Fishery managers to temporarily stop practice of trout stocking

State fishery managers will stop adding trout from hatcheries to California streams while biologists figure out whether the practice harms native species already living there. KPCC's Molly Peterson reports.

Molly Peterson: The Department of Fish and Game negotiated the policy change during its ongoing court fight with environmentalists. A judge had ordered an environmental review of how the agency stocks fish by year's end. But Fish and Game's Jim Starr says funding problems pushed the project behind schedule.

Jim Starr: The budgetary crunch has impacted the Department of Fish and Game, which ultimately has impacted the anglers of California.

Peterson: The review won't be finished until 2010. So a judge asked Fish and Game, and its opponents, to negotiate precautions. The agency won't dump non-native fish like rainbow trout into streams where they might compete with native animals like golden trout or yellow-legged mountain frogs. Starr says that could change what wildlife managers do in about a hundred of the state's thousand rivers and lakes.

Starr: Stocking is going to go on as before.

Peterson: Starr says he's heard from plenty of worried businesses that make money from fishing, like those in the eastern Sierra. But the Center for Biological Diversity's Noah Greenwald, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, says boosting a fisherman's luck with non-native trout isn't more important than the state's newer goal of preserving species.

Noah Greenwald: Protecting and recovering native species of trout in particular is something that a lot of fish and game agencies are working on while at the same time continuing to perpetuate one of the primary threats to those native species of trout, which is stocking up non-native trout.

Peterson: Greenwald says he believes his lawsuit will help protect state waters from non-native fish. Fish and Game's Jim Starr says he believes the state will go back to its usual fish stocking practices. Neither man will be proven right for at least another year.