Contact(s): LB Boydstun, Intergovernmental Affairs, (916) 653-6281 Don Schultze, Marine Region Regulatory Unit, (916) 227-5670

DFG Schedules Dec. 5 Groundfish Conformance Hearing

The Department of Fish and Game has scheduled a public hearing for Dec. 5, 2002 to receive testimony on the effect of conforming state regulations to federal regulations as they apply to commercial groundfish fishing off the California coast.

The hearing, which is required under state law, will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Monterey Beach Hotel off Highway 1 at 2600 Sand Dunes Dr. located north of Monterey. The major new regulation under consideration is the creation of a large rockfish conservation area that would restrict the types or sizes of commercial fishing gear that can legally be used in the area. The gear ban, which is aimed at protecting overfished species of rockfish, would extend to most forms of trawl gear, all forms of fish trap or fish pot gear, all types of multiple-hook longlines, and all smaller mesh (less than 6 inches) set gill nets.

According to DFG representative, LB Boydstun, the conservation area extends from near Cape Mendocino in southern Humboldt County to the U.S./Mexico International Border and would encompass waters 20 to 150 fathoms offshore except north of Point Reyes, Marin County, where the restrictions would extend to 250 fathoms. Most of the conservation area will be in federal waters, 3 to 200 miles offshore, but some of the shallower water portions extend into state waters, which results in the need for conforming regulations.

Earlier in the day at the same meeting location, the California Fish and Game Commission will receive public testimony on conforming state and federal regulations as they apply to recreational fishing in the proposed new rockfish conservation area. The recreational regulations propose to ban the use of more than one hook or lure with more than 6 ounces of weight attached when sportfishing in the area. There are exceptions, however, to provide for gear types used to catch salmon, tuna, California halibut, sanddabs, yellowtail, and various other marine finfish species that generally do not mix with overfished rockfish species. The commercial regulations may be implemented as early as Jan. 1 while the recreational measures are under consideration for implementation in late February or early March of 2003.

Proposed new fishing rules and fishing area closure off California that afford greater protection for bocaccio, an overfished rockfish species, important to the recent decision by the National Marine Fisheries Service to not list the species under the federal Endangered Species Act, according to Rod McInnis, Acting Regional Administrator of the agency's Southwest Region.