting was taken out of it. I think Fuller sensed that her bill was about to be crushed and then added a couple amendments at the last minute. The version of AB 1253 that made it out alive didn’t include any of the language about declassifying stripers as gamefish and basically just called for a more in-depth look at literature on the subject of predation on smelt and salmon by introduced species as well as native fishes. And then a report to the legislature and governor on the findings and whether or not more studies would be necessary. This was a huge victory for our side and it was great to see such a conglomeration of mixed angling groups come together to fight the good fight. Of course, the victory doesn’t mean we have time to rest on our laurels. When you get right down to it, all we’ve done is get back to where we were — which is facing rapidly failing fisheries and an overall collapse of our Delta system thanks, in great part, to massive diversions that send our water south. We’ve got to get all that turned around soon or we won’t have much to fight for in the future… All you striper fans out there, please be sure to thank and support the groups that were instrumental in opposing the anti-striper bill, including: The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, California Striped Bass Association, Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman’s Association, Northern California Federation of Fly Fishers, SaveDeltaFish.com, SaveOurStripers.org, Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee Chair, Jared Huffman and several others. J.D. Richey is a 1986 Placer High graduate, and his outdoors pieces have been published nationally. He can be found on the Web at www.fishwithjd.com.