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Chief of Fisheries
HQ Phone:  (916) 445-0411
Direct Phone: (916) ***-****
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1416 Ninth Street
The Department of Fish and Game maintains native fish, wildlife, plant species and natural communities for their intrinsic and ecological value and their benefits to people. This includes habitat protection and maintenance in a sufficient amount and quality to... more.
Senior Environmental Scientist and Project Manager
Fish Program Chief
Resource Insights Inc
Member of - State Water Resources Control Board
"It may already be too late," said Stafford Lehr, chief of fisheries for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
"The Central Coast coho could be gone south of the Golden Gate."
"The Sacramento Valley represents the single most important wintering area for the waterfowl along the Pacific Flyway," said Stafford Lehr, Deputy Director, Wildlife and Fisheries Division, California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Joining Yarris, Lehr and Hertel at the event were Ann Brice, Board Member, Audubon California; Mike DeWit, Rice Grower; Mark Biddlecomb, Director of Operations, Ducks Unlimited; and Todd Manley, Director of Government Relations,?
"This is a bitter pill to swallow," said Stafford Lehr, CDFW Fisheries Branch Chief.
This is a massive effort statewide on multiple systems," said Stafford Lehr, chief of fisheries for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which since February has been rolling out four to eight 35,000-gallon tanker trucks filled with baby salmon on their freeway-drive to freedom.
"We're going to unprecedented drought," Lehr said. Lehr, the fisheries chief, expects some individual steelhead trout in Southern California will get truck rides two or three times this summer, as parts of rivers and creeks disappear. As a last resort, when some rivers have no pools of water left to shelter fish, wildlife officials will remove survivors to a hatchery to wait out the drought. Two such isolated native species from dried-up waterways have been living in government hatcheries since last year, snacking on flies that rangers catch in bug-zappers for them, Lehr said, and waiting for wetter times.
"Everything right now is putting extreme pressure on those populations," says Stafford Lehr, chief of fisheries for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Lehr says the drought killed off nearly every single endangered winter-run Chinook salmon in the state last year. The San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers where they spawn are shallower. They're warmer. They're too warm for the fish to thrive. "Conditions were even worse this year," Lehr says. In early June, the state and federal government will finish up what's been called the biggest fish-lift project in California's history. Lehr says the Central Valley's five fish hatcheries produce about 30 million baby salmon every year. They're supposed to swim to the ocean. "In this drought scenario, the conditions go to the point where most likely none of them would make it out." - Stafford Lehr "However, in this drought scenario, the conditions go to the point where most likely none of them would make it out," Lehr says. Lehr says trucking fish pretty much guarantees the stray rate will go up. In other words, fewer salmon will find their way back to the streams where they were born. That usually happens after two to four years of living in the ocean. By then, no one knows if there will be enough water in California rivers to swim back up. "People have criticized the operation saying you are just doing for the fishermen, or to preserve some industry," Lehr says. "Well, that plays a role into it." Lehr says when California had to close off fisheries in 2008 and 2009 because of poor conditions in the rivers and ocean, it cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars. So there's a level of desperation. It's gotten so dry in some rivers that wildlife officials are putting other species on life support. Lehr says populations of the McCloud River redband trout have been removed from the wild.