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Cardoza praises easing of environmental regulations protecting striped bass in San Joaquin Delta

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Dennis Cardoza (CA-18) praised a pending court settlement that would likely ease government regulations protecting the predator striped bass in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The nonnative striped bass feeds on native species, including the endangered delta smelt and young salmon in Delta waterways. In recent years, water supplies to San Joaquin Valley farmers have been significantly reduced as a result of federal regulations designed to protect the smelt and salmon populations. Cardoza has long argued that other causes – including predation by non-native fish like the striped bass – should equally be considered by government agencies, according to a news release.

“This pending settlement is a significant step forward in our fight for responsible, balanced management of our fisheries and water resources,” Cardoza said in the release. “For years, our farmers in the Valley have been bearing the full burden of policies intended to protect the delta smelt, while the government turns a blind eye to other serious threats to this endangered species. I have fought to bring common sense and fairness to California’s resource policies, and this settlement moves us in the right direction.”

The legal settlement announced this week, which is awaiting approval by a federal judge, requires the California Department of Fish and Game to change the size and number of striped bass that fishermen can keep. The lawsuit was filed in 2008 by the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta and alleges that catch limits imposed by state officials have allowed the striped bass to flourish, contributing to steep population declines in several native fish species in the Delta.

Cardoza has argued that the Delta is being affected by multiple environmental stressors, including urban runoff, wastewater discharges and nonnative predatory fish, such as the striped bass. Last year, he called on state and federal agencies to stop programs that protect the striped bass until they take into consideration their impact on native delta smelt and salmon, the news release said.

“Native fish populations are at record low levels and water deliveries through the Delta have been significantly reduced in an effort to protect delta smelt and salmon species with little discernable benefit,” Cardoza wrote in a 2010 letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the governor of California.