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Category: Fisheries

New Cook Islands Shark Sanctuary proposed

Shark
Activists in the Cook Islands in the South Pacific are proposing a huge new shark sanctuary in the face of fishing pressures and the continued massive drop in shark numbers over the last decade worldwide. The Pacific Islands Conservation Initiative, or PICI, is working with local fishery authorities to craft the Cook Islands Shark Sanctuary to extend over the Cook Islands Exclusive Economic Zone, which covers almost 2 million square kilometers of ocean.

“It’s pretty exciting to see this idea start to unfold and to see the community get behind it, and to actually feel like we might accomplish something of measurable impact,” says Jessica Cramp, program manager at PICI, interviewed by phone from the Cook Islands.

PICI is a small operation, started by Steve Lyon, who owns Pacific Divers, a dive shop in Rorotonga. He is also president of the Tourism Industry Council there. Cramp is the only other volunteer so far, and has been involved for seven months.

Of the 18 known species of sharks in the Cook Islands, Cramp says, 15 appear on a “red list” put out by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, or the IUCN. That list is a widely recognized measure of species’ vulnerability to extinction, scaled from “least concern” to “extinct.” Five of the shark species in the Cook Islands are listed as being “vulnerable” or “endangered.”

The cause, of course, is soup. Sharks all over the world are finned in ever-greater numbers to feed a massive market for shark fins in Asia. A 2000 study by Shelley Clarke and other researchers estimated, after a program to genetically ID fins for years, that the fins of 38 million sharks were traded through the main Hong Kong fin market every year. It was noted that that estimate could range as low as 26 million or as high as 73 million.

Not only do large-scale fishing operations long-line specifically for sharks, but sharks are a very common by-catch in other fisheries, such as tuna, and the valuable fins are often used to pay the crew on those boats. The crew, then, have plenty of incentive to kill as many sharks as possible and not to return them to the water alive.

Until recently, the Cook Islands saw relatively little of this, and their biodiversity is quite good. However, the island nation recently signed an agreement with Chinese fishing interests that will soon begin to work in its waters, and this has PICI and others rushing to try to make the shark sanctuary a reality.

The nations of Palau, the Maldives, Tokelau, the Bahamas, Honduras and the Marshall Islands have already set aside shark refuges.

“Research studies have shown that the population of sharks have declined,” Cramp said. “Their biological characteristics make them unable to keep up with the fishing practices that are happening right now. They’re late to mature, slow growers and have very few pups -- they usually have about 6 to 10 pups, sometimes every two years.”

PICI has met with the prime minister and hopes to help write the sanctuary law with the Ministry of Marine Resources, and then to also put forward a separate Shark Act, to give the ministry two different laws that can be used to prosecute illegal shark fishing. Several shark-fishing regulations are already common on commercial boats, but the laws are easily skirted. Cramp says that, because of abuses, many organizations now are pushing for a zero-take, no-fin policy that bans the practice altogether.

SteveJess
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--Dean Kuipers

Top photo: Gray reef shark in the waters off the Cook Islands. Credit: Graham McDonald.

Bottom photo: Steve Lyon and Jessica Cramp of PICI. Credit: PICI.

San Diego water deal upheld, Salton Sea fight continues

Saltonsea
A state appeals court Wednesday upheld the landmark water transfer between the Imperial Valley and San Diego County but left room for more legal wrangling regarding the Salton Sea.

A three-judge panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal overturned a 2010 ruling by a Sacramento Superior Court judge that the water sale was improper because the Legislature had essentially signed a blank check to repair damage done to the Salton Sea.

So, the deal itself is now salvaged. But the same panel refused to decide the arguments that redirecting irrigation water to slake the thirst of San Diego decreases the amount of runoff into the sea, causing it to shrink. That, in turn, is imperiling birds and fish and creating toxic dust storms as ground laden with agricultural pesticides is suddenly exposed to the air.

Those arguments, the panel said, should go back to the Sacramento Superior Court, thus preserving the chances that opponents will be able to scuttle the deal between water-rich but cash-poor Imperial Irrigation District and the cash-rich but water-poor San Diego County Water Authority.

“This is obviously good news, and it’s been a long time coming,” said Kevin Kelley, general manager of the Imperial Irrigation District, “but there’s still considerable work to do in turning this agreement into one that is environmentally sustainable for the Salton Sea and economically viable for Imperial Valley agriculture.”

Maureen Stapleton, general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority, noted that in water issues, perseverance is key. “We were confident we would persevere and prevail,” she said.

The deal, the largest transfer of water from farms to cities in the nation, was signed in 2003, after years of pressure on the Imperial Irrigation District by the federal government. The water sales have continued despite the Superior Court ruling that the Legislature lacked authority to make an open-ended agreement to save the sea.

Straddling Imperial and Riverside counties, the Salton Sea is dependent on agricultural runoff for replenishment. As more water is sold to San Diego rather than used to irrigate farms, runoff has decreased and the sea has shrunk.

The appeal court’s 156-page opinion could serve as a treatise on the complexities and feuding that are part of California’s use of the Colorado River. Its opening sentence tells the tale: “For the better part of 100 years, citizens of the American Southwest have been fighting over the right to water from the Colorado River.”

Imperial County enjoys the largest allocation of any agency in the seven states that depend on the Colorado River. Farmers were braving the valley’s boiling summer temperatures a century ago to pull water from the river, long before California coastal cities saw the river as a source of water.

San Diego County, blessed by nature with mild weather and a gorgeous landscape, is virtually devoid of groundwater. For nearly half a century San Diego officials have hunted for a way to get an “independent” supply of water and decrease the county’s dependence on the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Although the Legislature agreed in 2003 to help the Salton Sea, the state’s financial woes, and a lack of a political constituency for the sea in the power corridors of Sacramento, have largely kept the state from following through on its promise, a point that environmental lawyers are sure to make when the issue returns to the Superior Court.

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Photo: A tributary of the New River flows into the Salton Sea. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

Peter Brown back onboard with Sea Shepherd

Peter Brown, the activist and filmmaker who  released a warts-and-all portrait of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in “Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist,” is returning to the crew for its Antarctic anti-whaling campaign

This post has been corrected. See note at bottom for details.

Peter Brown, the activist and filmmaker who recently released a warts-and-all portrait of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in his documentary film, "Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist," is rejoining the crew for its annual Antarctic anti-whaling campaign after a two-year hiatus.

"I'm really looking forward to it. Paul's been really great this year, helping with ['Confessions']," Brown said, referring to Sea Shepherd captain Paul Watson. "And we've been getting a lot closer. I'm looking forward to sailing with him."

The return is something of a surprise after Brown's acrimonious departure during Sea Shepherd's 2008-2009 winter campaign to stop Japanese whalers in the Antarctic. Those campaigns are the subject of the hit Animal Planet TV show, "Whale Wars," and in Seasons 1 and 2, Brown was made out to be something of a villain -– clashing with crew and camera people, and the subject of much side-interview sniping on the show. He left after a rope on a zodiac boat nearly cut his thumb off.

During two years off, Brown put together "Confessions," compiled from nearly 30 years of footage with the organization. It threatened to raise some hackles with the Sea Shepherd organization as it revealed how campaigns are improvised on the fly, including one incident in which Brown openly admitted he started a riot that resulted in Sea Shepherd officer Lisa DiStefano being dunked after indigenous Makah tribespeople pelted the two of them with rocks. Watson, however, has supported the film, saying his only beef is its name -– he doesn't like the comparison to terrorists -- and showed up for a premiere in Bermuda.

"I don't do this stuff for TV," Brown said. "I'm trying to stop whaling. Paul asked me to come back and I accepted."

Brown is set to rejoin the Sea Shepherd crew Dec. 6 in the harbor city of Fremantle, near Perth in Western Australia, to prepare for this winter’s anti-whaling campaign. He will be first mate on the Sea Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin -– named after the Australian star of the nature program "Crocodile Hunter."

Brown is a veteran Sea Shepherd campaigner, having joined the group in 1981. He is also a veteran of TV, having produced and directed the proto-reality show "Real People" beginning in the 1970s. He was also an original producer for "Entertainment Tonight." 

A fifth season of "Whale Wars" has yet to be announced or confirmed, but Brown says it doesn't matter to him if the show's crew comes along.

"I think it's the end of the line for the Japanese whalers this year," he said during a talk outside a Santa Monica coffeehouse. "They really should have given it up last year. They went home early, they didn't get their quota."

"But instead of realizing that maybe whaling should be done forever, they go back and they have an earthquake, they have a tsunami, they have a nuclear accident. And yet, they're going to subsidize a whaling fleet to tune of $200 million to go down there again, plus $27 million more in extra security. And why? They don't want to surrender to Sea Shepherd. It's not that they need whales to feed people."

Brown said his next film project will be a "Roger & Me"-type documentary project in which he visits whaling nations and confronts them directly on their home turf. But, in the meantime, he's bringing that high-energy confrontation back to the boat.

"Paul knew the trouble 'Whale Wars' caused me, so it'll be much better this time. I won't be dancing around, worried about hurting people's feelings. It's on!" he laughed. "Hang on for the ride, you're on the Peter Brown show!"

[For the Record, 2 p.m. Nov. 23, 2011: An earlier version of this post stated incorrectly that Brown would be captain on the Steve Irwin. He will be first mate.]

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Photo: Peter Brown is set to captain the vessel Steve Irwin when the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society returns to Antarctic waters in December to fight the Japanese whaling fleet. Credit: Kelsey Stevens

Christo river wrap gets BLM approval

Christotrain600
Christo, the controversial artist whose works involve wrapping or hanging fabric over buildings, canyons and even entire islands, has won federal approval for a massive new project in Colorado.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the Bureau of Land Management announced Monday that it had released a Record of Decision approving Christo’s “Over The River,” a temporary art installation. The giant project has encountered serious and organized local resistance but the artist has mitigated several threats to Colorado wildlife.

Several state and local permits are still required.

“Over The River” comprises eight huge, silvery fabric panels spanning 5.9 miles directly above the Arkansas River where it flows through Bighorn Sheep Canyon and the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area. The panels will be deployed at various spots along a 42-mile stretch of the river, which, according to a Colorado State Parks spokesperson, is the most popular commercially rafted river in the United States.

The temporary work of art will be displayed between Salida and Cañon City in southern Colorado, currently scheduled for two consecutive weeks in August 2014. The project is projected to bring in 300,000 to 400,000 visitors and generate $121 million in revenue, according to the BLM.

“This is the most significant milestone yet in completing 'Over The River,' and we can now get to work applying for the few remaining permits that we still need,” Christo said in a statement on the project's website. "We are much closer to finally realizing this work of art that Jeanne-Claude and I first envisioned many years ago. Although our team is still reviewing the [federal approval], I am confident that we can now move forward so we begin construction in the summer of 2012.”

Christo, 76, who is Bulgarian by birth but lives in Paris, and his wife Jeanne-Claude worked as a team on their monumental works. Jeanne-Claude died of a brain aneurysm in 2009. Their “Valley Curtain” project draped a huge orange curtain across a valley in Rifle, Colo., in 1971.

According to Tina Brown, a spokesperson for the BLM, Christo and Jeanne-Claude first began making verbal inquiries about the project in 1996, and then made a formal proposal in 2006. An all-volunteer Colorado group called Rags Over the Arkansas River, or ROAR, sprung up to raise concerns over the effects on threatened wildlife such as bighorn sheep and bald eagles, increased river and road traffic, a potential drain on local emergency services and other issues. With the release of the Record of Decision (ROD) on Monday, the opposition group pointed out that there was still a long road ahead.

“The ROD does not affect the fact that the State Parks Board's decision is illegal under state law,” noted Cathey Young, the ROAR board secretary. “This release from the BLM does not affect the state lawsuit that ROAR has over the Parks Board Memorandum of Agreement. Christo needs both to do his project.”

She added that “ROAR will make a statement at the appropriate time.”

Indeed, “Over The River” still faces several hurdles. Approvals have already been obtained from the Colorado State Parks Board and the Colorado State Land Board, but permits are still outstanding from Fremont and Chaffee counties, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Colorado State Patrol. ROAR is suing the State Parks Board over an agreement it made with the artist and his OTR Corp., which was set up to build the massive project.

Colorado State Parks could not comment on the ongoing lawsuit.

The project’s hefty environmental impact study showed that threats to native wildlife were many and complex. The huge steel cables required to hang the fabric would stretch from bank to bank, for instance, requiring heavy construction to install. Several mitigation measures were required to protect bighorn sheep, which live and breed in the canyon (hence the name), including construction restrictions from April 15 to June 30 every year. Also, OTR agreed to build habitat improvements and water developments to allow the sheep access to water and new habitat, and to create a fund that would continue to look after the sheep for years after the project is dismantled.

Migratory birds and eagles also required modifications to the project. The large cables will be festooned with “avian diverters,” which are colorful sleeves meant to give the birds visual evidence of the cable, for as long as they hang over the valley.

“We’ve heard a lot about traffic and about the bighorn sheep,” said Brown, speaking about the issues encountered by the project. “Those were the two major ones. But working with those cooperating agencies, I think we came up with some good mitigation measures to alleviate those problems.”

OTR is required to work with the state to keeps lanes open on U.S. Highway 50, which runs up the valley, and to develop a boat scheduling system to efficiently handle the expected glut of rafters and kayakers who will want to see the project from the river.

“If you want to get the entire scope of the project, on the river would be the best place to see it,” added Brown. “People driving along the road will be able to experience it, but the rafters and the kayakers will be able to see it in a unique way, and to see the sky up through the fabric.”

The ROAR website lists a host of other issues with the project, including the increase in litter and human waste in the canyon, permanent defacement of the riverbanks and damage from the cable installations, the hindrance of eagles hunting under the fabric, the complete disruption of angling in these prime fishing waters, and negative effects on regular commercial and recreational highway users in the area.

Mitigation measures and the environmental impact report on this project are available online.

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--  Dean Kuipers

Photo: A rendering of “Over the River” as drawn by Christo in 2010. Credit: Christo

Gulf of Mexico fish-tracking system goes full steam ahead

FishResponding to deepening concerns about seafood mislabeling and the safety of fish caught in the Gulf of Mexico, a trade association of Gulf fishermen is tagging and credentialing each of the fish its members pull from the water. It is also routinely sampling catch for dispersants, heavy metals and other oil-based contaminants to allay customer concern over the safety of fish caught in the vicinity of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion, which spilled 4.9 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf. 

The new Gulf Wild system follows a six-month pilot program, during which 100,000 American red snapper and Gulf-caught grouper fish were tagged with identification numbers after being hauled aboard fishing boats. Upon reaching shore, the numbers were electronically recorded and uploaded to an online database with information about the fish's species, the harvesting vessel that caught it and the approximate harvest location. The Gulf Wild program went into full production this week with 100 high-volume commercial fishermen within the five-state Gulf region.

Bubba Cochrane, of Galveston, Texas, is one of the fisherman participating in the program. "We take each fish off the hook individually, so we tag them when we gut the fish and then they go down below for the ride home," said Cochrane, who typically catches 10,000 pounds of red snapper per four-day trip.

Cochrane then manually enters the tag numbers on data sheets, where he also writes the time, date and GPS location where he caught the fish. The data sheets are logged in lots of 100 fish, and are then given to the fish buyer, who enters it into the Gulf Wild database so the individual number on each fish can be tracked.

A recent investigation by the Boston Globe reported that fish was mislabeled 48% of the time.  Consumer Reports also reported recently that red snapper is labeled correctly just 45% of the time.

The Gulf Wild system is being rolled out just as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced plans to ramp up its new DNA fish-testing program. Early next year, FDA regulators will take DNA samples from fish as presented for import and from domestic warehouse and distribution centers, processing the data at six field labs in a program to determine how the FDA can best focus its efforts to reduce seafood fraud.

"Mislabeling seafood is illegal, and in recent years we’ve ramped up our focus on that," said FDA spokesman Doug Karas, adding that the FDA's main priority is seafood safety. He said seafood mislabeling presents a safety concern to people who may have allergies to certain types of fish and mistakenly eat something labeled as something else.

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Photo: Red snapper, mackerel and rainbow trout on sale at a fish stand. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Protection zone established for endangered black abalones

Black abalone
Federal wildlife officials on Wednesday issued a final ruling designating about 140 square miles of critical habitat for endangered black abalone along the California coast.

The hard-shelled, edible marine snails were once abundant in rocky intertidal areas from the state's northernmost waters down to the tip of Baja California, but their numbers plummeted in the 1980s, mostly due to a bacterial disease called withering syndrome.

The decline may have been worsened by warming coastal waters, power plant discharges, overfishing and poaching, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service.

Black abalone was listed as an endangered species in 2009, which requires the government to set aside as much critical habitat as possible to aid their recovery.

Black abalone critical habitatIn the areas, which stretch from Del Mar Landing Ecological Reserve in Sonoma County south to the Palos Verdes Peninsula and Catalina Island, projects that go before federal agencies or receive federal funding will be reviewed to make sure they do not threaten black abalone habitat.

The rule will take effect next month.

Excluded from the designation was an area of rocky habitat from Corona del Mar State Beach to Dana Point.

That was because "the economic benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of inclusion, and the exclusion will not result in the extinction of the species," according to a NOAA news release.

Black abalone are one of seven abalone species that live in California waters, typically wedged between rocks near the shore.

Their commercial harvest dates back to the 1800s and peaked in the 1970s. The fishery was closed in 1993 after landings plunged by 95%.

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Photo: Black abalone cluster together in a rocky, intertidal crag on San Nicolas Island. Credit: David Witting / NOAA Restoration Center.

Graphic: Black abalone critical habitat. Credit: NOAA

Burning oil from BP spill produced carbon plumes

BP oil spill controlled burns released an estimated 1 million pounds of soot into the atmosphere, a study found
Chalk up another environmental impact from last summer's Deepwater Horizon oil spill: Nine weeks of burning off oil slicks from the surface of the Gulf of Mexico following the BP spill released an estimated 1 million pounds of soot into the atmosphere, according to a study released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The burns were conducted to reduce the size of the slicks and to minimize the amount of oil reaching the gulf’s coast and wetlands systems. But the study, which was co-written by researchers at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences in Boulder, Colo., found the plumes of smoke from the burns produced an amount of carbon equal to the total black carbon emissions normally released by all ships that travel the Gulf of Mexico during a nine-week period.

Black carbon, whose primary component is often called soot, is among the most light-absorbing particles in the atmosphere. The new study, published online in Geophysical Research Letters, provides some of the most detailed observations made of black carbon sent airborne by burning surface oil.

The study found that the soot plumes reached much higher into the atmosphere than ship emissions normally rise, and that the average size of the soot particles was larger than normally emitted from other sources in the gulf region. Researchers also found that the soot particles were almost all black carbon, unlike forest fires, for example, which produce other particles along with black carbon.

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Photo: A controlled burn on June 19, 2010, attempting to remove oil floating near the leaking BP well in the Gulf of Mexico. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Target commits to 100% sustainable, traceable fish by 2015

A steak is cut from the tail of an Atlantic blue fin tuna.The second largest discount retailer in the U.S. announced Thursday that it will sell only sustainable, traceable fish by 2015. Minneapolis-based Target Corp. operates 1,762 stores, many of which are converting to incorporate PFresh markets that sell fresh and frozen foods, including fish.

In 2010, Target stopped selling farmed salmon, Chilean sea bass and orange roughy due to various sustainability issues. It currently sells 50 different brands of fish certified by either the Marine Stewardship Council or the Global Aquaculture Alliance. 

"We thought this larger commitment to fully eliminate anything that's not certified by 2015 would be the right thing to do to encourage our guests to make the right decisions," said Shawn Gensch, vice president of marketing for Target's sustainability initiatives.

Target is partnering with the nonprofit marine conservation group FishWise to reach its sustainability goals. According to FishWise executive director Tobias Aguirre, the group will assess all Target seafood products with vendor surveys to understand how the seafood is caught or farmed and will evaluate the environmental impacts associated with each product.

Aguirre said the fish species with the largest such impacts include big eye tuna caught with 50-mile fishing lines that snag high levels of unintended catch, including sharks, turtles and sea birds, and farm-raised shrimp that may have contact with natural bodies of water and spread disease.

Tracing Target's fish from the water to the store is likely to be more difficult because "there is no national traceability policy and the seafood supply chains are incredibly complex," Aguirre said. Supplier audits and a tracking system are among the tools FishWise plans to implement in partnership with Target.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not currently have a seafood tracking database. Just 2% of the seafood eaten in the United States is inspected, according to a seafood fraud report issued earlier this year by the Washington, D.C.-based international ocean advocacy group, Oceana.

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Photo: A steak is cut from the tail of an Atlantic blue fin tuna. Credit: Sachi Cunningham / Los Angeles Times

The sea runs deep in new biography of John Olguin, longtime director of the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Olguin 2
John Olguin taught us to love the ocean.

Indeed, it was Olguin’s job to argue the case for protecting the sea as longtime director of the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro.

The ocean was central to his married life, too. All of their lives, Olguin and his wife, Muriel, slept under the stars -- rain or shine -- on a large bed on the porch of their San Pedro home, and awakened to the barks of sea lions and the calls of gull below.

Olguin, who in 1999 was named Citizen of the Century by the Los Angeles Times, died in January at the age of 89.

His authorized biography, An Ocean of Inspiration: The John Olguin Story, from Rocky Mountain Books of Surrey, B.C., Canada, casts a warm and intimate eye on his remarkable life. It was co-writtenby three close friends and colleagues: Stefan E. Harzen, chairman and chief executive of The Taras
Oceanographic Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to marine mammal conservation; marine mammal researcher Barbara J. Brunnick;and Mike Schaadt, the current director of the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium.

Their research for this chronicle, which was launched a decade before Olguin died, was driven by great admiration and begins when he was born to an impoverished Mexican family in San Pedro.

"We had access to his archives and photographs," Harzen said. "He was an extremely hard worker, and had a wonderful view of the world in the sense that he tried hard to understand the really important things in life -- and reached out to share what he had learned with others."

Olguin worked as a lifeguard in 1937, at 16, and graduated from San Pedro High School in 1941. He won a Silver Star while in the Army from 1942 to 1945, serving in New Guinea, the Philippines and Japan.

He went on to organize the world’s first commercial whale-watching program for children in 1971 and presided over grunion watches in which thousands of onlookers dashed to the beach fronting the aquarium to witness the reproductive mayhem of the silvery, slender fish riding in on the swells to mate on the sand.

He found the love of his life in Muriel. The couple stayed fit by rowing 24 miles from San Pedro to Santa Catalina Island in a little boat packed with a thermos of coffee, warm clothes, sleeping bags, their little poodle, Pico, and his guitar. They also carried flares and a battery-powered light to row at night.

Their vibrancy, passion and influence come to life in these pages: “The couple ventured out to sea: pulling the oars -- not hard, just steady -- and leaning back to use their own weight to draw through the water. That’s what got them the mileage. As John used to say, “Five miles to a peanut butter sandwich!”

The book is scheduled for release on Oct. 16, and will be available at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, 3720 Stephen M. White Drive, San Pedro, and at Williams Bookstore, 443 W. 6th St., San Pedro.

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Photo: John Olguin. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Judge rejects attempt to close California salmon fishery

Salmon
A federal judge Friday killed an effort by a group of Central Valley irrigation districts to stop commercial salmon fishing off the California and Oregon coasts, rejecting claims that the federal government acted improperly when it reopened the season this year.

In one of his final rulings as a U.S. District Court judge, Oliver Wanger summarily dismissed a lawsuit filed by the San Joaquin River Group Authority, which argued that to help low salmon populations recover, there should be no commercial catch.

The irrigation districts were concerned that if Central Valley salmon populations don't rebound, they would be forced to release more water to support salmon migration in the lower San Joaquin River and its tributaries.

Chinook salmon numbers had dropped so much that federal managers in 2008 and 2009 closed the commercial season and permitted only a small catch last year. This year, citing rising numbers, they approved a limited season.

Wanger, who has handled many of the state's most contentious water cases in his two decades as a federal judge, stepped down from the bench Friday to return to private practice.  

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 --Bettina Boxall

Photo: A salmon fishing boat heads to sea in Half Moon Bay, Calif. Credit: Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times    

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