Recently, some have suggested that the CalTrout-supported SB 1148 legislation would damage the Sierra’s tourism and recreation economy. It’s not true, and we wanted to set the record straight in an Op-Ed piece to several Sierra newspapers.
By Curtis Knight, Conservation Director, CalTrout
In a recently published article, it was suggested that CalTrout-supported SB1148 legislation would defund hatcheries, damage the Eastern Sierra’s tourism economy, and negate former Senator Cogdill’s AB 7 legislation.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
CalTrout worked closely with then-Senator Cogdill to pass AB 7 in 2005. That legislation set current hatchery production goals and funded the Heritage and Wild Trout program. Unfortunately the hatchery production goals set forth in AB 7 are not being met and the Heritage and Wild Trout program is still underfunded.
By contrast, SB 1148 supports the hatchery goals set by AB 7 (it looks for a more efficient means of meeting them, including the use of private hatcheries), adequately staffs and funds the Heritage and Wild Trout program, and proposes comprehensive management practices for all trout populations.
Here are some key benefits of SB 1148:
1) SB 1148 does not diminish funding for hatcheries.
AB 7 established the Hatcheries and Inland Fisheries Fund (HIFF) which is funded by 33 1/3% of fishing license sales. Typically, this fund is $20-25 million annually, and hatcheries receive over 85% of HIFF funds. SB 1148 will not change this.
What SB 1148 does do is empower DF&G to explore creative ways to meet currently unmet production goals. For example, private hatcheries can help meet production goals at a reasonable cost.
2) SB 1148 would reaffirm AB7’s establishment of the Heritage and Wild Trout program and ensure the hiring of the seven Heritage and Wild Trout positions promised by AB 7.
Originally, AB 7 required the hiring of seven new Heritage and Wild Trout positions, yet within four years of passing these new positions were eliminated. The existing legislative intent of AB 7 is clearly not enough to ensure the sustainability of the Heritage and Wild Trout program. SB 1148 fixes that.
3) SB 1148 tells DF&G to stock fish in areas where they are most needed.
SB 1148 focuses on providing anglers with the best fishing possible, especially in high use areas. In fact, stocking of hatchery fish in put-and-take fisheries will be improved with SB 1148. Where stocking is warranted the Department will have resources to meet angler demand and improve angler satisfaction.
4) SB 1148 is better because it doesn’t harm the genetic integrity of existing wild trout populations.
California’s native trout populations need protection too, and SB 1148 helps us protect them — while it looks for better efficiency in the hatchery production process. It proposes the stocking of triploid (sterile) fish wherever possible; triploids grow faster and provide the kind of angling experience sought by the majority of anglers.
SB 1148 is good for fisheries and tourism.
In contrast to what has been alleged, SB 1148 continues to evolve and no longer includes an Independent Hatchery Review Committee, a requirement to mark all hatchery fish, and several other stipulations mentioned in last week’s story.
Simply put, trout get short shrift in Sacramento, and California’s anglers need to stand together to ensure adequate resources are directed to improving the management of hatchery trout and wild trout.
SB 1148 is important because it reminds Sacramento of the promises made in AB 7 and reaffirms them; it preserves the percentage of license fees going to hatchery operations and also funds the Heritage and Wild Trout program.
We recognize the importance of trout fishing to the economy of the Eastern Sierra and believe SB 1148 will result in better fishing for all anglers.