Fish and Game Commission, Don’t Let Duck Hunting Ruin Benicia’s Great Day by the BayBy Stephen Golub, May 29, 2023
As many know, Benicia’s catch-phrase is “A Great Day by the Bay.” Well, that great day – and great years, lives, livelihoods and life savings – is endangered by a practice that puts at risk the things that make Benicia great.
I’m talking about duck hunting, which in effect takes over much of Southampton Bay and potentially all Benicia residential shoreline waters for a good part of the year. It figuratively threatens to blast away the well-being of kids, seniors, all residents, boaters, kayakers, bicyclists, strollers, folks fishing, business owners, employees and visitors within earshot of their buckshot or otherwise harmed by the activity.
To be clear, I respect duck hunters and their enjoyment of the sport. As I’m sure most Benicians do, if the hunting takes place in appropriate, secluded, safe spots.
But we’re talking about thousands of Benicians already affected in their far-from-secluded homes, and potentially thousands more, by a relative handful of hunters.
For at least the past several decades, and maybe much longer, Benicia had no history or tradition of duck hunting in its residential shoreline waters. But that changed in late 2020, as a few such hunters started doing their thing here, typically setting out from the 9th Street pier. Their shots can be heard at dawn and other times of day by hundreds of households nearby.
The duck hunting season runs from October through January. There is even the possibility that it could be extended.
Imagine waking to gunfire. And not knowing exactly when it might echo through your neighborhood. The shooting can reverberate very loudly. Think of how well many of us can hear Amtrak, all the way across the water. Then compare that with the sound of shots much closer by.
That’s a reality for many residents living near Southampton Bay.
It’s also a potential reality for many more of us. There’s nothing to stop the hunters from parking themselves on the waters near 1st Street or any other waterside location that we might reside near or otherwise enjoy. Or many more descending on Benicia in years to come.
However, this problem could end if enough of us act quickly enough.
A petition to change this situation was submitted to the California Fish and Game Commission (FGC) in January of 2022. Its core request was, “Make duck hunting off limits and not permissible along the shoreline of Benicia, the Benicia State [Recreation Area] waters, or the Southampton Bay waters.” Numerous Benicians have since contacted the Commission to back the petition.
On Tuesday, the Benicia City Council passed a unanimous resolution asking the FGC to approve the petition’s request at its upcoming meeting. In person or via email, about three dozen Benicians backed the move. A few folks emailed in opposition to it, though it’s not clear whether they all hailed from Benicia.
No one who spoke opposed duck hunting in general. But the practice steps on the freedom of Benicians and their children to enjoy peace, quiet and security in and around their homes. In addition, as demonstrated by various studies, excessive stress can have a demonstrated negative impact on the health of children, seniors and everyone in-between.
This activity also can block Benicians’ ability to benefit from their investments (even including their life savings) in their homes. If they sell their houses, they may be forced to disclose the fact of regular gunfire nearby or otherwise see their value plummet. That could even affect property values throughout town.
And what about the freedom of Benicians to own a business and earn a living? Benicia’s economy and vitality partly hinge on the many recreational, commercial, cultural, historic, entertainment and other attributes that make it special. Several months a year of nearby duck-hunting could damage all that, either directly or by harming the city’s reputation.
Again, in contrast with thousands of affected Benicians, we’re talking about a relative handful of hunters who can enjoy this pastime at any number of places in far more secluded areas, not too far a drive away. I’m sure that most duck hunters would not dream of firing their guns near their neighbors on a daily basis.
Nor would they want that done to them. Nor do we want it done to us.
I could raise other potential issues relating to this matter, such as the risk of a water sport enthusiast getting shot, or gunfire close to shipping lanes, or buckshot maiming ducks that don’t get killed.
But let’s leave it at that for now.
If you’d like to weigh in on this matter, here’s what you can do:
Contact the Fish and Game Commission
Contact the Fish and Game Commission, stating your support for petition number 2022-01, which seeks to prohibit duck hunting near Benicia. It would probably be useful to include that petition number and description in an email’s subject line. The FGC’s contact information is:
(916) 653-4899 or (916) 653-7229
Crucial FGC discussions of whether to ban duck hunting in Benicia’s waters could be occurring right now. So if you’re interested in taking action, it makes sense to reach out to the FGC at this time, as well as the following officials.
Contact Governor Gavin Newsom
Contact Governor Newsom by googling “Contact Governor Newsom,” which takes you to a link and then a form for emailing him. You can also click this link to reach the same form: https://www.gov.ca.gov/contact
Contact our elected state representatives
Contact State Senator Bill Dodd. His Capitol office can be reached at (916) 651-4003 and his Vallejo office at (707) 551-2389 . You may also send Senator Dodd a message via web form by clicking this link: https://sd03.senate.ca.gov/contact
Contact Assemblywoman Lori Wilson. Her Capitol office can be reached at (916) 319-2011 and her District office at (707) 438-7359. You may also send Assemblywoman Wilson a message via web form by clicking this link: https://a11.asmdc.org/contact-me-0
Contact our county supervisor
Contact Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown, at (707) 784-3031 or MEBrown@solanocounty.com.
Supervisor Brown has been extremely supportive of Benicia’s situation. Senator Brown and Assemblywoman Wilson have also been laudably sympathetic, but may be holding off on weighing in until the FGC makes a decision. Hearing from constituents could help buttress their positions now and down the line.
For what it’s worth . . .
For what it’s worth, I don’t live near or hear the gunfire myself.
And again, no one wants to interfere with duck-hunting in general.
But, as opposed to A Great Day by the Bay, we don’t want Benicia to become known as A Bad Day by the Buckshot.
We just want Benicia to remain a great place to live, work and visit.
[A version of this article first appeared in the May 28 edition of the Benicia Herald. Stephen Golub also writes about national and international affairs at his blog, https://apromisedland.org/]