Over all, this two day “Predation Science Workshop” was a very intense process that was tightly controlled by CDFW and the Delta Science Panel. CDFW and the Delta Science Panel set the agenda and provided all the documents to the Panel by the authors who used power point presentations to summarize their “scientific studies and models”. David and I were very displeased that some of these documents had not been peer reviewed. Some of them were predation studies that had been conducted by consultants hired by the State Water Contractors. David’s statement to the Panel on the first day made it clear that if the work was not peer reviewed, it wasn’t science and its integrity could not be relied upon.
It was also disconcerting to discover during the morning of the first Workshop that the documents we submitted, on the critical background regarding legal, political, and administrative efforts to destroy the striped bass fishery to the Panel were not given to them. This was contrary to our request and the statements made by UC Davis representatives. We found out later that the Chairman of the Delta Science Panel had screened all the documents for the panel and our documents did not make the cut.
At the end of the first day, David and I were permitted to provide statements to the Panel. David spoke to the necessity for the Panel to review and make use of only peer reviewed science. He noted that nearly a third of the documents submitted for review were not peer reviewed and should not be considered science. During my statement I informed the committee that there was a tremendous lack of funding to address the causative factors responsible for the decline of the estuary’s ecosystem and fisheries. I asked them to consider if our government’s extremely limited fiscal resources would be better spent on trying to address the critical problems that have clearly degraded the estuary than spending such funds on additional predation studies when many knowledgeable scientists had found predation to be a low level stressor on salmonids and the estuary’s ecology.
During the second day of the Workshop the panel Chairman provided an outline of the science process they would use during their evaluation of the predation information to arrive at a conclusion. He then announced that the panel had reached a “very preliminary perspective on the predation subject”. Highly summarized, he noted that:
-- Available information and data painted a very contradictory picture which they need to review in far more detail to better understand.
-- Most of the studies they had reviewed on predation and the fisheries of the estuary were not good science and critical aspects such as population abundance for salmonids and predators had not been done scientifically.
-- Most of the predation information was done on hatchery tagged salmon smolts which were not the same as wild fish. He stressed that some of the tagged smolts used in the studies were not properly evaluated to determine the impacts of being tagged on their survivability. It appeared at least some of them were tagged with materials that were too heavy for the small smolts and this lead to physical stress that reduced their ability to survive predation and in some cases significantly enable them to be predated.
-- The research was done by a wide range of researchers whose studies and scientific rigor were rarely integrated. Research methods were not standardized which yielded information that could not scientifically be compared with other studies.
-- He also noted that there was no relationship between striped bass predation and salmon abundance. This was a huge admission!! If there was no relationship between them, then it seems like there cannot be a population level impact from striped bass predation. A number of the folks I talked to thought that this could mean they would not recommend any eradication programs at the very least. However, this was a preliminary finding. We will see what they recommend in about three months.