DFG Implements Emergency Sport Fishing
Closure for Offshore Rockfish

November 7, 2001

Contact: Chamois Andersen, Information Officer, (916) 657-4132
or Don Schultze, Marine Region, (916) 227-5670

The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is implementing an emergency closure to protect offshore boccacio and canary rockfish. The closure is in effect from Cape Mendocino in Humboldt County south to the California-Mexico border.

The closure went into effect Oct. 29 and prohibits anglers from fishing in waters 20 fathoms (120 feet) or deeper for offshore species of rockfish and lingcod. This emergency closure will be lifted effective Jan. 1, 2002 when new harvest limits will take effect for recreational and commercial fisheries.

Sport fishing opportunities will continue in nearshore waters less than 20 fathoms (120 feet) deep for nearshore fishes, including the waters around offshore rocks and islands extending out to 20 fathoms. These nearshore species are listed under Section 1.90 in the 2001 Sport Fishing Regulations booklet. In addition, all waters from Cape Mendocino north to the Oregon border are not affected by the emergency closure and will remain open to sport fishing for rockfish and lingcod.

The California Fish and Game Commission, responding to higher levels of early season rockfish catches than what was originally projected, approved the closure at its Oct. 5 meeting in San Diego. Offshore commercial hook-and-line and trap fisheries were closed Oct. 1 by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

Boccacio and canary rockfish have been declared "overfished" by the NMFS. Rebuilding plans have been developed for both species by the Pacific Fishery Management Council.

While there are other rockfish targeted by sport anglers, there is a concern that boccacio and canary rockfish may be caught while fishing for other species because they often inhabit the same deep water environment: DFG's fisheries managers recommended the Commission take action on a complete closure of the offshore "shelf" fishery because of the potential to catch either of these species.

The regulations for the emergency closure are as follows: - Except for those rockfish listed on page 6, Section 1.90 in the 2001 Sport Fishing Regulations booklet, rockfish and lingcod may not be taken or possessed by a person onboard a vessel or by spear fishing in state or federal waters. - Ocean whitefish may not be taken in waters deeper than 20 fathoms (120 feet), south of Point Conception in Santa Barbara County. - California sheephead may be taken in waters 20 fathoms (120 feet) or deeper, with the exception of the cowcod closure area. - Lingcod may not be taken or possessed by a person onboard a vessel or by spear fishing in state or federal waters during the closure. The following are rockfish species that may be taken in waters less than 20 fathoms (120 feet): black rockfish, black-and-yellow rockfish, blue rockfish, brown rockfish, calico rockfish, china rockfish, copper rockfish, gopher rockfish, grass rockfish, kelp rockfish, olive rockfish, quillback rockfish, and treefish. In addition, California scorpionfish (sculpin), cabezon, greenling and ocean whitefish may continue to be taken in nearshore waters of less than 20 fathoms (120 feet).

Photos of California's nearshore rockfish are available on DFG's Web site at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mrd/fishid.html.