COMMISSIONERS, THANK YOU FOR THIS OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK ON BEHALF OF THE NEARSHORE CHAPTER, ITS AFFILIATES, THE CENTRAL CALIFORNIA COUNCIL OF DIVE CLUBS, THE TRI-CITY ANGLERS OF THE SOUTH BAY OF SAN FRANCISCO, THE COASTSIDE FISHING CLUB OF HALF MOON BAY, AND FOR THE THOUSAND-PLUS MEMBERS OF THESE NORTHERN CALIFORNIA GROUPS WHO COULD NOT MAKE IT HERE TODAY. MY NAME IS RANDY FRY, PRESIDENT OF THE NEARSHORE CHAPTER.
I am not a paid lobbyist for recreational fishing; I am just a duck hunter, saltwater angler and diver from Sacramento, and I came down here to talk to you about rockfish allocation. We passed a hat to get enough money for an airline ticket, and drew straws to see who would fly here, as you can see, I lost.
If you remember, I spoke to you folks at the last Commission meeting held in Sacramento. I brought a piece of commercial livefish stick gear and spoke of its devastating effect on rockfish and cabezon. I spoke of recreational fishermen not catching their share of rockfish the last two years and how it was then given to the commercial fishermen to sell for a handsome profit. I said at that time, we should be rewarded for conservation and not punished. I then asked that the Washington State Option be added to the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan. Washington State has banned commercial rockfishing in its state waters for years.
On a weekday night, 35 members of the Nearshore Chapter drove up to Eureka for the December 2000 Commission meeting. At that meeting, on interim measures for the Nearshore Fishery, the Commission decided to give a preference to recreational fishing when allocating nearshore fish. For example, the allocation of cabezon was supposed to be 38% for the 250 active commercial livefishermen in the state, and 62% for 1,700,000 recreational fishermen. These shares would equal 67,132 lbs for commercials and 111,596 lbs for recreationals. We went home happy campers, thinking the Commission took a bold step by implementing the interim measures. Zeke Grader was very unhappy, he also was under the mistaken impression that the allocations were 38% commercial, 62% recreational. Furthermore, the 38%/62% are the same numbers used in the most recent version of the Draft Nearshore FMP.
A few days ago, DFG staff confirmed that the Department had presented a series of recommendations on cabezon, sheephead, and greenling. On the Department's recommendation, the Commission shifted some of the "allocation" for greenlings from recreational to commercial through the measures they chose to impose. The same was true for cabezon. The Department made a series of recommendations, one of which shifted cabezon from recreational to commecial.
Now, DFG staff, who have been using our Sport Fish Restoration Act (tackle tax) money to monitor commercial fishing, who have not yet proven the ability to count the fish caught by either the recreational or commercial sectors, who have admitted to us that their estimates were basically a shot in the dark, want to codify these allotments to make it easier for them to close us down more than we already are. Due to the fact that the party boat fleet between Point Conception and Cape Mendocino has been reduced to whale watching trips and spreading the ashes of the dead, and due to the fact that recreational fishermen are sitting on the beach watching the commercial fishing trawlers come in and out of port, and due to the fact that the commercial shrimp trawlers have told us that they are shoveling over 2000 lbs of bocaccio off their decks after every drag, 4 to 5 sets a day, and due to the fact that the recreational surf perch bag limits were reduced by 75% this year, with no change for commercials, and due to this cabezon allocation double-cross, the recreational salt water anglers of this state no longer believe DFG is acting in their interest. We are now of the opinion that the Department should consider changing it´s name to the Department of Commercial Fishing & Game.
We pleaded with the Commission in Eureka two years ago to shutdown the livefish industry, we have pleaded with the Commission in Oakland and Sacramento last year to shutdown the livefish industry. This year we pleaded in Sacramento last month, and we are now pleading to you here in San Diego, please shutdown the livefish industry. We are talking about 250 active commercial fishermen who last year caught more cabezon than 1,700,000 California saltwater anglers. We are talking about 250 livefishermen who pay the state 13 cents per 100 lbs of fish they take. We are talking about one livefishermen with 150 baited hooks in the water, equaling 2 party boats with 37 recreational fishermen aboard, or 25 private fishing boats with 3 fishermen. As a duck hunter, I have stood in many a sweat line, waiting for my chance to be able to go out at Sacramento, or Delivane refuge, to shoot a duck. This year, the saltwater fishermen don´t even get the chance to stand in a sweatline for the opportunity to catch a rockfish. The ocean is closed to recreational rockfishing, no sweat lines, no draws, no lotteries, it is closed, while the trawlers keep on a´trawlin.
We plead again, please will you help us understand why the Department takes public resources and grants it as a special privilege to a small group to make large profits?
In closing, we oppose the allocation plan. We at this time formally ask the Commission for an agenda item to consider a moratorium on all commercial rock and bottomfishing in state waters as the State of Washington has so done, on Friday August 29th at the Commission meeting in Oakland. We ask the Commission to consider the closure of all commercial rockfish, cabezon, greenlings, sheephead, lingcod, and sculpins in California state waters, until it can be proven that there is a harvestable excess after providing a reasonable and satisfying recreational sport. Thank you