Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sonoma CoastTags , ,

Oil drilling protest in Sacramento to precede hearing on Trump offshore plan

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

To attend the protest, take the bus!

A throng of protesters, including state lawmakers and North Coast activists, is expected to rally in Sacramento preceding the Trump administration’s only California public meeting on a controversial offshore oil drilling plan covering most of the nation’s coastal waters.

State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, said he expects more than 1,000 people to attend the anti-drilling rally at 1:30 p.m. Thursday on the north steps of the Capitol Building. The demonstration is sponsored by a coalition called Protect the Pacific.

Senate Democrats Scott Wiener of San Francisco, Henry Stern of Canoga Park and Assembly Democrats Jim Wood of Healdsburg and Monique Limon of Santa Barbara and Republican Brian Maienschein of San Diego plan to attend.

Following the rally, participants will march three blocks to the location of a Bureau of Ocean Management public meeting on the offshore oil drilling plan released last month by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. It ignited complaints from federal, state and local officials on both coasts and across the nation.

The meeting runs from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, 828 I St.

Zinke’s plan calls for 47 potential sales of oil drilling rights from 2019 to 2024, with six along the California coast, where energy development has faced bipartisan opposition since the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/7941235-181/oil-drilling-protest-in-sacramento

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sonoma CoastTags , , ,

Sonoma County’s coastal cliffs no match for rising seas

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County’s coastal cliffs, softened by rain and pounded by ocean waves, are receding by as much as a foot a year and will surrender an area the size of Sebastopol by the end of the century, experts say, as climate change prompts sea levels to continue rising.

The scenic cliffs, made of soft rock formed millions of years ago on the ocean floor, are no match for nature’s ceaseless forces. Related property loss in the county over that period could total as much as $700 million.

Statewide, eroding coastal cliffs threaten billions of dollars worth of homes, highways, railways, businesses, military bases, universities, power plants and parks, and the North Bay has already seen the destructive and deadly consequences of the diminishing coastline.

At Gleason Beach, 4 miles north of Bodega Bay on Highway 1, the rapidly eroding cliff irreparably damaged 10 blufftop homes that were demolished by the owners, the last one in November.

One other home was relocated, and two of the 10 remaining homes are uninhabitable or unstable.

“Gleason Beach is a bellwether of things to come,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, whose district covers the county’s entire coast. “It’s one of the fastest eroding places in California.”

Caltrans is currently planning a $26 million realignment of the coastal highway at Gleason Beach, moving nearly a mile of the roadway, and building a new 850-foot bridge, about 400 feet farther away from the restive ocean. Construction is expected to start in 2019.

Read more at: Sonoma County’s coastal cliffs no match for rising seas

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Sonoma Coast, WildlifeTags , ,

Northern California commercial crab season delayed a second time

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

California Fish and Wildlife officials have delayed the start of commercial Dungeness crab fishing north of Sonoma County for a second time this year after routine testing showed the crab aren’t meaty enough to be harvested yet.

It will be at least New Year’s Eve before crabbers can range north of the Sonoma-Mendocino county line in search of the lucrative crustaceans already being caught in areas to the south, the agency said.

The highly regulated fishery opens to commercial crabbers Nov. 15 most years off the Sonoma Coast and in more southerly waters off San Francisco to Half Moon Bay, though the past two seasons have been disrupted by an algae-related toxin. This fall was the first time in three years that the season opened on time.The northern season was scheduled to open Dec. 1, conditional upon a minimum meat recovery rate from tested samples of Dungeness crab.

Underweight samples checked in November prompted a 15-day delay in the Northern California season. Additional samples tested Dec. 5 weren’t sufficiently filled out either, officials said.

Read more at: Northern California commercial crab season delayed a second time

Posted on Categories Sonoma Coast, Sustainable Living, WildlifeTags , , , , ,

Abalone diving banned next year to protect population on brink of collapse

Tara Duggan, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

Sport abalone diving in Northern California, a tradition going back generations, will not be allowed next year in the region because biologists say the state’s population is on the brink of collapse.

Thursday’s decision came at a meeting of the California Fish and Game Commission in San Diego after a warning from scientists at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife that the population is in severe decline.The commission voted unanimously to close the fishery for one year, which has not happened since it closed the abalone fishery in the southern part of the state in 1997. The Northern California season would normally be open from April to November.

“There are multiple indications that this fishery is collapsing,” said Cynthia Catton, an environmental scientist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “There’s no sign that it’s even hit the bottom yet. We’re seeing continuing active mortality. We’re seeing continued starvation conditions.”

Read more at: Abalone diving banned next year to protect population on brink of collapse – San Francisco Chronicle

Posted on Categories Habitats, Sonoma Coast, WildlifeTags , , , ,

Fate of troubled abalone fishery in hands of California Fish and Game Commission

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

California fish and game commissioners will decide Thursday if there is to be an abalone season next year in a much-anticipated vote with far-reaching ramifications for the popular but imperiled North Coast fishery and the economy it supports.

Under a plan that has framed red abalone hunting regulations since 2005, state fish and wildlife officials have urged the commission to suspend the 2018 season in hopes of preventing further depletion of the stock.

But the commission’s five appointed members are clearly interested in a compromise that would allow divers and rock-pickers some opportunity, however limited, to participate in a beloved tradition that draws thousands of people and their families to the Sonoma and Mendocino coast each year.

“It’s an iconic fishery,” said Napa County vintner Eric Sklar, president of the state Fish and Game Commission. “There’s so many people who find real joy in abalone fishing, and we hate to shut it down. That’s a given.”

The stakes are high and the future uncertain amid an unprecedented, three-year decline in the North Coast kelp forest, which provides critical food and habitat for the succulent mollusks hunted off the California coast for generations.

What agency scientists have called “a perfect storm” of environmental factors in play over the past six years has killed off large numbers of red abalone, starving many of those that remain and drastically reducing their reproductive fitness. One of those factors is the explosion of tiny, purple urchins that have decimated kelp and other abalone food supplies.

Read more at: Fate of troubled abalone fishery in hands of California Fish and Game Commission

Posted on Categories Sonoma Coast, WildlifeTags , , ,

Environmental group sues California over whale-killing gear 

Olga R. Rodriguez, ASSOCIATED PRESS

An environmental group sued the state of California on Tuesday for allegedly not doing enough to keep Dungeness crab fishery gear from killing protected whales.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed its lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco, saying the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is liable for a surge in entanglements of endangered whales and sea turtles because it authorizes and manages operation of the fishery.

California should put in place more mandatory protection measures, such as blocking fishing operations from especially important waters for whales, restricting the amount of gear in whale hotspots and reducing the amount of rope running through the water, the center said.

Read more at: Environmental group sues California over whale-killing gear | The Tribune

Posted on Categories Sonoma Coast, WildlifeTags , , ,

Four Bay Area residents arrested on suspicion of abalone poaching, black market sales 

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Four suspected poachers believed to have removed hundreds of red abalone illegally from the beleaguered North Coast fishery were arrested this week at their Bay Area homes at the conclusion of a five-month investigation, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The suspects are part of a larger crew used to collect abalone offshore of Sonoma and Mendocino counties for black market sales to a network of individuals, officials said. It does not appear the shellfish were sold to markets or restaurants.

The suspects — Thepbangon Nonnarath of Oakley, Dennis Nonnarath of El Sobrante and Thu Thi Tran and Cuong Huu Tran, both of San Jose — were arrested on a variety of charges that included conspiracy to commit a crime, as well as illegal commercial sales, falsification of abalone tags and exceeding the season limit of abalone.

Their arrests come as fishery regulators are grappling with a rapid decline in red abalone populations, thanks to shifting ocean conditions that have prompted significant starvation of the prized mollusks, due in part to exploding purple urchin populations that have grazed much of the ocean floor clean.

Read more at: Four Bay Area residents arrested on suspicion of abalone poaching, black market sales | The Press Democrat –

Posted on Categories Habitats, Sonoma Coast, WildlifeTags , , , ,

Scientists find exotic life in ocean depths off Sonoma Coast

Stephen Nett, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Thirteen years ago, he made history by filming the sunken RMS Titanic where it lay broken on the Atlantic seabed.Since then, he’s dived in nearly every ocean on the planet. On a good day, he can swim for 24 hours — but at 2 tons, he needs help getting out of the water.His associates call him Hercules.

And this month, the bright yellow, remotely operated diving vehicle was in the Pacific off Sonoma County to explore, for the first time, the deep-water life in the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, 6 miles west of Bodega Bay.

For ROV Hercules, that meant commuting an hour-and-a-half to work, driving nearly 6,000 feet beneath the rolling ocean swells. With two flexible arms, dazzling lights, video cameras and a long, long tether, Hercules was designed to go where humans cannot — to peer into the unknown.

On a clear day when the fog lifts, you can see the Cordell Bank Marine Sanctuary from shore, from either Bodega Head or Point Reyes. On the surface, it’s an unremarkable patch of blue ocean. But go 115 feet down, and you’ll find a submerged rocky island, 9 miles long and 4 miles wide, teeming with fish and a riot of colorful marine life.

Fish and coral at the Cordell Bank Marine Sanctuary
Fish and coral at the Cordell Bank Marine Sanctuary. Joe Hoyt, CBNMS NOAA.

The shallow bank is actually the peak of an underwater mountain sitting in what scientists call a biological hotspot. Surrounded by deep, steep walled canyons, the rocky seamount perches on the very edge of the continental shelf, which falls away in a vertical cliff another 2 miles down. No sunlight can penetrate that deep, so the walls and bottom are in permanent blackness, the water is nearly as cold as ice, and the sheer weight of the ocean above creates crushing pressure, nearly 5,000 pounds per square inch. That’s equivalent to two fully loaded 747 jumbo jets sitting on your chest.

So what’s special about Cordell Bank? Jennifer Stock, the enthusiastic Outreach Coordinator for the Marine Sanctuary, answers that question a lot from her headquarters at Point Reyes. Jennifer was also one of the lucky few pulling watch on board the Nautilus during Hercules’ dives.

Read more at: Scientists find exotic life in ocean depths off Sonoma Coast | The Press Democrat –

Posted on Categories Local Organizations, Sonoma Coast, Sustainable LivingTags , , , , , , ,

California Coastal Cleanup Day coming Saturday, needs volunteers in Sonoma County

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma Coast Cleanup 2017: sonomabeachcleanup.org

Laguna de Santa Rosa and Sebastopol Laguna Wetlands Preserve 2017: lagunadesantarosa.org/volunteer_lagunastewards.html

Petaluma River Cleanup 2017: friendsofthepetalumariver.org/project/conserve

Russian River Watershed Cleanup 2017: russianrivercleanup.org

Santa Rosa Creek-to-Coast Cleanup: srcity.org/2290/Creek-to-Coast-Cleanup

Mendocino County Coastal Cleanup Day: mendocinolandtrust.org/connect/coastal-cleanup-day

Sonoma Ecology Center Cleanup 2017: brownpapertickets.com/event/3042967

Do you find yourself dismayed or even tormented by images of seabirds, marine mammals, fish and other sealife with their guts full of plastic and other trash?

Here’s your chance to help, and it only takes a few hours.

Saturday marks the 33rd annual California Coastal Cleanup Day, an opportunity to rise to the defense of the ocean and its inhabitants by removing litter from local beaches and watersheds before winter rains and storm surges can sweep it out to sea.

Dozens of sites around the North Coast, both inland and at the ocean’s edge, are among more than 870 locations chosen statewide for volunteer cleanup crews to go to work on Saturday.

Locally, they include state and county beaches along the Sonoma Coast, from Jenner to Bodega Bay, as well as public beaches up and down the Mendocino Coast.But in growing recognition of the volume of discarded litter that washes coastward from rivers and streams, dozens of inland cleanups are planned, as well. Targeted waterways include the Russian River from Ukiah to Monte Rio, the Petaluma River, Santa Rosa Creek, the Laguna de Santa Rosa and several Sonoma-area parks and preserves.

“Ideally, this is the day everybody gives back to clean waterways,” Russian Riverkeeper Executive Director Don McEnhill said.

Read more at: California Coastal Cleanup Day coming Saturday, needs volunteers in Sonoma County | The Press Democrat –

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Sonoma Coast, WildlifeTags , , , ,

Salmon season flops: Drought years cut North Coast fishing

James Dunn, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

Soon after the commercial salmon season opened on Aug. 1, Chris Lawson steered his 53-foot boat named Seaward out of the marina at Bodega Bay into ocean waters where he figured chinook salmon would travel. He spent the day trolling, his lines carefully prepared to entice the spirited, iridescent fish.

There were plenty of salmon, but mostly two-year-olds too small for a commercial fisherman to keep.

Lawson shook off nearly 100 short fish from his lines and kept just seven longer than the minimum size — 27 inches. He snagged $9 a pound for 63 pounds, yielding $567 for the day’s work before fuel expenses and pay to one crew member, who gets 20 percent.

Local stores, including Andy’s in Sebastopol and Whole Foods markets, sell fresh salmon for $22 to $30 a pound. Cut into fillets, a 9-pound fish yields roughly half that in final product.

“Seven hours, we had seven fish,” Lawson said. “You make a little bit of money. There were a lot of short fish,” said Lawson, interviewed alongside his boat on Aug. 10. “It looks better for next year. Recreational guys are having an OK season.” Their size limit is smaller.

“We’re just harassing the shorties,” said Lawson, who has fished for 41 of his 56 years. “Let ‘em be.”Some fishermen “are hurting so they’ll bring them in anyway,” Lawson said. “They need a paycheck.”

The salmon season off Sonoma and Marin coastlines was severely trimmed this year. Usually it starts in May and the best fishing months go through July. But the 2017 season just started in August and runs to the end of September. On Sept. 1, the minimum commercial size drops an inch to 26 inches, according to California’s Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.

Read more at: Salmon season flops: Drought years cut North Coast fishing | The North Bay Business Journal