Sturgeon Given Huge Area of Protection


     WASHINGTON (CN) – The National Marine Fisheries Service has designated almost the entire western coastline of the continental United States from Monterey Bay, California to Cape Flattery, Washington as critical habitat for the green sturgeon.




     The action taken under Section 4 of the Endangered Species Act. Section 4 authorizes the Agency to override state and local law to manage conservation of a species listed under the Act. The green sturgeon was listed as threatened and likely to become endangered by the Agency in 2006.
     In addition to coastal waters to a depth of 60 fathoms the proposed designation includes 320 miles of freshwater river habitat, 897 square miles of estuarine habitat and more than 11,000 square miles of marine habitat including the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the border with Canada, the Sacramento River, most of the Columbia River and the lower Feather and Yuba Rivers the Sacrament-San Joaquin Delta, San Pablo and San Francisco bays in California, as well as all the major bays on the Oregon and Washington coasts.
     While some areas such as Tomales Bay north of San Francisco are excluded because the negative economic impact to the area was not worth the predicted conservation gains, the designation will place special management considerations and protections that might limit water diversions, dredging activity, grazing, mining and forestry as well as construction of power plants, desalination plants, alternative energy projects such as wave energy generators, liquefied natural gas projects , bottom trawling and aquaculture.
     The designation was part of a 2007 settlement agreement arising out of a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity. Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate for with the Center, said “Recent surveys have shown some of the lowest recorded numbers of spawning green sturgeon in the Sacrament River. With so few sturgeon left, and the San Francisco Bay-Delta food web they depend upon unraveling, we are pleased to see critical habitat designated for this ancient fish.”
     
NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE (NMFS) AND NATIONAL OCEANIC AND
ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION (NOAA)
     
     Endangered and threatened wildlife and plants, designate critical habitat for the threatened Southern distinct population segment of North American green sturgeon: Final rule, published Oct. 9, 2009, effective Nov. 9, 2009
     [TEXT]
     The National Marine Fisheries Service designates critical habitat for the threatened Southern distinct population segment of North American green sturgeon (Southern DPS of green sturgeon). Specific areas proposed for designation include: Coastal U.S. marine waters within 60 fathoms depth from Monterey Bay, California (including Monterey Bay), north to Cape Flattery, Washington, including the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Washington, to its U.S. boundary; the Sacramento River, lower Feather River, and lower Yuba River in California; the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Suisun, San Pablo, and San Francisco bays in California; the lower Columbia River estuary; and certain coastal bays and estuaries in California (Humboldt Bay), Oregon (Coos Bay, Winchester Bay, Yaquina Bay, and Nehalem Bay), and Washington (Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor). This rule designates approximately 320 miles of freshwater river habitat, 897 square miles of estuarine habitat, 11,421 square miles of marine habitat, 487 miles of habitat in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and 135 square miles of habitat within the Yolo and Sutter bypasses (Sacramento River, California) as critical habitat for the Southern DPS of green sturgeon.
      This rule excludes the following areas from designation because the economic benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of inclusion and exclusion will not result in the extinction of the species: Coastal U.S. marine waters within 60 fathoms depth from the California/Mexico border north to Monterey Bay, Calif., and from the Alaska/Canada border northwest to the Bering Strait; the lower Columbia River from river kilometer 74 to the Bonneville Dam; and certain coastal bays and estuaries in California (Elkhorn Slough, Tomales Bay, Noyo Harbor, and the estuaries to the head of the tide in the Eel and Klamath/Trinity rivers), Oregon (Tillamook Bay and the estuaries to the head of the tide in the Rogue, Siuslaw, and Alsea rivers), and Washington (Puget Sound).
     

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