TOM STIENSTRA

                                                         Sept. 12, 1999

                 WHAT IF you went to a doctor about a headache,
                 and to your surprise, the doctor ordered more
                 studies. Then, the next day, you woke up and found
                 that your right arm had been amputated?

                 Makes no sense, right?

                 That is exactly what the fish doctor is proposing in

                 While rockfish and lingcod populations are under
                 siege from overfishing by commercial netters and
                 longliners, the Department of Fish and Game is
                 proposing that the sport limit be dropped from 15
                 to 10, and the limit perhaps to zero for lingcod and

                 According to one insider with the DFG, the
                 proposal may be changed in the next month to
                 reduce the rockfish limit for sport anglers to as low
                 as four.

                 It's like cutting off your arm because you have a

                 The headache is the overfishing by the commercial
                 fleet, comprised of longliners that use fishing lines
                 miles long with 5,000 to 6,000 hooks, and drag
                 boats that tow giant nets like vacuum cleaners
                 through the fishing grounds. They not only dominate
                 the coastal fishery, but with their sole mission to turn
                 fish into cash, are out to kill every fish they can get
                 their mitts on.

                 The right arm is the sport fishing public, whose
                 desire is to maintain abundant, healthy fisheries, and
                 who pay for resource management through license
                 and tag fees, as well as special taxes on equipment.
                 They wish never to harm a fishery, but like a
                 lucrative bank account, to take only the interest and
                 never cut into the capital.

                 But the draggers and longliners are breaking the

                 According to one report, 87 percent of the coastal
                 rockfish catch is taken commercially, 13 percent by
                 sport anglers. According to another, a single
                 commercial boat with a drag net catches more
                 bocaccio than the entire sport fleet in California. In
                 another, longliners hook and kill unbelievable
                 thousands of juvenile fish, that is, fish that never
                 have a chance to spawn.

                 Yet the science is not available to document the
                 status of rockfish on the California coast. According
                 to the Monterey office of the DFG, of 50 rockfish
                 species in the ocean, 43 are listed as "Status
                 Unknown," which means that not a single federal or
                 state scientist has a clue what's going on out there.
                 The first rule of wildlife management is to have a
                 species census, from which you can track
                 population gains and declines, and identify limiting

                 So where is this proposal coming from?

                 It's coming from Oregon. The Pacific Fisheries
                 Management Council is using data from Oregon for
                 lingcod and bocaccio as a model for rockfish on the
                 California coast. From that model, they have
                 determined the rockfish limits for sport anglers need
                 to be drastically cut in California.

                 That's how the fish doctor has done it. Can you
                 imagine any other doctor working like this?

                 As word has circulated about this proposal, the
                 DFG has just started getting hammered for it. So
                 much so that a special meeting has just been
                 scheduled by the Fish and Game Commission for
                 Oct. 20 in Sacramento, to allow public comment
                 and review of the entire proposal. In addition, by
                 then the latest data from Oregon is supposed to be
                 available. Like, wow.

                 To provide your comment to the Fish and Game
                 Commission, send an e-mail to rtreanor@dfg.ca.gov 
                 or write Fish & Game Commission, Room 1320,
                 1416 Ninth Street, Sacramento, CA 95814.