MIKE WEBERíS NOTES OF

THE NEARSHORE FINFISH MANAGEMENT OPTIONS WORKSHOP

18 July 2000

Sacramento

The meeting was facilitated by Deb Nudelman and Lewis Michaelson. Besides Department staff, the following people attended:

ē Commercial Fishermen: Kenyon Hensel, Jim Bassler, Kurt Solomon, Tom Hafer, Chris Hoeflinger, Jim Colomy.

ē Fish Buyer: B.J. Johnson

ē CPFV: Roger Thomas

ē Academia: Greg Cailliet, Ralph Larson

ē Environmental: Mark Powell, Jennifer Bloesser (by telephone for part)

ē Recreational: Bob Strickland, Mike Malone, Ed Cooper, Bob Humphrey, Sandie Crocket (by telephone for part), Art Kvass (by telephone for part).

Mary Bergen described the reason for the meeting: great concern about the status of nearshore fishes and increasing pressure from other fisheries. While an FMP is due in 2002, measures to promote stability in the meantime are desirable. The Department will present a series of options to the Commission at its August 24-25 meeting. These may include measures affecting recreational fishing.

Sandy Owen then described the Departmentís efforts in developing interim regulations. The aim is interim stability and sustainability. She then described the 13 small meetings held along the coast with constituents. The Department has received more than 125 questionnaires back of the 2300 distributed. The responses are being tallied.

Interim measures are meant to provide sustainability and stability while the FMP is being developed. These measures, which will be sunsetted, may be carried over into the FMP. The measures also must be consistent with the Federal groundfish plan.

Rob Collins: Little is known about many stocks. There will be a stock assessment of cabezon performed by DFG and NMFS next year. There is concern that stocks are declining and may collapse. The Department will propose that the Pacific Fishery Management Council guidelines be used, under which catch quotas are reduced to the degree that there is a lack of basic management information. Under the Councilís guidelines, optimum yield (which is a key measure for Federal management) for such species is set at some percentage between 25% and 75% of recent landings. This is intended to reflect a precautionary approach. Since abundance and trends of nearshore species are unknown, the Department will recommend setting catch quotas at 50% of recent landings.

Humphrey: Bloesser book, Diminishing Returns, states that the NMFS precautionary approach moves the burden of proof to those taking.

Collins: The question is how to apply this approach here. The Council addressed nearshore rockfish in its recent reductions in quotas. California must be consistent with the Federal rules, although it may be more strict. (The courts may have clouded this principle recently.) The Department is proposing that the Commission adopt the Councilís approach, under which more information allows more take. For the Council, optimum yield is set at 50% of recent catches where information is poor.

The Department is proposing different approaches for rockfish and other species. Rockfish should be managed under the Councilís decisions, so the Department is not proposing any interim regulations. Other species that are not covered by active Council management and may be candidates for management include cabezon, sheephead, ocean whitefish, sea perches, monkey face and moray eels. (Under the Councilís strategic plan for groundfish management, the Council may defer to the states on management of nearshore rockfish.)

The Commission has broad authority. Regarding recent catches of rockfish, the Council set optimum yield (OY) at 301 metric tons for commercial. The total OY for rockfish was 688mt. Through the first part of the year, only 17mt have been landed south of Cape Mendocino. This means that commercial landings of nearshore rockfish have been dramatically reduced. So, the Department is recommending no further management for rockfish. (Also, effort to develop these interim measures takes away from developing the FMP.) The Council is considering relaxing the landings restrictions in October. In Monterey, many fishermen have left the fishery.

Malone: Do we have the wherewithal to monitor the Councilís quota system?

Collins: In a perfect world, we would be able to do so completely. We are being consistent with the Council.

Colomy: There are no new entrants in the fishery.

Strickland: Is pressure increasing?

Collins: No. We are proposing to apply the same approach to non-Council species such as sheephead, I.e., set quotas at 50% of average landings over the last ten years.

Knaggs: The Commission asked us to look at four areas, and we added a fifth: additional species, area closures, gear limitations, fish sizes, and other life history measures.

 

AFTERNOON

Deb Nudelman: Letís focus on what can be done, what may be done, what should not be done.

ADDING SPECIES WITH TAKE CONTROLS AND REGULATIONS

The Department has been including species within 40 fathoms in the nearshore, 250 species in all. Cailliet is summarizing the biological literature on 119 species. Of 9 species listed in the MLMA, six are under the Council. Greenlings, sheephead, and cabezon are not.

Malone: The focus should be on reef fish. Colomy: If species are added to the list, it will affect those who didnít get a nearshore permit because they werenít fishing for any species on the original list. Basler: Donít add fish to the list. Hoeflinger: Some gillnetters got a nearshore permit for their sculpin bycatch, but they are not major players in the nearshore. Knaggs: The MLMA addresses both commercial and recreational, but the Nearshore Fisheries Act just commercial. Malone: Just donít require a nearshore permit for these other species. Humphrey: We need to focus on species not on the aggregate catch. Collins: It may make sense to add these species to the list as a signal to the Council in its consideration of deferring to the states on nearshore. Can do this without requiring a permit.

SIZE LIMITS

Proposal: Increase the minimum size limit for California sheephead from 12 to 14 inches.

Colomy: Associations discussed this in San Diego and are opposed since size at the time of the change from female to male differs along the coast. Need regional management. Cailliet: The literature shows great differences in sizes and age at maturity. Recruitment to the fishery is mostly from Mexico, via larval transport. Knaggs: Why now? The Sher bill was just a snapshot. The 12 inch limit was set based on what we know about rock basses. Malone: Are these fish durable when released?

Proposal: Increase minimum size limit for cabezon from 14 to 18 inches.

Hafer: This is too large. I stay away from large fish. If the size limit is 18 inches, then I canít catch them. In Morro Bay, we donít want large fish so we use 5-inch rings. Basler: This would destroy the commercial fishery. I donít want a slot limit since some areas have nothing but large fish. Thatís northern California, not necessarily southern. Cailliet: Cabezon males mature first at 13.4 inches and females at 17 inches. Only two studies along the coast. Hoeflinger: There is lots of cabezon recruitment. They are very fast growing. We need stock assessments. Base decisions on science. Johnson: Opposes increase in size or setting slot limit. Where were size studies done? Size at maturity varies along the coast. For instance, china rockfish are twice the size in northern California compared to southern. Colomy: This proposal wonít work in southern and central California. The are lots of 12-13" cabezon. This proposal would eliminate the fishery. Powell: We have lots of concern. We canít do a full stock assessment on every species. Hensel: Is there scientific concern of overfishing of cabezon in the next two years? We need area management. Cailliet: Nothing is known for southern California. Humphrey: Commercials wonít agree to limits. I know how to find cabezon. In northern California, far fewer cabezon. I have testimonies from 25 divers. Malone: A DFG report on Central California says that the cabezon is a species of concern. Where fishing has occurred over a longer period, sizes have declined. Where fisheries are new, fish are larger. Cooper: Don Gotschall proposes a complete closure on some species, including cabezon, black and yellow rockfish, kelp rockfish, and greenlings.

Proposals 3-5: Increase fillet size for California scorpionfish to 7.5 inches. Set minimum for ocean whitefish of 12 inches or fillet size of 6.5 inches. Minimum size limits should be the same for commercial and recreational fishermen.

Hensel: Whitefish is a sport species, there is no need for size limits, but bag limits. Malone: Recreational regulations restrict gear to avoid discards. This is not true for commercial, creating a disparity in fishing power where there are recreational and commercial fisheries as in northern California. Hoeflinger: I support simplifying regulations. The sport take is half of the entire take. Solomon: The catch per boat of recreational fishermen is higher. Size limits should be the same. Powell: Canít focus much on simplicity, when issues become complex. Calliet: If a bag limit is effective for controlling recreational fishing, then there is no need for a size limit. Johnson: OK to proposals 3-5. Basler: Everyone is trying not to waste. Hensel: Size limits may be different from area to area.

 

GEAR LIMITATIONS

Malone: Is DFG supporting increases in gear inefficiency as a management tool. Is parity in other things such as size limits OK, but not in gear? Why not rod and reel only for commercial. Without that kind of limitation, there is tremendous room for the commercial fishery to expand, even with limited entry. Reducing gear efficiency would reduce take.

Proposal: No incidental take of nearshore finfish in crab or lobster traps. Basler: This is already prohibited. Humphrey: Traps are too efficient.

Proposal: Limit the number of days that traps can be fished to weekdays or every other day. Basler, Johnson, Hoeflinger, Hensel oppose. Reasons include weather that prevents fishing on open days.

Proposal: One hook per line for recreational fishermen: Johnson, Thomas, Strickland, Solomon oppose.

Proposal: Barbless circle hooks can only be used to take nearshore fish.

Johnson and Hoeflinger oppose. Thomas: Should study their use in the salmon fishery first. Basler: Not much difference. Strickland: Circle hooks are a joke. Solomon: Circle hooks work.

Proposal: Prohibit the use of spearfishing with scuba gear for fish with minimum size limits.

Basler: Scuba is too big an advantage. Humphrey: Why are there no restrictions on the number of hooks in commercial; should limit to the same gear as recreational. Basler: Now there is a large movement to trap gear in my port, targeting cabezon and greenling. Therefore, we need a finfish trap permit for the North with a landing requirement.

 

AREA CLOSURES

Proposals: Bubble closure around all ports and launch ramps for a specified distance. Rotational closed areas for a specified time period. Areas open or restricted by fishing type (I.e., recreational, commercial, aesthetic, preservation, all use).

Hensel: Already there are small closures in the north and the Pacific Council is pushing for reserves. Terrible to have a bubble closure in our area for recreational fishermen. Thomas: Reserves are under discussion. Enforcement is a problem in some areas. Powell: Wilderness is a priority for CMC, for ecosystem management, reservoirs of replenishment. Solomon: There are enough reserves already. Malone: Closures are OK, but are too complex for the interim. Cailliet: Pismo Beach closure helped restore Pismo clams. The reserve at Big Creek shows greater diversity, but closures arenítí necessary. Johnson: Bubble closures will hurt small boats that canít travel far; opposes. There is no need in the interim; enforcement is difficult. Basler: Should focus on the ocean as a whole; there are too many reserves already. Humphrey: There should be some areas for divers only, for recreationals only. Solomon: Should restrict all uses. Powell: Favors interim closures to assist in recovery. Johnson: Closures should be both commercial and recreational. Cailliet: Must look at the effect of these reserves. There already are plenty of places to study. Strickland: A closure will be a nightmare for us when fishing for salmon and halibut.

 

OTHER INTERIM MANAGEMENT OPTIONS

Proposal: Close the take of nest-guarding fish (cabezon, lingcod, and greenlings, and monkey face eels) during the peak spawning/nest guarding season.

Hoeflinger: This wonít make a difference if there is a size limit. Powell: If there is a closure on a species, it will increase discards. Hensel: This is done already for lingcod. We have little interaction with lingcod during nesting, so there would be little benefit. Larson: It would be different with spawning aggregations. Now, the catch will be guarding males, but females will continue on, therefore little impact. Thomas: There already is a lingcod closure which helps cabezon. We should find out the results of that first. Solomon: Opposes. Basler: Cabezon arenít killed in the trap fishery. We need information for different regions. Johnson: Opposes. Humphrey: Cabezon donít move any time of the year. What percentage of mature males guard? Calliet: It varies species to species. Crucial question is whether the guarding male will be taken by gear. Time and areas vary, and may change with oceanography. Johnson: Too variable. Thomas: Donít take more time off the water.

Proposal by Hensel: Freeze gear at current levels.

Basler: Control date should be the date for determining gear. Hafer: If the qualifying period was 1997-1999, landings would narrow the number of permits for trap. Malone: The status quo is terrible. We need take reduction. Weíve been hit badly in the nearshore by commercial fishing. Donít lock gear in. Johnson: Opposes. Take reduction is not where itís at. We have had a large reduction in the last several years, which needs time to work. Landings are down. Give it time to work. Solomon: We donít know how much recreational catch.

 

GENERAL COMMENTS

Basler: Only need to do something for cabezon and greenlings. Other issues are too weak. Solomon: Need fair trial. There already has been significant change.

Powell: Status quo is not acceptable. Iím not hearing support for restrictions. Area closures are better than other restrictions. Need to protect part of the resource. CMC wants areas set aside. Letís work on area closures that allow entry.

Colomy: The status quo is different now from two years ago. The changes havenít had a chance to take effect. Interim measures are unnecessary. Iím concerned about the environment.

Humphrey: I admire commercial fishermen. Market forces are powerful. Divers think the resource in northern California is depleted. Commercial fishermen donít think so. Iím pessimistic. The Council restrictions may not work. This may be similar to the abalone situation.

Hensel: How deep do you dive? We catch cabezon in 200 feet of water. There is a large population outside your area. Coastal pollution is the problem and the lack of abalone for food. This is a very complex ecosystem. It may be that nearshore activities have pushed the fish away. Cabezon have been targeted only for the last few years in my area. In my area, some fishing very near to shore and catching greenlings. Letís get through the next 18 months.

Malone: There is a large social value from recreational fishing. I take kids out. I commercially fished in the 1980s. I have watched the decline. What is equity in this situation? Nearshore is where recreational fishers are. Allocation will come up and recreational fishermen will suffer. A big hole was created when the Commission got the process going and the Council stepped in. Species other than rockfish are not covered by the Council. DFG reports and my experience show a decline. If we play the fishery out, there will be hell to pay.

Johnson: We need to be stewards. There are too many regulations already. The sky isnít falling. Everything is fine. The conflict between commercial and recreational interests doesnít work.

Powell: Our members ask which fish are sustainably caught. The Pacific Council plan shows how bad things have become.

Strickland: This shouldnít be a commercial versus recreational issue.

Johnson: The problem is that people see the nearshore, so now we have gotten a bad rap.

Strickland: There are few CPFVs in the nearshore. There is too much pressure.

Colomy: We need more data, such as voluntary logbooks. 65% of CPFVs donít submit logbooks.

Solomon: I have data on the species caught by my fishermen.

Cailliet: Letís get logbook data.

Thomas: There is the white van syndrome, which makes the fishery very difficult to control.

Hensel: We should show some resolve now to prove ourselves. Can we make a voluntary commitment to limit gear now? In my area, big trawlers are moving to crabs. Council is looking to reduce the fleet by 50%. Under the Council, recreationals have the priority in the nearshore. We should pressure Congress to bail out the fleet.

Hoeflinger: The Council strategic plan proposed serious cuts. We should reduce potential permits.

Kvass: May need to regionalize. There are different fisheries even within the Point Conception area. Our nearshore fisheries are not sustainable.

Nudelman: A summary of some of the ideas that seemed to get support:

ē Data is a high priority. Log books might help. The credibility of landings receipts is weak.

ē Freeze gear

ē Focus on cabezon, greenling, and sheephead.

ē Size limits OK for some species.

ē Area closures are too complex, and theyíre going to happen anyway.

Michaelson: Other ideas were

ē Need for area management

ē Same size limits for recreational and commercial

ē Areas may be depleted but there is a question whether the fishery overfished.

Owen: We must be able to measure the effectiveness of measures. There are concerns about the movement of fishing effort to new species.

Michaelson: New spikes in landings must be prevented.

Knaggs: The Department will make recommendations to the Commission on August 24-25. There will be two hearings after that, then a decision in December.

We also want to know where you think research funding should be directed: stock assessment, genetics?

Owen: Everyone in the meeting, as well as those who submitted questionnaires or attended the meetings along the coast, will receive the options paper soon after August 9.