Counties bash fish bill SB 1148

By Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat September 25, 2012 11:53 am

An obscure state bill to reform Fish and Game policies is drawing the ire of some local policymakers.

The Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors and Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen are urging Gov. Jerry Brown to veto SB 1148, saying the bill could have a negative effect on the local economy by diverting funding from fish hatchery programs. The bill was approved in the Legislature in late August.


In a letter signed by board Chairman Dick Pland, the Board of Supervisors says the bill “undermines existing law and contains language that threatens the traditions of families who enjoy traditional fishing in lakes and streams.”

The complicated bill looks to restructure some of the state’s Department of Fish and Game, which regulates sport fishing, fish hatcheries and fish planting programs around the state. The bill hands some oversight on fishing and hunting matters from the state Legislature to the Fish and Game Commission, changes some policies related to fees and appropriates some funds to hatchery improvements. It also directs Fish and Game to sterilize most planted fish to decrease genetic infiltration of native populations.

But local officials are concerned about a provision that strengthens the department’s focus on improving and maintaining wild and native trout populations. The bill will hire new positions for the Heritage and Wild Trout program, and members of the local board along with Olsen say this could take away resources from hatcheries and planting.

The trout hatchery in Moccasin provided more than 386,000 pounds of trout by way of stocking in Sierra Nevada Streams in 2011. In the letter, the county board says any cuts to hatchery and stocking programs will hurt the local economy, which is fueled largely by outdoor tourism. Most of the county’s popular fishing spots are supported by hatchery plants.

“Whatever we can do to protect that income stream is very important,” Supervisor John Gray said last week.

Calaveras and Mono counties have also logged opposition to the bill. But there is support for the legislation, as well. CalTrout, a waterway conservation organization, has been advocating for the legislation saying it will not cut into the hatchery budget.

In a written statement on the bill, CalTrout Conservation Director Curtis Knight argues a third of the revenue from fishing license sales will still go to hatcheries. He also says the bill will allow Fish and Game to stock fish where they are “most needed.”

“Trout get the shrift in Sacramento, and California’s anglers need to stand together to ensure adequate resources are directed to improving management of hatchery trout and wild trout,” Knight stated.