The California Fish and Game Commission deserves recognition for moving forward with an important Delta fisheries management policy that will be considered at their next meeting. The Commission has yet to take final action but, after years of stakeholder engagement with the Commission and their staff, the positive movement is a major milestone in the effort to protect native endangered salmon.
The new policy would formalize prioritization and management of listed native species over those of non-native fish, consistent with the federal and California Endangered Species Acts. Water resource managers have been searching for methods to address predation by non-native species on listed species, including salmon and smelt, for years. While this would be a small step by the Commission, it represents one piece of a broader effort to manage the Delta more holistically.
At least 95 percent of juvenile salmon do not survive the journey form their spawning grounds, through the Delta, and out to the Pacific Ocean. While there are many stressors that contribute to fishery decline, the National Marine Fisheries Service and other experts on salmonids consistently point to predation by non-native species as a major factor.
The Commission still must vote to formally approve the policy. We are hopeful that with further collaboration with environmental, water user and fishing representatives the Commission will adopt a policy that prioritizes management of native Delta species . The Commission will also be considering repeal of an outdated striped bass policy. These two actions will align Commission policies with ongoing efforts to restore habitat and establish strategic flow regimes. Only when all state and federal regulatory agencies can align their shared visions and goals for improving the Delta and our state’s water delivery system, will Californians start to see real progress towards a healthy environment and a reliable water supply.