Two Santa Barbara County Men Arrested for Felony Fish Theft

Two commercial fishermen were arrested by California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers early Sunday morning in Santa Barbara Harbor on felony charges of conspiracy and grand theft.

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John Wilson, 53, of Santa Ynez and Kai Griffin, 23, of Buellton, both licensed commercial fishermen, are being charged with stealing live rock crabs from fellow commercial fishermen and stealing from commercial fish markets at the commercial dock in Santa Barbara Harbor. Wildlife officers allege that the pair then sold the crabs, along with several other illegally landed species, at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market.

“Thanks to some good tips from the fishing community and good, solid police work, we were able to catch the suspects and stop these illegal sales,” said CDFW Lt. Wes Boyle

Wardens had received reports from commercial fishermen and two Santa Barbara fish markets regarding stolen rock crabs and other assorted species. The thefts were said to be occurring in the early morning hours. During the two-month-long investigation, the subjects were observed stealing live rock crabs from receivers in Santa Barbara Harbor and then selling them at the Farmer’s Market. The investigation also showed that the subjects were selling sea urchins, Kellet’s whelks (out of season), live rock crabs and clawed rock crabs that were illegally landed.

The suspects were booked into Santa Barbara County Jail, and charges will be filed with the county District Attorney.

Media Contacts:     
Capt. Mike Stefanak, CDFW Law Enforcement, (805) 746-7590
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

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CDFW to Host Public Meeting on Ocean Salmon Fisheries

The Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) invites the public to attend its upcoming annual ocean salmon information meeting. A review of last year’s ocean salmon fisheries and spawning escapement will be presented, in addition to the outlook for this year’s sport and commercial ocean salmon fisheries.

The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, February 26 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Sonoma County Water Agency, 404 Aviation Blvd. in Santa Rosa.

The public is encouraged to provide input on potential fishing seasons to a panel of California salmon scientists, managers and representatives who will be directly involved in the upcoming Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meetings in March and April.

Salmon fishing seasons are developed through a collaborative process involving the PFMC, the California Fish and Game Commission and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Public input will help California representatives negotiate a broad range of season alternatives during the PFMC March 8-13 meeting in Sacramento, California.

The 2014 ocean salmon information meeting marks the beginning of a two-month long public process used to establish annual sport and commercial ocean salmon seasons. A list of additional meetings and other opportunities for public comment is available on the ocean salmon webpage at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/salmonpreseason.asp.

The meeting agenda and handouts will be posted online as soon as they become available.

Media Contacts:
Erick Anderson, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 576-2879
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

Chinook salmon taken by an ocean sport angler near Trinidad, CA. Photo by Mark Scatchard (CDFW).

Chinook salmon taken by an ocean sport angler near Trinidad, CA. Photo by Mark Scatchard (CDFW).

CDFW Officers Snag Diver off Catalina Island

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers cited a 46-year-old Ventura County man for using rubbing alcohol to force fish out of rocks and capturing them to sell. The diver was cited for two Fish and Game Code violations: use of chemical while collecting marine aquaria and unlawful take of marine aquaria at Catalina Island, which is prohibited by law.

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On the afternoon of Nov. 13, officers from the patrol boat Thresher observed a large recreational sailboat with commercial fishing license numbers painted on the stern anchored in Emerald Bay on the northeast coast of Catalina Island. Officers boarded the boat and found a man sport fishing. The angler told the officers that his partner was SCUBA diving.

Officers entered the 62-degree water and observed a diver squirting a liquid (later determined to be rubbing alcohol) from a bottle into cracks of rocks. The liquid was forcing small fish, Blue Banded Goby (Lythrypnus dalli), into the open water where the man then caught them with a small aquarium fish net and immediately put them in a small plastic receptacle attached to his SCUBA gear. The warden used a mask and snorkel from just below the water’s surface to watch the diver squirt the bottle twice. The warden then dove down, showed the diver his warden identification, and directed the diver to come to the surface. Before ascending, the diver left one of his squirt bottles on the rocks and attempted to drop a small, mesh bag containing another squirt bottle. A warden retrieved both squirt bottles and the mesh bag.

Once on the sailboat, the suspect told the officers he was a licensed marine aquaria collector and his buyers were paying him $10 per fish.  He stated that he did not know it is illegal to use rubbing alcohol to catch the small fish, or that it is illegal to partake in marine aquaria collection operations off Santa Catalina Island.

The diver had 63 goby fish in the plastic receptacle attached to his gear. During the interview, officers saw another plastic sealed container underneath the boat. The second container was holding an additional 109 goby fish.  The fish were counted, photographed and returned to the sea.

The man’s dive gear was seized and charges will be filed with the Los Angeles County District Attorney.

The marine aquaria laws that protect Catalina Island prevent collectors from depleting local species around the island. Collecting marine aquaria from the ocean is legal with the proper permits.

Media Contact:
Lt. Eric Kord, CDFW Law Enforcement (858) 538-6017
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

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Southern California Man Charged in Commercial Fishing Violations

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) law enforcement officials filed dozens of misdemeanor charges in October against a Southern California man, accusing him of violating a series of commercial fishing regulations.

Adam Crawford James, 32, of Winnetka is accused of multiple violations of the Fish and Game Code, including commercial take of lobster without a permit, commercial take of sea urchin without a permit, illegal take of nearshore fish without a permit, failure to complete and submit records of fish taken under a commercial license, the illegal take of several varieties of fish during the closed commercial season and several other serious charges.

During their investigation CDFW wildlife officers received information from the CalTIP hotline that James was attempting to sell commercially caught fish to restaurants without a Receiver’s License. In California, commercial fishermen are permitted to sell their catch directly to restaurants, provided they have a Receiver’s License and complete required documentation of the marine life that is taken.  This management tool helps to protect the resource, and ensure sustainable fisheries for years to come.

The investigation revealed that James appeared to be in violation of far more, when evidence of fishing during closed seasons, and taking species that required special permits began to surface.

“Most commercial fishermen are ethical and diligently follow the laws and regulations,” said CDFW Assistant Chief Dan Sforza. “Thanks to the information received from the CalTIP hotline and good, solid police work we were able to file charges.”

The charges were filed with the Santa Monica City Attorney’s office in Oct.

If convicted of these violations in court James could face jail time, fines, loss of his commercial fishing license, community service and other penalties. No court dates have been set.

CalTIP (Californians Turn In Poachers and Polluters) is a confidential secret witness program that encourages the public to provide Fish and Wildlife with factual information leading to the arrest of poachers and polluters.

CalTIP was introduced in California in 1981 in order to give Californians an opportunity to help protect the state’s fish and wildlife resources. The toll free telephone number, (888) 334-2258 operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You do not have to give your name.

Media Contact:
Capt. Rebecca Hartman, CDFW Law Enforcement, (310) 678-4864
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

CDFW Offshore Enforcement Active at Southern California Lobster Opener

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) marine officers contacted more than 400 anglers while patrolling Catalina, San Nicholas and the Santa Barbara islands during the recreational lobster season opener that started Sept. 28. During the opening weekend, CDFW wildlife officers issued 35 citations and 26 warnings.

Violations included undersize lobster, overlimit of lobster, lobster report card violations, fishing in a Marine Protected Area (MPA), violations of sheephead, lingcod and commercial sea cucumber regulations, no commercial fishing license and commercial lobster traps wired shut.

Due to the large amount of activity around the offshore islands in past years, CDFW officers deployed three department vessels, the Thresher, Coho and Swordfish, to enforce laws and regulations as well as public safety in the ocean miles off the California coast. Several significant cases were made during the opening weekend, including:

  • After receiving a CalTIP report officers inspected a commercial fishing site and found 14 of 16 lobster traps wired shut rather than open as regulations require. A formal complaint is pending with the District Attorney.
  • A wildlife officer rescued a diver in distress complaining of severe cramping in both legs. After the diver was towed back to his boat, he was found to be in possession of 10 lobsters, four of which were undersized. He was cited for an overlimit and released.
  • Officers observed a boat anchored on the border of the Blue Caverns MPA with one man aboard and a diver with a light swimming in the MPA. When an officer jumped into the water, the diver turned off his light and attempted to outswim the warden to the boat, where another officer was waiting for him to surface. The suspect said he was “only looking” and did not have any lobsters. A second warden entered the water and found the fleeing diver’s game bag with lobster in it. After a search of the boat and gear, the men were found to have 21 lobsters. They were cited for an overlimit, failure to show on demand and diving in a protected reserve.
  • A commercial lobster vessel was setting unbaited, open traps along the Palos Verdes coastline. One of the crew members was found to not have a commercial fishing license and was cited.
  • Officers boarded a 50-foot sport fishing vessel and found the captain operating an unlicensed charter boat operation and charging passengers $900 for the trip. The boat did not have a commercial registration or ocean enhancement stamps. A formal complaint is pending with the District Attorney.
  • At Santa Barbara Island, a diver attempted to distract officers with the classic “what’s that over there?” while trying to drop his dive bag. The warden put on his SCUBA equipment and retrieved the bag 60-feet below the surface. It was filled with nine lobsters, and the diver was cited for an overlimit.
  • While on patrol, the crew of the Swordfish heard a mayday distress call from a 45-foot sport boat less than a mile from their location. The boat was grounding on the rocks of Anacapa Island. They rushed to the scene and pulled the boat off the rocks. A man and his three teenage children were aboard and the boat had a dead battery.

California spiny lobsters are crustaceans that are common from Point Conception to Baja California. Lobster season is generally open from the first Saturday in October through about March 15 and is carefully monitored and regulated. California spiny lobsters are slow-growing animals that biologists estimate take as long as seven years to grow to legal size. Fishermen must have a valid California fishing license with an ocean stamp, a lobster report card and a lobster gauge to measure for proper size.

Media Contacts:
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944
Capt. Rebecca Hartman, CDFW Law Enforcement, rebecca.hartman@wildlife.ca.gov

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CDFW Invites Public Comment on White Shark CESA Candidacy

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is accepting comments on whether the Northeastern Pacific population of white shark should be listed as a threatened or endangered species pursuant to the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).

The white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) is a globally distributed species found primarily in temperate seas. They are large apex predators that can be found in a wide variety of environments from the intertidal zone and the continental shelf to deep offshore areas. The Northeastern Pacific white shark population’s full range extends from Mexico north to the Bering Sea and west to Hawaii.

The Fish and Game Commission received a petition to list white shark as either threatened or endangered pursuant to CESA in August 2012. The Commission’s decision to accept the petition and declare white shark a candidate species took effect March 1, 2013.

CDFW is conducting an in-depth status review to provide the Commission with information to aid in its decision whether to list the species. The status review is slated for completion by March 2014. As part of the status review process, CDFW is soliciting information that will inform CDFW  and the Commission on white shark status, including potential habitat destruction or modification, overexploitation, predation, competition, disease or other natural occurrences or human related activities that may affect the status of white shark.

Data and other information may be submitted by mail to this address:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Marine Region
Attn: White Shark Status Report
4665 Lampson Avenue, Suite C
Los Alamitos, CA 90720

Comments may also be sent via email to: whiteshark@wildlife.ca.gov

Information on white shark and CDFW’s CESA evaluation can be found at:

http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/whiteshark.asp#cesa

Contact:
Michelle Horeczko, Marine Region, (562) 342-7198

Mike Taugher, CDFW Communications, (916) 591-0140

CDFW Officers Cite Two for Abalone Poaching in Marine Protected Area

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wardens cited two Southern California men for illegally taking Abalone from the Marine Protected Area (MPA) near Laguna Beach recently.

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CDFW wildlife officers observed Juni Pong, 47, from El Monte and Kuan Yee, 47, from Yorba Linda, entering the ocean at Moss Cove in Laguna Beach in full SCUBA gear. After more than an hour of diving the two men returned to the beach and were met by an officer who found two green abalone in each of the men’s diving gear.

Both suspects were cited for possession of abalone and take of fish inside a marine protected area, both potential misdemeanor violations, and then released. The abalone were photographed for evidence and returned to the sea, the men’s diving equipment was confiscated and impounded as evidence.

Abalone may only be taken north of San Francisco Bay during prescribed seasons. For complete ocean fishing regulations see http://www.dfg.ca.gov/regulations/

The case will be forwarded to the Orange County District Attorney’s office for prosecution.

Media Contacts:
Lt. Eric Kord, CDFW Enforcement, (858) 538-6017
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

 

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California Creates a Globally Significant Network of Marine Protected Areas

California recently completed an historic overhaul of how it manages its coastal waters by revising and expanding its system of marine protected areas (MPAs). This system of MPAs is the largest scientifically based network in the U.S. and second largest in the world. How California accomplished this consequential achievement is the subject of a March special issue of the journal Ocean and Coastal Management released last month. Articles analyze the challenges, achievements and lessons learned in the public MPA planning processes.

Under a mandate from the state’s 1999 Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), California’s network of MPAs designated by the California Fish and Game Commission have greatly increased the proportion of state waters protected. The resulting network designates approximately 9.4 percent of state waters as “no-take” MPAs, and about 16 percent of state waters are now under some form of protection, which is a dramatic increase in coverage. Informed by science and crafted with significant stakeholder involvement, California’s new network of 124 designated areas (including 119 MPAs and five recreational management areas, all managed within the network)  replaced 63 existing MPAs that were mostly small (covering just 2.7 percent of state waters, with less than ¼ percent in no-take MPAs) and considered ineffective. The area covered by the MPAs represents approximately 60 percent of all no-take MPAs within the waters of the 48 contiguous U.S. states. Planning for this network of MPAs yields important lessons for other planning efforts globally.

The special issue of Ocean and Coastal Management includes nine articles by key participants from the MLPA Initiative, an innovative public-private partnership between the California Natural Resources Agency, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation. The Initiative was tasked with helping the state redesign its MPAs in conjunction with stakeholders, scientists, experts, resource managers, policy-makers and the public. The articles have now been made available for free download at the journal website.

“This special issue provides an important record of the MLPA Initiative’s work and how California conducted public processes to design an improved system of MPAs and therefore provides important lessons that can inform other similar efforts,” said Mary Gleason, senior scientist at The Nature Conservancy.

“The network of MPAs was designed by stakeholders with guidance from scientists, managing agencies, experts, members of the public and policy-makers, to meet the six goals of the MLPA, while also allowing for human uses of marine resources – understandably a complicated task that involved tradeoffs and compromises but with the vision that the MPA network will provide long-term benefits to California and our marine environment,” said Ken Wiseman, executive director of the MLPA Initiative.

Informed by scientific guidance intended to increase benefits and ecological connections among individual MPAs, this improved network is also globally significant.

“Completing the nation’s first statewide open coast system of marine protected areas strengthens California’s ongoing commitment to conserve marine life for future generations,” said Charlton H. Bonham, director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. “This statewide system will also benefit fish and fishermen in California for generations to come. And, the science shows that by protecting sensitive ocean and coastal habitats, marine life flourishes and in turn, creates a healthier system overall.”

The California Fish and Game Commission, the decision-making authority under the MLPA, acted on the basis of recommendations delivered by the MLPA Initiative, which conducted four regional public planning processes between 2005 and 2011. California’s MLPA calls for redesigning the state’s existing MPAs to meet specific goals to increase coherence and effectiveness in protecting the state’s marine life, habitats, ecosystems and natural heritage as well as to improve recreational, educational and study opportunities provided by marine ecosystems subject to minimal human disturbance.

Critical to successfully completing the new MPA network planning processes were some distinctive elements that are highlighted in the special issue, including:

  • Certain enabling conditions were in place in California to support the public MPA network planning: a legislative act, political support and sufficient funding to support a multi-year effort.
  • The MLPA Initiative was a public-private partnership structured through formal agreements and charged with working with stakeholders, scientists, experts, resource managers, policy-makers and the public to develop recommendations for an improved network of MPAs.
  • The MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF), composed of experienced policy makers, provided oversight to the process and forwarded final recommendations to the California Fish and Game Commission. The BRTF played a crucial role in managing complex and contentious issues, balancing tradeoffs and maintaining momentum toward completing the planning processes.
  • The MLPA Master Plan Science Advisory Team provided robust scientific guidance and assessment, including developing simple guidelines for MPA network design based on ecological principles intended to support achieving the six MLPA goals. Marine scientists from many institutions participated in the planning process, including researchers from the University of California campuses at Davis, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz and Ecotrust who developed mathematical models to project the fisheries costs and benefits, in terms of both economics and conservation, of the proposed MPAs. Contract technical support provided additional science capacity and developed new interactive, spatially explicit decision support tools, including MarineMap.
  • The MLPA Initiative overcame some of the challenges of prior statewide planning efforts, unsuccessful in part due to the size and complexity of California’s coast, by sequencing the work of the MLPA Initiative into four coastal regions which allowed planning and stakeholder engagement at more appropriate scales.
  • The MLPA Initiative was controversial and confronted a variety of political and legal challenges. Some fishing interests strongly opposed the process and viewed MPAs, which in part limit fishing in specific areas, as unnecessary for fisheries already subject to other regulations. Other stakeholders judged the redesigned and adopted MPAs as insufficient to meet the ecosystem protection goals of the MLPA.
  • An important challenge to adaptively managing MPAs over the long-term will be to demonstrate success in meeting the goals of the MLPA, including rebuilding or sustaining marine life populations.

“Science dictated the establishment of these MPAs, and their success will be reflected in data acquired through cost-effective monitoring. We are confident that monitoring will show the same results as elsewhere in the oceans: MPAs work.” said Mike Weber, program officer with the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation.

Design of the MPA network aimed to meet science and design feasibility guidelines to help achieve the identified goals; final decisions in each region necessarily reflected tradeoffs needed to garner public acceptance and support for implementing the MPAs. California is developing mechanisms for assessing the effectiveness of the MPA network in the coming years, including establishing the MPA Monitoring Enterprise and a process for periodic review and adaptive management of MPAs. The first periodic review will take place in 2013 for the central coast, affording the first opportunity to test the adaptive management aspect of the MLPA.

“This first-of-its-kind network of MPAs in the United States shows how citizens can work with their government to apply the best of science to create a lasting ocean legacy for future generations,” observed Meg Caldwell, executive director of the Center for Ocean Solutions at Stanford University in California.

CONTACTS:
Jordan Traverso, California Department of Fish and Wildlife
(916) 654-9937
Jordan.Traverso@wildlife.ca.gov

Links:

Ocean and Coastal Management special issue – http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/09645691/74

California’s Marine Protected Areas  – www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mpa

Center for Ocean Solutions – www.centerforoceansolutions.org

California Natural Resources Agency – www.resources.ca.gov

California Department of Fish and Wildlife – www.dfg.ca.gov

California Fish and Game Commission – www.fgc.ca.gov

Resources Legacy Fund Foundation – www.resourceslegacyfund.org/rlff.html

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CDFW Wildlife Officers Stop and Cite Channel Islands Fishermen

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) marine officers cited several boats for fishing in the Marine Protected Areas and other resource violations near the Channel Islands on Sunday.

Wildlife Officers from the CDFW patrol boat Swordfish, based in Ventura Harbor, contacted three private boats and one commercial passenger fishing vessel (CPFV) and found violations onboard all four boats.

Anglers on the private boats were cited for fishing inside a Marine Protected Area, fishing without a license, taking a rockfish in a closed area and two citations for taking rockfish in water deeper than 120 feet.

The fourth boat, Ranger 85, an 85-foot long CPFV was stopped and inspected at the Osborne Bank, 5 miles south of Santa Barbara Island, inside the Cowcod Conservation Area (CCA). Fishing in the CCA is restricted to depth of 120 feet or less. The boat was fishing at a depth of at least 170 feet. The captain and five crew members were cited for multiple Fish and Game Code violations, including take of rockfish in closed waters, over limits of ocean whitefish and over limits of general fishing. The limit on ocean whitefish is 10 per day per angler and the boat had 371 ocean whitefish, 195 assorted rockfish, 12 sheephead and 33 boccacio for 30 anglers, and a total of 611 fish, well over the legal limits.

“The Marine Protected Areas were established to help fish species recover and thrive,” said Lt. Wes Boyle, captain of the Swordfish. “Every fisherman and boat captain needs to be 100 percent aware of the MPA areas and boundaries.”

The captain was also cited for a logbook violation.

The Swordfish returned to Ventura Harbor and with the help of several local wildlife officers made arraignments to donate the fish to several local food banks and charities.

In the first three months of this year the Swordfish has issued 39 citations, 33 of those were for fishing in an MPA, as well as five dock and shore citations for possession of undersized lobster, take of garibaldi, and commercial take of undersized sea urchin.

For complete listings of the Marine Protected Areas go to http://dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/ncmpas_list.asp or on a smart phone at http://dfg.ca.gov/m/MPA/

Media Contacts:
Lt. Wes Boyle, CDFW Law Enforcement, (805) 331-7051
Mark Michilizzi, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 996-9003

New Sport Ocean Fishing Regulation Changes for 2013

New 2013-2014 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulation booklets are now available at California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) offices and wherever sport fishing licenses are sold. Anglers and divers need to be aware of a number of new fishing regulations that are in effect this year.

Regulation changes include the following: new size and bag limits for kelp bass, sand bass and spotted bass, and new at-sea fillet size requirements for these basses and ocean whitefish. Changes also include new regulations for groundfish (including rockfish), northern California marine protected areas, and sturgeon. Regulation changes are highlighted throughout the booklet for quick reference.

Effective March 1, 2013, new size, bag, and fillet size limits are in effect for kelp bass, sand bass, and spotted sand bass. Bass must now be at least 14 inches total length or 10 inches alternate length (measured from base of foremost spine of dorsal fin to longest tip of tail), and fillets must be at least 7 ½ inches long and retain a 1 inch square patch of skin when filleted at sea. The new bag limit for these basses is five fish in combination.

New marine protected areas (MPAs) are now in effect in northern California, from the California/Oregon border to Alder Creek, near Point Arena. For more information, visit http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa, or the MPA mobile website at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/m/MPA, or a northern California CDFW office.

New sturgeon fishing regulations established a new method of measuring sturgeon and a new size limit of 40 to 60 inches fork length (not total length, as before). Barbless hooks are required when fishing for sturgeon and snares are prohibited. Fish longer than 68 inches fork length may not be removed from the water. For more information: https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=58288&inline=1

New seasons, bag and size limits, and species allowed for take have been established for groundfish. For more information: http://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/new-recreational-groundfish-regulations-effective-march-1/

Also effective March 1, 2013, fillets from ocean whitefish filleted at sea must now measure at least 6 ½ inches long, and the entire skin must remain intact.

For the complete set of new and updated ocean sport fishing regulations, CDFW recommends picking up a copy of the new 2013-2014 regulations booklet. Booklets are also available online at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/sportfishing_regs2013.asp.

Media Contacts:
Mary Patyten, Marine Region, (707) 964-5026
Carrie Wilson, Communications, (831) 649-7191

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