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Smaller Fish, Big Controversy

Sonora, CA — A recent decision by the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) to release smaller fish to save money at trout hatcheries has some crying foul, including the Tuolumne Board of Supervisors.  At today’s meeting, the board voted unanimously to send a letter to the DFW questioning its decision.

As previously reported, the DFW will be releasing trout at ¼ lb., instead of ½ lb. in the spring to save on expenses.  That change was quietly posted on the department’s website last month, and announced to state fish hatcheries.  District 2 Supervisor Randy Hanvelt called the move a “callous disregard of the public interest” with zero government transparency and done only for budget reasons.

The board worries the decision to plant smaller fish will have an economic impact on the Mother Lode, as fishing is a big tourism draw.  “The economy is dependent on good quality fishing here in Tuolumne County.  It’s over six million dollars a year,” said District 4 Supervisor John Gray.  “You go out and buy a fishing license for $40 and you catch a six inch fish, it doesn’t really sit well.”

The board asked staff whether the department followed state CEQA requirements or not when making the decision to plant smaller fish and asked that questions related to that be put in the letter.  “The economic impact is tremendous,” added District 1 Supervisor Sherri Brennan.  “This action that was taken is a substantial change to the policy…and without any public input.”

The board also included in the letter a call for a prompt reply from the DFW, as the fish planting typically takes place in April every year and there were concerns the letter could be placed in the “circular file.”