State of California,
Fish and Game Commission
1416 9th Street -- Room 1320
Sacramento, Ca 95814

February 28, 2000

I have been an ocean lover since I was a small child. I grew up swimming in the ocean. I have enjoyed its beauty and bounty all my life boating, fishing, swimming, and diving (both freedive and scuba). Over the years I have seen the fisheries resources decline. This has been even more prevalent in recent years. Much like the decline of the Southern California abalone, Northern California white sea bass, halibut and other species, the loss of the near shore rock fish resource has been a great concern of mine. It has come to my attention, the Commission is possibly entertaining thoughts of a ‘limited entry program’ and a moratorium on the issuance of new commercial permits and allowing baited fish traps to be left overnight.

I feel a ‘limited entry program’ MUST be combined with other measures. The commercial fishers have a history of saying, “The ‘limited entry program’ is our sacrifice. Now leave us alone and go restrict other resource users (Recreational Fishers)!” They have done it with abalone, halibut, lingcod and other species. They said they would ‘accept’ new restrictions in take limits if the recreational fishers did also. What happened was recreational fishers were restricted and commercials went about business as usual, for the most part. The burden of proof should be on those who say a harvestable excess exists.

Now the commercial fishers are faced with declining catches and they want to restrict others by restricting the issuance of new permits while improving their methods of take. What is particularly of concern to me is the fact, so little is known about the habitat and populations of near shore fish? This is the area under the greatest stress of commercial over fishing at this time. I know this for a fact as I have seen the decline in near shore fisheries resources in recent years. Since the commercial fisheries have increased their activities along the Northern California near shoreline and reefs the resource has dwindled at a shocking rate. I dive the Northern California coast line in both Sonoma and Mendocino Counties all year long, and have done so for almost 20 years. Not only can I testify to this from my personal experience, but catch records from sporting events prove this. Since the 1950’s records of these events have been kept. It has just been in the past years a sudden ‘Great Decline’ in catches has become evident.

I reviewed the information on the Commissions web page. I quote directly from the Fish and Game Commission’s web page, “The Commissioners' ultimate decisions must reflect not only the biological needs of our fish and wildlife, but also the wishes, needs and desires of all those who enjoy these resources. ... However, with the interest, understanding and involvement of everyone who appreciates our magnificent fish and wildlife resources, the California Fish and Game Commission will continue along the path of sound and enlightened resource management.” Here is my input:

Every year the recreational fishery is restricted further by catch/access limitations and has higher monetary charges levied upon them. My question to you as Commissioners of this forum and as the ’care takers’ of our ocean fisheries resource is, “What are you going to do about it? Will you allow increased fisheries activities without knowing what the effect by them will be? Will you allow the commercial fisheries to increase their take and reduce their take restrictions? Will you continue to punish the recreational fishers for the loss of a resource they have a right to enjoy?” Most importantly I must ask you, “Where have all my fish gone, and when will you take steps to help them return to a ‘sustainable’ resource or will you wait until they are all gone and say, “We didn’t know it would turn out like this!”

Please protect my resource.

David Whittington
Concerned Recreational Fisher
Sec.-Treas., Nor Cal Skin Divers Club

Secretary, Cen Cal Council of Dive Clubs

P.O. Box 5091, Vallejo, CA 94591 707-648-3299