Proposal for Interim Measure to Manage the Commercial Nearshore Fishery

Concerned Bay Diving members,

I wanted to share with everyone here, a proposal a group of recreational divers and fishermen has been working on that is finally receiving a hearing. The proposal may be viewed at the bottom of this e-mail. I apologize for its length but the DFG asked us to provide justifications.

To provide a quick background, we have been fighting hard at the Fish and Game Commission level to preserve the nearshore rock and benthic fish populations and our access to them. Many of us have been witness to the rapid depletion of this resource. For the last year or so we have been pushing this proposal or one like it but up until now, our efforts were in vain. In fact, we felt like we were looked at as being minor pests who were to be ignored. It seemed clear to us that there was an obvious bias toward the commercial fishery in the nearshore. In the meantime, the gear being used by the commercial fishery expanded in its efficiency to the point where reefs were being "saturation bombed" and depletion rates were incredibly high.

At the last meeting we went to, we were surprised when we were told that they were willing to let our proposal receive consideration. We need to take advantage of this opportunity but we need your help. This proposal will be presented at the October 20th Commission meeting. We need to let the Commission know, this isn't just some idea a few people are supporting, but rather a growing coalition of recreational and environmentally oriented people.

The proposal originates with United Anglers and is supported by the following groups:
Central California Council of Dive Clubs (Cencal) Sonoma County Abalone Network (SCAN) Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) Center for Marine Conservation (CMC)

Will you please unite with us and write to the Fish and Game Commission in support of this proposal?

E-mail Robert Treanor, Executive Director of the Fish and Game Commission at,

John Duffy, the Assistant Director at,

When you write, will you also CC the following individuals and anyone else who you think would have any potential impact?

Robert Hight (DFG head)

David Bunn (Deputy Director for Legislative Affairs)

L.B. Boydstun (DFG intergovernmental Affairs Rep)

Assemblyman Fred Keeley

It's time to take the responsibility for the preservation of this resource into our own hands. Please write now.

Bob Humphrey

Here it is:

October 2, 2000

Fish and Game Commission
1416-9th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
FAX: (916) 653-5040

Attention: Mr. Robert Treanor

Subject: Proposal for Interim Measure to Manage the Commercial Nearshore Fishery

Dear Commissioners:

This letter provides an interim measure to manage the nearshore commercial fishery. It is the intent of this proposal that it be considered at the Fish and Game Commission to be held on October 20, 2000 in San Diego, California.

The proposal is as follows:

Part A - Nearshore commercial fishing for nearshore fish species (those species within 1 nautical mile of the shore as defined by the Marine Life Management Act) shall be limited to the use of rod-and- reel or hand lines with no more than five (5) hooks allowed per line. All lines must be attached directly to a person or vessel and free to drift with the vessel. A maximum of two (2) lines per person and a combined maximum of four (4) lines per nearshore permitted vessel are allowed. Lines must be flexible, similar to that used with typical pole and line gear. The bottom weight or jig may be no greater than 12-inches in length.

Part B - Midwater rockfish, including but not limited to blue, black, olive, and squarespot, taken in the nearshore by permitted nearshore vessels shall be limited to a daily commercial limit of no more than 20 per day in combination for each permitted nearshore vessel.


Part A – Due to recent declines in nearshore fish abundance, divers and anglers have expressed alarm over the growing likelihood that severe depletion of nearshore fish species is occurring under existing fishery conditions. Further, Dept. of Fish and Game (DFG) data from the early 1990's has led DFG scientists to list several nearshore species as "species of concern" due to a scarcity of adult fish and/or declining catch rates (Reilly, 1998). Consequently, we believe the catch of nearshore fish must be substantially reduced to avoid overfishing nearshore stocks. Similar to the nearshore rockfish quota, DFG has proposed as an interim measure a quota for nearshore non-rockfish species including cabezon, greenling, and sheephead. However, for a quota and/or allocation system to be effective, especially when highly efficient gear types are being used, intensive management attention to the fishery is required including elaborate and costly procedures to verify quota compliance. We consider it highly unlikely that such a system will be operational in the near future, and recent options presented to the Commission do not appear to include either quota verification mechanisms or the funding necessary to pay for them. Therefore as an interim alternative, we believe that lowering the efficiency of commercial fishing gear has the best potential to avoid resource depletion without expensive quota monitoring measures. Additionally, we believe the proposed gear restriction would achieve the following:
1. An immediate and significant reduction in the overall take of nearshore fish. This would improve the prospects for both a sustainable nearshore commercial and recreational fishery. - This reduction would be achieved due to the mobile nature of rod- and-reel/hand line gear when fished from a vessel. When a vessel is drifting it becomes less able to attract those fish which tend to be more vulnerable to anchored baits, such as cabezon and greenling. Further, if a vessel is anchored, fishing effort is limited to the area immediately below the vessel. - Fishing would be limited to those time periods when fishers are actively engaged in fishing. The ability to fish traps or set gear overnight would be eliminated. This would have the added benefit of reducing the potential for gear loss due to bad weather. - The overall number of allowed hooks would reduced from the current 150 to a maximum of 20 per vessel and the use of fish traps would be eliminated thereby reducing the overall fishing power of each vessel
2. Inability to "blanket" individual reefs with fishing gear.
Under the current system traps and "stick gear" (with a 150 hooks and 50 traps allowable maximum) are commonly deployed in a concentrated arrangement effectively saturating individual reefs and coves with fishing gear. As populations of slow growing, residential fish become fished-out fishing effort moves on to other areas. Under a general quota system this practice continues. We believe our proposal would greatly reduce the ability to deplete areas by lessening the geographic intensity of fishing effort. Further, the proposed gear restriction would very likely make fishing in marginally productive areas unfeasible setting the stage for rebuilding of depleted stocks. An overall quota system does not take into consideration the residential nature of nearshore fish, consequently the prospect for ongoing and systematic geographic depletion of residential fish continues under a quota system.
3. Creation of "de facto" refugia in kelp forest areas. A major benefit of the proposed gear restriction would be the difficulty of fishing with handlines or rod-and-reel gear in kelp areas. The difficulty of fishing in kelp provided by this gear restriction would create de facto refugia in areas of kelp forest and rugged bottom topography.
4. Reduced Gear Conflicts. Similarity of fishing gear between fishing sectors would likely reduce user conflicts while providing more equitable and fair access to the nearshore resource by various fishing sectors.
5. A simple, effective and easily enforceable regulation. Enforcement would be greatly simplified by providing easy visual verification of conformance to the gear restriction. We believe this proposal could also simplify the interim process by making allocation, quota, area closures, and seasonal closures less critical issues in the near-term. These more complex issues are perhaps better handled during the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan (NFMP) process.

Part B –Regulations which reduce fish catch often displace fishing effort to other species.
Midwater rockfish are currently considered fully utilized and even locally overfished. As proposed, Part B anticipates a commercial shift from benthic species, which are the primary target of the nearshore fishery, to nearshore midwater rockfish. Although these fish are currently included within an annual PFMC nearshore rockfish quota, managing by this quota suffers from the same problems of geographic depletion discussed previously. Rod-and-reel gear can be highly effective at catching long-lived, residential midwater fish, which tend to form dense schools. Consequently Part B of this proposal is intended to proactively reduce commercial interest in shifting to midwater fish while still provide for retention of incidental catch.


Nearshore Fishery in Other Regions

To provide some perspective on our proposal, it is useful to consider management approaches utilized in other West Coast regions.

In British Columbia (Straits of Georgia) the commercial live-fishery is conducted almost exclusively with rod-and-reel gear. Further, the number of commercial fishers has been greatly reduced by a limited entry permit system, and fishers have strictly enforced quotas. Quotas are verified by requiring that all catches be landed at designated landing sites and ONLY when a fishery technician is present to monitor and sample the catch. The commercial fishery fully funds its management costs by an annual permit fee and hourly landing fee. Despite the high cost of fees, inefficient gears and tight quotas the commercial fishery remains viable and valuable.

In 1999 Washington State concluded that its nearshore groundfish resource was fully utilized by the recreational fishery. Consequently, Washington State banned the commercial nearshore "live- fishery" from Washington State waters.

Closing Remarks

We consider this proposal to be a meaningful first step. No doubt other measures will be required as part of the NFMP to effectively manage the nearshore fishery over the long-term. These future measures could likely include a commercial limited entry, a verifiable quota system and many of the other measures included in the interim options put forward by DFG at the September Commission meeting. However, we believe as an interim measure this proposal has the promise of being simple, effective in the near-term (particularly regarding ongoing geographic depletion), easily enforceable and requiring minimal agency resources at a time when DFG efforts are needed to complete the NFMP.

In light of the strict commercial nearshore regulations utilized in other regions and the increasing body of evidence indicating California's nearshore fish stocks are becoming depleted, we believe our proposed interim measure is balanced and fair. If enacted on an interim basis this proposal should hopefully improve the potential for healthy nearshore fish stocks, a reduced but sustainable commercial fishery, and both a satisfying recreational fishery and non-consumptive diving experience. We urge you to give this proposal your most serious consideration.

Respectfully yours,

Mike Malone – United Anglers of Southern California Legislative Committee

Robert Hight – Director DFG
Diana Jacobs – Special Assistant to the Director
Rob Collins – DFG Nearshore Ecosystem Coordinator
David Bunn – DFG
L.B. Boydstun - DFG
Eric Knaggs – DFG
Assemblyman Keeley