TOPIC: National Marine Fisheries Service

Sea turtles come before sea-based energy sources

A proposed settlement between environmental groups and the federal government over protecting much of the waters off of California’s coast for endangered leatherback sea turtles could scupper plans to harness the Pacific as an energy source, writes John Upton of The Bay Citizen.

Essentially, the plan would designate over 70,000 square miles of ocean as critical habitat, including the entire coast of Washington, two thirds of Oregon’s and about two thirds of California’s. (more…)

Army Corps v. California trees

Six years and thousands of miles away from the poorly designed flood walls and levees whose post-Katrina failure inundated New Orleans, environmental groups in California have filed a federal lawsuit to prevent what they contend is an unproven, costly and potentially damaging flood protection strategy ordered by US Army Corps of Engineers.

The Corps, under scrutiny after a natural disaster became a man-made catastrophe, decreed in 2007 that local levee districts would in the future lose guarantees of federal aid and loans unless all trees and shrubs were removed from levees under its nominal jurisdiction around the nation. (more…)

In the High Sierra, it never rains but it pours

Sacramento river levee

Massive federal irrigation pumps, sucking up a bounty of water after an abundant California rainy season, are wreaking  havoc on already-stressed fish species, while state and federal officials fret that sudden and sustained heat in the High Sierra could cause devastating flooding. (more…)

Tuna factory off San Diego? (or destroying the ocean in order to save it)

An Icelandic aquaculture entrepreneur has staked his claim in the waters off Baja California, Mexico in the form of giant offshore fish farms, and if federal regulations now under review are significantly altered, the far-sighted project could migrate north of the border, off of San Diego.

That’s the bottom line of one heck of a fish story by Mike Lee in today’s edition of The San Diego Union-Tribune. The plan, by Oli Steindorsson, chief executive of Umami Sustainable Seafood, is to raise giant tuna in offshore pens for sale to the Japanese market and consumers in general. (more…)

California salmon situation finally spawning good news

Chinook salmon

California’s vanishing salmon are suddenly bouncing back. After four years of declining populations that have worried scientists, bankrupted fisherman and launched desperate conservation measures, a near record year is predicted for Chinook or King salmon, prompting regulators to prepare plans for opening the Pacific for the first real commercial and recreational salmon fishing season since 2007.

The federal Pacific Fishery Management Council released three conceptual options for the coming season yesterday, reports Peter Fimrite of the San Francisco Chronicle. All three options allow for much more fishing than last year, predicated on estimates derived from the number of two-year-old salmon, known as ‘jacks,’ that returned to spawn a year ago. (more…)

Camp carp amendment killed

The Associated Press reports that the House voted against a budget bill amendment by Michigan Rep. Dave Camp that would deny funding for the Army Corps of Engineers to keep open the locks that connect Lake Michigan to Chicago waterways. Camp argued that if the Corps let the locks close it would prevent invasion of Asian carp from the Mississippi River into the Great Lakes. But the notion that closing the locks would damage the Illinois shipping industry carried the day. (more…)

Hope for water progress in California may be evaporating

Talks aimed at forging a compromise in California’s intractable water wars — in process for more than a decade — hit a potentially serious snag as the nation’s largest irrigation district announced it would no longer contribute to the cost of studies. (more…)

American Samoa: That’s just not my bag

The tiny, mid pacific islands known as American Samoa has succeeded in an effort that remains elusive in California: banning plastic shopping bags.

The law, signed just days ago, goes into effect in February.

The move taken by the American territory was applauded by the federal EPA, according to Guam’s Pacific Daily News. While plastic bag bans or fees have been enacted in a number of municipalities, American Samoa is the first state government or territorial administration to take such an action. (more…)

Federal agencies work to restore native oyster in California

Researchers at the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve are working to restore the west coast’s native oyster species, the Olympia Oyster, to the slough, an estuary teeming with wildlife along California’s Central Coast between Monterey and Santa Cruz.

Harvested to near extinction following the Gold Rush, efforts are now underway to restore the bivalves to parts of their historic range, reports Genevieve Bookwalter of the Santa Cruz Sentinel. (more…)

California courts slow to shape fisheries’ future

Columbia River fish ladder

The National Marine Fisheries Service was ordered to go back to the drawing board by a federal judge in California, the latest inconclusive skirmish over fish habitat in an important tributary to the Sacramento River, Denny Walsh of the Sacramento Bee reported Monday.

The battle is over the fate of two dams on Northern California’s Yuba River, which were constructed to prevent remnants of mountains blasted away by hydraulic mining during the gold rush from fouling waterways downstream.  According to the agency, populations of endangered salmon, steelhead and sturgeon are all stable in the river, facts certified in a required ‘biological opinion.’ However, environmental groups convinced the judge that the agency’s opinion was rife with contradictions and flaws that the agency was well aware of. (more…)