Adopted Recommendations for the Interim Management of the Nearshore Fishery Prepared for the California Fish and Game Commission Meeting December 8, 2000
The Marine Life Management Act (MLMA) defines nearshore fisheries as the commercial or recreational taking of black-and-yellow rockfish, gopher rockfish, kelp rockfish, California scorpionfish or sculpin, greenlings, china rockfish, grass rockfish, California sheephead and cabezon. The MLMA authorizes the Commission to classify other species of finfish as nearshore fish stocks if they are found primarily in rocky reef or kelp habitat in waters within one nautical mile of land, including offshore rocks and islands.
The catches in the nearshore area have increased dramatically in the last eleven years (1989-1999), and have changed from primarily a recreational catch to a combined commercial and recreational catch (Figures 1-4). There are concerns that these increased nearshore fish catches are adversely impacting fish stocks and a belief that interim catch-limiting regulations should be adopted by the Commission before the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan (FMP) is adopted in 2002.
The Commission is now considering over 20 management options for adoption as interim regulations for this fishery and for the recreational portion of the federally managed groundfish fishery. This report gives the Department's recommendations concerning the nearshore fishery only. The Department's recommendations concerning the recreational segment of the groundfish fishery will be conveyed separately.
The adoption of the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan in 2002 may result in many of these interim regulations being superceded by the regulations adopted pursuant to the plan. It is also important to recognize that the state and federal governments have overlapping jurisdictions over this fishery, and that consistency and compatibility of the two regulation sets is important for the public welfare and for effective enforcement. The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) has recently adopted regulations for shelf groundfish (species that generally live over depths ranging from about 20 to 200 fathoms, commonly referred to as the continental shelf). The regulations recommended in this document are intended to be compatible with those regulations.
The Department is recommending that the Commission adopt interim management measures for the nearshore fishery because there is a lack of verifiable information concerning the status of the harvested stocks and because there is concern on the part of fishery participants and observers that the current level of harvest may not be sustainable. The details of these concerns are listed below.
There is a lack of understanding of the status of most nearshore fishery species and formal stock assessments are not available. Commercial fishery reporting conventions and recent regulatory restrictions have made an analysis of catch histories unreliable for use in population tread analyses, however there is evidence that the commercial landings of many nearshore species have risen significantly during the last 10 years in response to market demand. Many rockfish stocks, including those resident in the nearshore, have experienced low recruitment levels for the last 10 years. There may be localized and/or widespread reductions in stock levels for some or all species. Long life spans and late maturation of many rockfish species further limit the ability of exploited species to sustain harvest levels. The close residential association of many of the rockfish species and their susceptibility to barotrauma makes "weak species" management both desirable and extremely difficult to implement. There is intense competition for some nearshore species between recreational fisheries and a recently emerged, highly efficient, commercial live-fish fishery. There is a threat of increased fishing pressure to remaining nearshore fish stocks due to declining stocks/restrictive regulatory measures for shelf rockfish species. Economic incentives for additional harvest and/or poaching are increasing due to escalating market prices for live fish. Decreased rockfish productivity not only limits recruitment, but may also decrease food supplies for adult stocks (adults prey on smaller species and their own young). Overlapping state and federal jurisdictions may limit or impede regulatory effectiveness.
The MLMA provides the framework for both the adoption of interim management measures and the development of fishery management plans. The major requirements contained in the MLMA are listed here as context for the Department's recommendations.
The primary fishery management goal is sustainability (§7056), with long term health of the resource takes precedent over short term benefits (§7056(a)) and a policy of assuring long-term economic, recreational, ecological, cultural, and social benefit of fisheries. Within the above goal, fishery management shall have optimum yield as its objective (§7056(a)). Where a species is the object of sportfishing, a sufficient resource shall be maintained to support a reasonable sport use (§7055(c)). The growth of commercial fisheries shall be encouraged (§7055(d)). The management of recreational and commercial fisheries for the same species must be closely coordinated (§7056(f)). The fishery management system is based on the best scientific information available and observes the long-term interests of people dependent on fishing for food, livelihood, or recreation (§ 7056(i)). The adverse impacts of fishery management on small-scale fisheries, coastal communities and local economies are to be minimized (§7056(j)).
The Department, after reviewing the public comments and consulting with major stakeholders in this fishery and in coordination with the federal regulatory process, recommends that the Commission adopt the following options as interim recreational and commercial nearshore fishery regulations. Few changes are proposed for the recreational fishery. The commercial fishery changes are based on input provided by commercial fishing organizations in response to a set of decision tables that were recently developed by the Department and forwarded to industry representatives (Appendix A).
1) Optimum Yield (OY): The Department recommends that the Commission establish an OY at 50 percent of the average of the catches between 1994 and 1999 (Allowable Biological Catch or ABC) for California sheephead, cabezon, and kelp and rock greenlings. The Department believes that a 50 percent reduction in the take of sheephead, cabezon and kelp and rock greenlings as a precautionary measure is warranted by both the catch history and life history of these species.
Sheephead are being harvested at a size below that at which these fish typically change sex from female to male and the amount of harvest has been increasing. The effect of a high level of harvest of females on the ability of the population to sustain itself is unknown and a cause for concern about the short-term viability of the stock and the fishery.
Cabezon are the fastest growing and earliest maturing of these three species. However both the recreational and commercial harvest have been declining in recent years and there is reason to believe that the species is being harvested beyond sustainable levels. A stock assessment for this species is expected to be completed during the coming year will give us a much better picture of the stock status. Meanwhile, the Department believes that the best approach to management is a precautionary one.
Kelp and rock greenlings have been harvested at a low level compared to the other two species but appear to be initially much less abundant, and the combine recreational and commercial take has been decreasing since 1993.
An OY of 20 percent of ABC for any of these species would severely impact both the recreational and commercial segments of the fishery, and would likely achieve a level of reduction in take which the Department believes is unnecessary as an interim measure.
These recommendations are based on an ABC equal to the mean of catches for the period 1994 through 1999. The allocations between recreational and commercial user groups are based on the catches of these two groups during two periods in the 1980s and 1990s. These periods were chosen to reflect a period of recent catches and, for allocation purposes, a period when both the recreational and commercial fisheries contributed major portions of the total take.
2) Proposed Options for Daily Bag and Possession Limits for Sport Fish: Reduce the daily bag and possession limit for California sheephead from ten fish to five fish. This action is necessary to reduce the recreational expected catch to meet the OY level.
3) Proposed Options for Nearshore Fishery Management (Tables 2-4):
(a) Management Line: Adopt the PFMC rockfish and lingcod management line for the nearshore fishery. This action moves the southern management line from Lopez Point to Point Conception and brings the management line into agreement with management areas adopted by the PFMC for groundfish and lingcod and allows tailoring of nearshore fishery regulations to differing fishery conditions in these two areas.
(b) Closed Fishing Seasons: Adopt a closed commercial fishing season of January-February for sheephead, cabezon, and kelp and rock greenling for the southern area (south of Point Conception). Adopt a closed commercial fishing season for sheephead, cabezon and kelp and rock greenling in central California (north of Point Conception) of March through April. These actions will provide significant reductions in take to meet target OYs for the commercial fishery.
4) Transport of Recreational Finfish Through Restricted Fishing Areas: Recommend adoption of regulations authorizing the issuance of a permit by the Manager of the Marine Region. This action will allow for the occasional transit of legally caught fish through a restricted area if necessary.
5) Observers on Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessels (CPFVs): Recommend adoption of regulations requiring operators of CPFVs to carry and cooperate with observers collecting biological data for Department or federal fishery managers on trips when space is available and at no charge. When an observer is refused access to a specific trip, the operator may be required to provide in writing the reason for the refusal.
6) Expand the list of Nearshore Species: See Recommendation (7) below.
7) Definition of Nearshore Fish Stocks: The Department recommends that the Commission define nearshore fish stocks as 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, treefish rockfish, California sheephead, Kelp and rock greenling, cabezon, California scorpionfish and monkeyface eel. After reviewing public comments, the Department recommends that the originally proposed addition of surfperches (family Embiotocidae), leopard shark, and starry flounder to the definition of nearshore fish stocks not be adopted.
8) Define Nearshore Fisheries: Recommend that the Commission define nearshore fisheries as the commercial or recreational take or landing of any species of nearshore fish stocks. This definition replaces the one currently contained in Section 8586, Fish and Game Code. It is included here because it is necessary to invalidate the entire Section 8586 in order to make the recommended changes in the definitions of nearshore fish stocks and nearshore waters contained in (7) and (9) above and below.
9) Nearshore Waters Definition: The Department recommends adoption of the definition of Nearshore Waters as the ocean waters of the state extending to a depth of 20 fathoms. This definition will make specific the current definition contained in Section 8586, Fish and Game Code, and extend the nearshore definition to include the few shallow waters of 20 fathoms or less that exist outside of one mile from shore. Depth, not distance from shore, is generally the most important factor in the distribution of fish populations.
10) Increase Minimum Size Limits for Cabezon for Recreational and Commercial Fisheries and Establish a Minimum Size Limit for California Sheephead: The Department recommends, for cabezon, the adoption of a 15-inch minimum recreational and commercial size limit to conform to that adopted by the PFMC; For California sheephead, adopt a 12-inch minimum size for the recreational fishery and a 13-inch minimum size for the commercial fishery. These size limits will contribute toward achievement of the recommended OY for both species.
11) Closed Areas and Time Periods for Nearshore Fishing: The Department recommends that the Commission adopt a Thursday through Sunday closure for commercial fishing for cabezon and kelp and rock greenling statewide. This action will provide a reduction in the commercial take of this species in order to achieve the recommended OY, and will lessen direct competition between the recreational and commercial fisheries.
12) Elimination of Current Exception to Commercial Hook Limits within One Mile of Shore: The Department recommends adoption of regulations making invalid Sections 9027, Fish and Game Code. This action would eliminate the only exception to limits on the number of hooks authorized commercial nearshore fishermen.
13) Surfperch Seasonal Closure: The Department recommends no action. The Department believes these actions are not necessary as interim measures to stabilize this fishery and should be considered in the context of a separate management plan for the surfperch fishery.
14) Seasonal Nest Guarding Closures for Cabezon and Greenlings: The Department recommends no action. Previously recommended closures in January, February, March and April will afford some protection and additional closures are not necessary to achieve the recommended OY levels.
15) Fishing Groups for the Commercial Nearshore Fishery: The Department recommends that this option not be adopted at this time. It will be fully considered in the FMP.
16) Eliminate Transportation Receipt for Nearshore Fishery: The Department recommends adoption, and further development of specific regulation alternatives to transportation receipts.
17) Make inoperative Sections 8586, Fish and Game Code: The Department recommends that the Commission make inoperative Section 8586 , Fish and Game Code re: the definition of nearshore fish stocks, nearshore fisheries and nearshore waters. This action is necessary to implement in regulations the revised definitions for these terms recommended in 9, 10 and 11 above. Section 8395 applies to surfperch, and action to invalidate this section is not necessary because the Department is not recommending that the Commission add this species group to the nearshore species group at this time.
Table 1. Allowable Biological Catches (ABC) and Optimum Yields (OY)
Table 2. California Sheephead Management Measures
Table 3. Cabezon Management Measures
Table 4. Kelp and Rock Greenling Management Measures
1. Optimum Yield (OY): Adopt Acceptable Biological Catch and OY levels for three species.
2. Proposed Options for Daily Bag and Possession Limits for Sport Fish: Reduce bag limit for California sheephead from ten fish to five fish.
3. Proposed Options for Nearshore Fishery Management:
Management Line: Adopt the PFMC rockfish and lingcod management line.
(b) Closed Fishing Seasons: Close commercial fishing season in January - February for three species south of Point Conception. Close commercial fishing season in March - April for three species north of Point Conception.
4. Transport of Recreational Finfish by Permit Through Restricted Fishing Areas: Adopt.
5. Observers on Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessels (CPFVs): Adopt.
6. Expand the list of Nearshore Species: Expand to 19 species.
7. Definition of Nearshore Fish Stocks: Expand to 19 species.
8. Define Nearshore Fisheries: Replaces Section 8596, Fish and Game code, with regulation with same wording.
9. Nearshore Waters Definition: Include depth in definition.
10. Increase Minimum Size Limits for Cabezon for Recreational and Commercial Fisheries and Establish a Minimum Size Limit for California Sheephead: Cabezon: Recreational and commercial minimum size: 15" Sheephead: Recreational minimum size: 12" Commercial minimum size: 13"
11. Closed Areas and Time Periods for Nearshore Fishing: Adopt.
12. Elimination of Current Exception to Commercial Hook Limits within One Mile of Shore: Adopt.
13. Surfperch Seasonal Closure: No action.
14. Seasonal Nest Guarding Closures for Cabezon and Greenlings: No action.
15. Fishing Groups for the Commercial Nearshore Fishery: No action.
16. Eliminate Transportation Receipt for Nearshore Fishery: Adopt.
17. Make inoperative Sections 8395 and 8586, Fish and Game Code: Adopt.