California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Marine Management News: September 2002

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September 2002 Issue

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List of Articles


Pacific Fishery Management Council Takes Action to Protect Rockfish

by Ed Roberts, Marine Biologist

On July 1, the recreational fishery for rockfishes, ocean whitefish, California scorpionfish (sculpin) and lingcod was closed in ocean waters 20 fathoms (120 feet) and deeper south of Cape Mendocino for the rest of 2002. This emergency action was necessary because the annual harvest limit for bocaccio, established by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) each year, had been met for the 2002 fishing season. While these regulations do prohibit deepwater fishing for rockfishes and lingcod, opportunities remain in the nearshore through October. In waters less than 20 fathoms (120 feet), recreational anglers may continue to take scorpionfish, ocean whitefish, lingcod and rockfishes (except bocaccio, canary, yelloweye, and cowcod). Species that are unaffected by the depth closure include salmon, striped bass, halibut, albacore, barracuda, white seabass, and others.

The PFMC met again in early September to adopt annual harvest limits and regulations for 2003. Adopted harvest limits for overfished bocaccio and canary rockfish are significantly lower than in 2002 and resulted in the PFMC adopting more restrictive regulations for shelf bottom fishing in 2003. The PFMC management recommendations will now have to undergo public review and be approved by the Secretary of Commerce before they become federal law.

Proposed 2003 regulations would limit recreational fishing for rockfishes, lingcod, California scorpion-fish (sculpin), and ocean whitefish to waters shallower than 20 fathoms (120 feet) from near Cape Mendocino to the Mexico border. In addition, gear types that would allow anglers to fish deep waters will be prohibited in water depths between 20 fathoms (120 feet) and 150 fathoms (900 feet). Types of fishing gear that do not target the deeper dwelling species will still be allowed and will provide fishing opportunities for salmon, striped bass, California halibut, albacore, barracuda and sanddabs. The area where specific gear types will not be allowed is referred to as the California Rockfish Conservation Area (CRCA).

Commercial fishermen will not be allowed to fish for the same "protected" species, and specific types of trawl and other commercial gear will not be allowed in the CRCA. North of Cape Mendocino, a counterpart Darkblotched Rockfish Conservation Area will encompass water depths from 100 fathoms (600 feet) to 250 fathoms (1,500 feet) and the regulations for both recreational and commercial fisheries within that area will be the same as for Oregon and Washington.

For the latest in-depth information, please visit the PFMC website at and the DFG website at

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Marine Life Protection Act - Regional Working Groups

by Briana Brady, Biologist

In July, orientation meetings were held in Eureka, Monterey, and Long Beach for the new Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Regional Working Groups. These meetings were set up to introduce Regional Working Group members to each other, and to provide background information to participants on their roles and responsibilities and the MLPA mandate. Under this mandate, the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is ultimately responsible for creating a master plan for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The Working Groups will assist DFG with the creation of the plan by providing input and advice on specific recommendations. The master plan will evaluate existing MPAs, propose new MPAs, make recommendations pertaining to implementation, phasing and funding, and outline monitoring, enforcement, and management strategies.

The seven Regional Working Groups represent the public from northern, central and southern California. Each Working Group is made up of members from various constituencies within each region who represent the sport and commercial fishing community, environmental groups, academia, recreational users, coastal communities, and other federal and state agencies. These groups were established to involve everyone with an interest "right down to the local level," according to David Bunn, Deputy Director for Legislative Affairs.

While the orientation meetings focused on the upcoming Working Group responsibilities, information on the science and socioeconomics of MPAs was also presented. Dr. Steven Gaines of the University of California at Santa Barbara's Marine Science Institute provided an overview of published literature on marine reserves. Dr. Gil Sylvia of Oregon State University's Hatfield Marine Science Center presented information on how socioecomic information might help guide the decision making process.

The orientation meetings were just the beginning of what is expected to be a long process. While the MLPA master plan is currently due by Jan 1, 2003, a DFG supported bill (SB 1086) would add two more years to the process. The first individual Working Group meetings are being held in September and October. Although these meetings are open to the public, comments and information must be provided through the Working Group members. For more information, please go to and click on the "Marine Life Protection Act" link.

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Proposed Commercial Nearshore Fishery Restricted Access Program
Goes to the Commission

by Traci Bishop, Associate Marine Biologist

At the August 2, 2002 Fish and Game Commission (Commission) meeting in San Luis Obispo, the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) unveiled the proposed Nearshore Fishery Restricted Access Program (NFRAP). Public comments were taken at the August 29 Commission meeting in Oakland and will be accepted again at the Oct 23 Commission meeting in Crescent City. Additionally, there was a special hearing in Southern California to receive comments on the proposed NFRAP. Adoption of this program is scheduled for the December 6 Commission meeting in Monterey.

The proposed NFRAP covers only the nearshore species which currently require a commercial Nearshore Fishery Permit. A permit is required for the commercial take of: cabezon, California scorpionfish, California sheephead, kelp and rock greenlings, and black-and-yellow, China, gopher, grass, and kelp rockfishes. The DFG proposes that the regionally specific permits be issued to individual commercial fishermen. Additionally, DFG proposes limiting gear to only hook-and-line unless the person has a gear endorsement for another gear type, such as fish traps. A broad range of options for criteria to qualify for both permits and gear endorsements are being proposed. The proposed NFRAP also includes permit qualifiying provisions for experienced commercial fishermen who have been licensed in California for 20 years or more, and provisions for the transfer of permits, fees, and a possible bycatch permit for those who have had a Nearshore Fishery Permit in the past but catch nearshore species only incidentally.

Interested parties can provide comments by speaking at one of the Commission meetings or special hearings, faxing comments to (562) 342-7139 attn: Nearshore Restricted Access Team, e-mailing comments to, or by mailing comments to: Nearshore Restricted Access Team, 4665 Lampson Avenue, Suite C, Los Alamitos, CA 90720. All comments (including e-mail and faxes), must include the commentor's name and postal mailing address.

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Spot Prawn Fishery Bycatch Report Prepared for Fish and Game Commission

by Paul Reilly, Senior Marine Biologist

In 1999, several individuals testified at a Fish and Game Commission (Commission) meeting regarding concerns with bycatch in the commercial spot prawn trawl fishery. The Commission directed the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) to obtain information on the type and magnitude of bycatch in this valuable fishery and to establish an observer fee for each vessel landing spot prawns in order to fund the study. During 2000 and 2001, DFG observers went on commercial spot prawn trawl and trap vessels and obtained information on the catch, including bycatch, from 86 trawl tows and 262 trap strings. Results showed that the ratio of bycatch to spot prawns was substantially higher for trawl tows than for trap strings.

In June 2002, a draft report on these bycatch observations was sent to representatives on the DFG's Spot Prawn Ad Hoc Advisory Committee and to several environmental representatives. Separate meetings were conducted with trawl fishery, trap fishery, and environmental representatives to discuss the draft report. Comments from these meetings were used to revise the report before it was submitted to the Commission in July 2002.

The DFG report confirmed a series of management options for the spot prawn trawl fishery. Options would either reduce, prevent increases in, or provide documentation of bycatch in this fishery. Some of these management options could result in negative economic impacts for the fishery participants. Options were developed to conform to recent groundfish management recommendations by the Pacific Fishery Management Council to protect stocks of overfished species such as bocaccio and darkblotched rockfish, both present in the observed bycatch.

A copy of the report may be obtained from Paul Reilly, CDFG, 20 Lower Ragsdale Drive, Suite 100, Monterey CA 93940.

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Nearshore Fishery Management Plan Adopted by Fish and Game Commission

by Ed Roberts, Marine Biologist

The California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) adopted the recommended alternative of the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan (NFMP) on August 29 at its meeting in Oakland. This plan was prepared by the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) under the guidance of the Marine Life Management Act (MLMA). Originally scheduled for adoption by the Commission in 2001, the Commission extended this deadline to August 2002 to allow DFG to revise the first draft of the NFMP and incorporate suggestions from the public and a peer review panel.

Since the NFMP's release on May 9 for public review, two public hearings have been held to take public testimony (May 21 in Oakland and June 7 in Santa Barbara). Additionally, comments were heard at the Commission meetings on June 20 in South Lake Tahoe, August1 in San Luis Obispo, and August 29 in Oakland. The Nearshore Advisory Committee also reconvened on June 27 to receive public input.

Public opinion on the 2002 NFMP was carefully considered by DFG and the Commission prior to adoption, and played a significant role in the development of the plan. A complete listing of all environmental comments and DFG's responses to those comments is found in a companion document available online at:

The NFMP is the second fishery management plan to be adopted by the Commission, and is designed to guide DFG's management of the recreational and commercial harvest of 19 species of finfish found in the nearshore environment, which spans the state's entire 1,100 mile coast.

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Commercial Gill Net Prohibition to Protect Marine Life Continues

by Christine Pattison, Associate Marine Biologist

On July 29, 2002, the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) filed a Certificate of Compliance with the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) regarding the permanent regulations prohibiting the use of gill and trammel nets in ocean waters 60 fathoms or less from Point Reyes in Marin County, to Point Arguello in Santa Barbara County.

The DFG Director Robert C. Hight signed an emergency order on April 2 to prohibit the use of gill and trammel nets in waters off California's central coast. The order was a continuation of a process that began in September 2000 when the commercial fishery was first closed from Point Reyes to Yankee Point and from Point Sal to Point Arguello. However, the continued use of gill nets in the area between Yankee Pt. to Pt. Sal posed a threat to the recovery of the southern sea otter, a state-protected species which is also listed as threatened on the federal Endangered Species List.

The continued use of gill nets also posed a problem to the state=s recovering common murre population. An onboard observer program conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Service in 1999 and 2000 revealed a high number of common murre mortalities due to gill nets, particularly off the coast of Monterey. In addition to protecting common murres and sea otters, this action will benefit other marine life such as harbor porpoises, sea lions, elephant seals, and cormorants that are also subject to entanglement by gill and trammel nets.

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Abalone Recovery and Management Plan

by Jonathan Ramsay, Marine Biologist

Currently, the Abalone Recovery and Management Plan (ARMP) is in the peer and public review process. Public comments will be accepted until 5:00pm on October 4, 2002. The purpose of the peer review is for scientific experts to evaluate the management and recovery portions, as well as the socio-economic merits and the organization of the document. The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is currently contracted with the University of California's Sea Grant Extension program to provide independent peer review of documents.

Public review is important to ensure that all stakeholders and interested community members have an opportunity to comment on the draft ARMP. During this informal public review process, two town hall meetings were held in September to gather public input on the draft ARMP. At both September meetings, presentations were given on the draft plan's approach to recovery and management for California abalone populations. An oral public comment period followed each presentation. Public comments have been received throughout the development of the draft ARMP. Written comments can be sent to Mr. Pete Haaker, 4665 Lampson Avenue, Suite C, Los Alamitos, CA 90702 until Oct 4.

The draft ARMP will be revised by a team of biologists based on the comments received during the peer and public review process. The revised draft ARMP will be presented and submitted to the Fish and Game Commission (Commission) at its December 5-6 meeting in Monterey. Once DFG submits the draft ARMP to the Commission, a formal comment period will begin. The Commission will then receive written and verbal comments over a period of time. Information on how the public may provide comments will be posted on the DFG's website.

Copies of the draft ARMP may be found on DFG's abalone resource website,, and at DFG offices.

For current information on the status of the ARMP check the abalone resources website listed above or contact the Abalone Constituent Coordinator Diana Watters at (650) 631-2535 or

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Managing California's Herring Fisheries

by Susan Ashcraft, Associate Marine Biologist

From November through March each year, populations of Pacific herring enter bays and estuaries along California's coast to spawn. Commercial fishing for herring occurs during this spawning season. This fishery is primarily for the herring roe (eggs) for which a valuable export market to Japan exists. The fishery occurs in four primary spawning areas of California with 460 permittees using set gill net gear. The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) manages these limited entry fisheries in San Francisco (418 permits), Tomales Bay (35 permits), Humboldt Bay (4 permits), and Crescent City Harbor (3 permits).

Considered one of the best state-managed fisheries in the country, the commercial herring fishery is one of the few fisheries in California that undergo annual population assessments and subsequent regulatory and quota change. Pacific herring abundance fluctuates due to variable recruitment (the success of each year-class), making annual population assessments in both San Francisco and Tomales bays necessary for effective management. This annual population assessment allows DFG and the Fish and Game Commission (Commission) to integrate new information into management of the fishery on a timely basis. Conservative harvest levels, careful control of the fishery since the early 1970s, and input from industry representatives on the Director's Herring Advisory Committee, along with other constituents, have helped contribute to the success of this fishery.

Opportunities for constituent input are provided several times each year. In March 2002, DFG consulted with the Director's Herring Advisory Committee, and in April 2002, held two public meetings for constituents to hear and comment on DFG's proposed regulation changes for the 2002 to 2003 fishing season. Opportunities for public comment were provided at the Commission meeting held on August 2 in San Luis Obispo, before the regulations were approved as proposed at the August 30 Commission meeting in Oakland.

The new herring regulations establish season opening and closing dates, conservative quota levels, and make other minor changes pertaining to research, navigation, and violations specific to fisheries in San Francisco and Tomales bays.

Key Regulatory Changes passed for 2002-03

Pacific herring season dates:

San Francisco Bay: December 1 to 20, 2002 and January 5 to March 14, 2003
Tomales Bay: December 29 to 31, 2002 and January 5 to March 7, 2003


San Francisco Bay: 3,540 tons
Tomales Bay: 300 tons initial quota; in-season increases to 400 tons or 500 tons possible

The complete regulations approved for the 2002 to 2003 season can be found through the "New and Proposed Regulations" link at the Fish and Game Commission home page at

For a detailed history of the herring fishery, and biological and population status information, please see the article Pacific Herring, included in the 2001 DFG publication California's Living Marine Resources: A Status Report. A link to this article is available from the DFG Herring Fishery Information Page, located at

For additional information on California's herring fisheries including season summary reports, log on to the Herring Fishery Information Page, or contact Susan Ashcraft at (650) 631-6786 or

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Education is the Key to Reducing Seabird Hooking
and Entanglement by Recreational Fishermen

by Nora Rojek, Senior Marine Biologist

Most avid recreational fishermen have at some point interacted with seabirds while fishing along our coast. Seabirds may eat the same fish being targeted or may be attracted to bait at the end of fishing lines and, as a result, they could accidentally be hooked or entangled. While one may think an entanglement situation has been resolved when the line breaks and the seabird flies away, this is not the end of the story for the seabird. Both hooks and broken lines injure and kill seabirds. Hooks, which penetrate the bird's hollow bones can lead to infection. Broken lines can rap around legs, wings, or beaks and result in death due to starvation or inability to fly or swim.

While seabird entanglements can occur during any type of recreational fishing activity, the problem has been more severe at piers when large numbers of bait fish concentrate. This concentration attracts both fishermen and seabirds, such as brown pelicans that feed on bait fish. In late summer of 2001, seabird and fishermen interaction was a big problem at the Santa Cruz City Pier. More than 150 brown pelicans were rescued with hooks or line entanglements, and 47 of those died or had to be euthanized due to the severity of the injuries. Many other injured birds could not be rescued. Due to the severity of the problem, the City of Santa Cruz and the Department of Fish and Game ( DFG) closed fishing on two-thirds of the city's pier for several weeks.

The best way to reduce hooking and entanglement problems is to avoid casting next to large concentrations of birds, such as near breeding colonies, in areas where large numbers of seabirds are foraging, and on piers when large concentrations of birds are present. Other techniques, which are listed on page 32 of the 2002 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations Handbook and page 153 of 2002 Commercial Fish Digest, include: weight lines to ensure bait sinks rapidly, not feeding birds, not leaving bait exposed, and disposing of all trash properly (including fish remains and monofilament line). If one does entangle a bird and it can be reeled in and captured without injury, attempt to unhook or disentangle the bird. If it can not be captured, the line should be cut as close to the bird as possible. Report injured birds that can be captured to local wildlife care facilities.

Several efforts are currently underway to educate the public about seabird interaction problems. The City of Santa Cruz has initiated a Pelican Protection program, which includes educational materials and monitoring of seabird interactions. The DFG and the City of Santa Cruz produced educational signs that were placed on the wharf this summer. Last summer, the City of Santa Barbara placed an educational sign on their city wharf. The American Trader Trustee Council has funded a Seabird Entanglement and Outreach program in Southern California. In conjunction with the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, they will be distributing educational brochures and placing signs on several piers in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties this fall. In addition, they have initiated an Entangled Seabird Rescue Training Program to train commercial passenger fishing vessel operators in southern California on proper techniques to capture and treat hooked and entangled birds. Vessel operators that would like additional information on this training program can contact Julie Bursek at or at (805) 382-6141.

For more information on avoiding entanglements, visit the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRCC) at: and the National Marine Fisheries Service at:

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California Coastal National Monument Management Planning Process Begins

by Briana Brady, Biologist

A collection of previously rocks, exposed reefs, and pinnacles above mean high tide along the entire length of California was designated as The California Coastal National Monument (CCNM) by a Presidential proclamation on January 11, 2000. The CCNM is jointly administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Department of Fish and Game (DFG), and the California Department of Parks and Recreation (CDPR). The DFG has been handling day-to-day management of the lands since 1983 under a signed agreement with the BLM and CDPR and is currently assisting in developing a long term management plan for the CCNM.

During August and September, the BLM held eight public meetings in northern and southern coastal California to gather information from the public regarding issues and concerns that should be addressed by a management plan for the CCNM. Members of the public worked together with representatives from the three agencies in small working groups. "We look forward to working closely with coastal residents in developing this plan," said CCNM Manager Rick Hanks.

The CCNM is relatively small in regards to its "real estate" (approximately 900 acres), but the greatest value is in what it contains and supports. The monument provides feeding and nesting habitat for an estimated 200,000 breeding seabirds including: gulls, pelicans, murres, cormorants, and shorebirds like the black oystercatcher. The CCNM also provides breeding habitat and shelter for several marine mammal species such as harbor seals and the threatened northern Stellar sea lion. In addition, the monument contains unique geologic formations and vegetation that warrant protection.

The BLM plans to have a draft management plan by May 2003 with the final plan put into place by January 2004. For more information contact Rick Hanks at (831) 372-6115, or visit the website

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Squid Strandings on Southern California Beaches Process Begins

by Annette Henry, Marine Biologist

Thousands of jumbo squid, Dosidicus gigas, were found stranded on southern California beaches over the summer. The normal range of these squid, also known as Humboldt squid, is from Peru north to Baja California. However, warm water events such as El Niño can extend the range of these squid to Oregon.

The first reported stranding was on July 18 at Swami's Beach in Encinitas, CA, where approximately 200 squid were found over a mile stretch of shore. Their mantle lengths ranged from 16 to 24 inches, and they weighed between 2 and 2.5 pounds. On July 25, several thousand squid beached themselves at La Jolla Shores. Another large stranding occurred on August 22 when approximately 2,500 of these "Red Demons" beached themselves in the cove just north of the USC lab at Catalina Island. Smaller strandings were reported at Camp Pendleton and Newport Beach.

What causes the squid to strand remains elusive to squid experts. One theory is the squid follow a food source (possibly grunion), get caught up in the surf, and are unable to return to the water. To assist squid researchers, the Department of Fish and Game collected squid from several of these strandings. Dr. Eric Hochberg of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is evaluating population characteristics and examining stomach contents. Dr. William Gilly of Hopkins Marine Station is evaluating the possible effects of domoic acid in triggering the strandings. Dr. Ivan Schwab of UC Davis is studying eyes from the stranded squid for ophthalmologic medical research. Other specimens will be placed with the invertebrate collection at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. For more information, contact Dr. F.G. Hochberg at (805) 682-4711, ext.318 or at

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CalCOFI Conference 2002!

by Kevin Hill, Associate Biologist

For over 50 years the CalCOFI program has monitored the California Current using traditional oceanographic methods that were dictated by available technologies. Recent developments have provided a plethora of powerful new tools. To prepare for the next 50 years, CalCOFI must reassess the current sampling program and initiate new measurements that will be relevant to the problems the marine environment is likely to face over the next 50 years.

The 2002 conference will take place November 13 -14 at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, CA. The speakers at this year's symposium will be invited to speculate on the questions that will be of relevance 50 years from now, outline measurements currently available to address these questions and suggest strategies to incorporate these measurements into the current sampling program.

The deadline for the conference registration was September 27, but the CalCOFI registrar is accepting late registration forms for a limited time. So don't delay - register immediately. The registration fee is $150 and for your convenience, special conference rates at two local hotels are available if reserved by October 12.

Address all communications to the CalCOFI Registrar at: Southwest Fisheries Science Center, 8604 La Jolla Shores Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037. Fax: (858) 546-7116. or send e-mail to: For more information go to

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Calendar of Upcoming Meetings

Fish and Game Commission Meetings 2002

February 6-7
April 3-4
May 6-8
June 19-20
August 1-2
August 28-29
October 2-3
November 6-7
December 4-5
Mammoth Lakes
Long Beach/Los Angeles/San Pedro
Santa Rosa
San Diego

Pacific Fishery Management Council 2002

Meetings are subject to change. The following are for the week of:

November 4-8 San Francisco

For all of the latest information on upcoming meetings and events, please check out our Master Calendar at or contact our DFG office in Monterey at (831) 649-2870.