Ocean Sport Fishing
With the 2019 sport saltwater fishing season taking off, it’s a good time to grab the annual Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet and review ocean fishing regulations. There have been a few changes, so recreational anglers will want to take note.
Last December the California Fish and Game Commission closed the recreational red abalone fishery through April 2021, based on continued habitat decline and dwindling red abalone numbers off the northern California coast. You can learn more about the reasons behind the unprecedented closure by reading an article written by CDFW biologists, “Perfect Storm” Decimates Northern California Kelp Forests, and exploring the links and resources listed after the article.
The dramatic loss of kelp beds along the north coast resulted from the unrestrained expansion of purple sea urchins, voracious consumers of kelp, after a significant die-off of their sea star predators. A new regulation that went into effect on March 7, 2019 permits recreational divers to collect 40 gallons of purple sea urchin per day in Humboldt, Mendocino and Sonoma counties, and establishes that there is no possession limit statewide (California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 29.06). Outside of those three counties, the daily bag limit remains 35 urchins per day. The new regulation helps to maintain a developing recreational interest in purple sea urchin, and aims to reduce grazing pressure in a vulnerable ecosystem.
The Commission also approved changes in federal groundfish rules for 2019 and 2020. “Groundfish” includes over 90 species of fish that live on or near the sea floor, with a few exceptions. Changes include new seasons and depth limits in some groundfish management areas and a return to year-round fishing for California scorpionfish in the Southern Groundfish Management Area.
Last year’s decreased bag limit for lingcod south of 40°10’ N latitude (1 fish) and increased bag limit for canary rockfish (2 fish within the RCG Complex bag limit of 10 fish) are currently in effect, but anglers should also note a pending in-season increase in canary rockfish and black rockfish bag limits (to 3 fish and 4 fish, respectively). The changes are anticipated to take effect in the coming weeks, and will be published on the CDFW website and in the annual Sport Fishing Regulations Supplement, due out in May, 2019.
Another in-season change that took effect on April 1, 2019 is a new 6¾-inch minimum fillet length for California sheephead filleted at sea. The entire skin must remain intact on the fillet. This change, requested by anglers, allows legal-sized California sheephead to be filleted on board vessels while at sea, and allows them to be brought ashore as fillets. The rule change was published on the CDFW website and will also be printed in the annual Sport Fishing Regulations Supplement.
Other changes in regulations update the procedures for reporting catch online and reporting lost report cards (see California Code of Regulations (CCR) Title 14, Section 1.74), and clarify the definition of “fresh water”.
More information about all of these changes can be found in the annual Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet.
A handful of new web pages feature the full text of the regulations in the annual Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet. Divided into the same sections used the paper booklet, these web pages feature ocean sport fishing regulations in the following categories:
- General Provisions and Definitions
- General Ocean Fishing Regulations
- Invertebrate Fishing Regulations
- Marine Plants
The 2019 Commercial Fishing Regulations Digest contains some very important commercial fishing regulation changes this year. First and foremost, all commercial landings are required to be electronically submitted via the E-Tix application as of July 1, 2019. These changes affect commercial fishermen, commercial Fishermen’s Retail License holders, and commercial fish businesses. The list below provides contact information that industry members can use to get further instruction:
- Procedures and resources for the Commercial Landings Website –This website includes the User Guide, Dock Ticket example and a link to PSMFC’s E-Tix website.
- The Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission maintains the E-Tix application and offers free one-on-one training. Contact Dave Colpo at (503) 595-3100.
- For any other questions regarding electronic fish tickets, contact CDFW’s Marine Fisheries Statistical Unit at ElectronicFishTicket@wildlife.ca.gov or by phone at (562) 342-7130.
The commercial Dungeness crab fishery continues to be a central focus for fishery managers and others. Beginning this year, the CDFW Director has the interim authority to restrict the take of Dungeness crab if the fishery poses a significant risk to marine life entanglement. The Director recently exercised this authority when he closed the commercial Dungeness crab fishery effective April 15, 2019 as the result of an entanglement settlement agreement.
The National Marine Fisheries Service has confirmed significant increases in the number of large whale entanglements over the last few years, especially in California Dungeness crab fishing gear. This situation threatens the stability of the fishery and coastal fishing communities.
In response, a Best Practices Guide has been developed to highlight voluntary actions designed toward reducing the number of whale entanglements. CDFW is also charged with developing regulations that support the Risk Assessment and Mitigation Program for the fishery, as well as a gear retrieval program to facilitate the removal of Dungeness crab traps after the season ends.
Other changes in the commercial Dungeness crab fishery include updates to vessel size registration, task force membership and election timing, and allowing for a minimum notification period before a fishery opening when a fishery delay has occurred due to human health risk concerns.
New regulations limit the amount of non-Cancer crab taken incidentally while participating in the trap fisheries for rock crab, Dungeness crab, or California spiny lobster. Box crab and king crab are subject to a 25-pound possession and landing limit, while sheep (spider) crab are subject to an annual total allowable catch of 95,000 pounds.
An effort to voluntarily transition fishermen away from drift gill net gear for shark and swordfish will begin this year, based on legislation passed in 2018. Fishermen interested in participating in the program will need to submit a notarized form that should be available this fall. Fishermen can find more information about the program on the California Legislative Information website.
As of April 1, 2019, commercial fishermen no longer need to fulfill state logbook requirements for Swordfish Harpoon Logs. Also, fishermen targeting highly migratory species (as described in California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 1.49) and using large mesh drift gill net gear no longer need to fulfill state logbook requirements for Gill and Trammel Net Logs.
For sea cucumber, new landing codes now differentiate between a “cut, slit, or eviscerated” state and “whole or uncut” state. Fishermen should ensure the new codes are used when completing landing receipts.
And finally, the Commission adopted new bi-monthly trip limits for cabezon and greenlings this year. The new trip limit tables can be found in the Nearshore Fishery section of the Digest, and online.
More information about all of these changes is in the 2019 Commercial Fishing Regulations Digest.
Marine Protected Areas
Changes in a handful of marine protected area regulations could affect both recreational and commercial fishing activities.
Boundary locations have changed for Stewart’s Point State Marine Reserve and Stewart’s Point State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA), and tribal exemptions now apply in four marine protected areas: Kashtayit SMCA, Naples SMCA, Anacapa Island SMCA, and Point Dume SMCA. The new coordinates and regulations are available online, and in both the Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet and the Commercial Fishing Regulations Digest. CDFW will no longer print the Guide to California Marine Protected Areas series, which provided MPA maps and regulations for the California coast in a set of four full-color booklets.
Phase-Out of Printed Regulations Booklets
Ocean sport anglers and divers should be aware that as part of a broader effort by CDFW to go paperless, the process of transitioning to online regulations booklets has begun. CDFW will decrease the number of printed booklets shipped to license agents and CDFW offices in 2019 and beyond. The cost to print and ship regulation booklets is significant, and the money saved will be put toward fish and wildlife conservation. This year’s booklets will also be returning to the smaller, mostly black-and-white format.
Both commercial and recreational regulation booklets are available for download from the CDFW website. Printed Ocean Sport Fishing regulation booklets are still available in limited quantites wherever sport fishing licenses are sold and at your local CDFW office.
post by Mary Patyten, CDFW Research Writer