California Spiny Lobster Season Opens Sept. 28 with Improved Lobster Report Card System

Spiny LobstersMedia Contacts:
Kai Lampson, CDFW Marine Region, (805) 965-7216
Travis Buck, CDFW Marine Region, (858) 467-4214
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

Fishing for California’s spiny lobster is one of the most highly anticipated angling activities of the year. Beginning Saturday, Sept. 28, hundreds of divers and fishermen equipped with lobster hoop nets will descend upon the ocean waters of Southern California in pursuit of this tasty crustacean. Lobsters may be taken only by hand or hoop nets.

Everyone diving or fishing for lobsters must have a valid California fishing license, a spiny lobster report card and must carry a measuring gauge to ensure their lobsters are of legal size. Daily bag and possession limits are seven lobsters per person and each lobster must measure a minimum of three and one-fourth inches measured in a straight line on the mid-line of the back. For a diagram and instructions, please see page 101 in the 2013-2014 Ocean Fishing Sport Fishing Regulations, available online at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/regulations.asp or wherever licenses are sold.

New this year, recreational lobster fishermen may purchase a spiny lobster report card that will run the entire fishing season, from Sept. 28, 2013 through March 19, 2014. Lobster report cards must be returned to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) by April 30, 2014, following the closure of the lobster fishing season on March 20. Fishermen may record report cards online at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/ols anytime between the end of the lobster season until the April 30 deadline, or return report cards by mail as has been done in the past.

CDFW staff anticipates a higher return rate with the new seasonal program. Last year, just 32 percent of the 37,000 lobster report cards purchased were returned.

“We depend on the recreational lobster fishermen to provide CDFW with data to help us better manage the fishery,” said Senior Marine Biologist Kristine Barsky. “Low return rates result in increased costs for CDFW, such as conducting additional data collection to fill data gaps, managing without adequate data, increasing outreach efforts to remind anglers to return report cards, and enforcement.”

Report card holders who fail to return their 2013-2014 seasonal lobster report card by the April 30, 2014 deadline will be assessed a $20 non-return fee when they purchase a 2014-2015 lobster report card. The non-return fee can be avoided by returning lobster report cards by the deadline, or by sitting out the entire next fishing season.

“The lobster report card is the primary means of collecting data from the recreational lobster fishery,” Barsky said. “The number of report cards being purchased suggests a sizeable population of people targeting lobster in Southern California. Data collected from report cards allows CDFW to detect changes in the fishery, whether it’s a trend in harvest success or a change in gear type. This information is vital for managing California’s lobster resource.”

Fishermen who have already purchased a 2013 calendar year lobster report card can rest assured that the card is still valid through Dec. 31, 2013, and due back to CDFW by Jan. 31, 2014. If 2013 calendar year cardholders wish to continue fishing for lobster from Jan. 1 through March 19, 2014, they will need to purchase the new seasonal lobster report card. CDFW notified all 2012 and 2013 lobster report cardholders by mail with a letter and new brochure detailing the changes affecting the lobster report card. The brochure includes new protocols for reporting a lost card in order to avoid the non-return fee.

For more information about the Spiny Lobster Fishery Management planning process currently underway, or to download a copy of the new lobster report card brochure, please visit http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/lobsterfmp.

Status of the Fisheries Report: An Update Through 2011 Now Available Online

Contacts:
Traci Larinto, CDFW Marine Region, (562) 342-7111
Carrie Wilson, CDFW Communications, (831) 649-7191a tan-colored marine fish wtih reddish-brown markings

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recently released the Status of the Fisheries Report: An Update Through 2011, the sixth in a series of status reports required by the Marine Life Management Act. The report summarizes the status of some of California’s important marine species. The report also helps CDFW to determine if regulation changes are warranted for any of the state’s fisheries.

Species are chosen for review for various reasons, such as implementation of a new monitoring program, changes in catch levels, or new information about a species’ life history or abundance.

The latest report covers 18 species and contains a report on harmful algal blooms, including their effects on marine life and the environment. Changes to the California groundfish trawl fishery as a result of the new federal individual quota program are discussed. The new individual quota program divides the quota into small, individual quotas for each trawl permit holder instead of one large quota for the entire fleet.

The report also updates the status of spiny lobster (which recently underwent a stock assessment), surfperches (recent regulation changes were implemented in the fishery), white shark (new life history information is available), and ocean salmon (a new monitoring program has been implemented), among other species.

The Marine Life Management Act changed the way CDFW approaches management of the state’s marine resources. The goal of the act is to ensure that the marine resources of the state, and the habitats upon which they depend, are conserved and used sustainably. When species are depleted or habitats degraded, restoration is the management goal, and CDFW is expected to use the best available science to guide management efforts.

The Status of the Fisheries Report: An Update Through 2011, along with all the previous reports, is available for online viewing and printing at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/status.

DFG Wardens Cite Lobster Stealing Suspect

Department of Fish and Game (DFG) wardens cited a man for allegedly taking lobsters from others’ traps and returned the lobsters, including undersized lobsters, to the sea.

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Two wardens on a small boat patrol off Dana Point harbor Saturday night observed a small boat with no lights pulling commercial lobster traps out of the water. When the wardens approached the 12-foot boat with four men aboard and announced themselves as law enforcement, one man threw a line with a commercial lobster buoy back into the water.

After an investigation wardens cited 42-year old Yanwu Li from Rowland Heights (Los Angeles County) with four Fish and Game violations: disturbing a commercial lobster trap belonging to another person, fishing for lobster without a lobster report card in possession, possession of undersize lobster and fishing without a valid fishing license. The three other men are still suspects and may be charged at a later date.

“The California Department of Fish and Game will aggressively pursue and arrest any individuals stealing from commercial lobster traps,” said DFG Lt. Eric Kord. “Theft from these traps directly takes from the salaries of commercial fishermen, and puts the lobster fishery at further risk since many trap robbers take anything they find from the traps, including undersized lobsters.”

DFG has forwarded the citation to the Orange County District Attorney to file charges. Each count carries penalties of up to a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

“Commercial fishermen spend thousands of dollars on vessels, permits, trap gear, and bait to try and make a living off the lobster fishery each season,” said Rodger Healy, a commercial lobster fisherman and president of the California Lobster and Trap Fishermen’s Association. “Those stealing from lobster traps completely circumvent the lobster fishery management system and involve themselves in the illegal take of a valuable resource.”

California spiny lobsters are crustaceans that are common from Point Conception to Baja California. Lobster season generally opens 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.

DFG and Orange County Successfully Prosecute First MPA Violation

Media Contacts:
Paul Hamdorf, DFG Law Enforcement, (562) 342-7210
Andrew Hughan, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8944

A Riverside County man was fined more than $20,000 and sentenced to a week in jail for poaching lobsters inside a marine protected area (MPA). This is the first resource crime conviction since the MPAs off the Southern California coast went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012. 

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Marbel A. Para, 30, of Romoland pled guilty in Orange County Court on May 4 for violating Fish and Game Code 12013, which stipulates a minimum $5,000 fine for anyone who takes or possesses more than three times the daily bag limit of lobsters.

“This diver intentionally took a huge overlimit of lobster with no regard for the current laws,” said Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Assistant Chief Paul Hamdorf. “He didn’t follow any fish and game laws, including the take restrictions within an MPA.”

After midnight on Jan. 15, DFG wardens found Para and a companion with 47 California spiny lobsters in their possession. In addition to illegally taking the lobsters from an MPA, the divers were well over the legal possession limit of seven lobsters per diver, and all but five of the lobsters were undersize. Para claimed that all the lobsters were his and his companion was not cited.

“This was a big case, but unfortunately it wasn’t the biggest even in the last 12 months. Any time you have something that has significant monetary value, there will be a small group that will exploit it, regardless of what the law says,” said Hamdorf.

DFG has been working closely with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office to combat resource crimes in the county. Para was ultimately sentenced to three years probation, seven days in Orange County jail and a $5,000 fine for the DFG violation. Additional fees and penalties pushed the total fines to more than $20,000. He also had to forfeit all his SCUBA equipment and was given a “stay away” order from the Laguna Beach State Marine Reserve.

The MPAs were created through the Marine Life Protection Act in order to simplify and strengthen existing marine reserves and fishing regulations to allow recovery of fish populations that have been in severe decline.

DFG Holds Public Meetings on Spiny Lobster Fishery Management Plan Process

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

The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) will be holding two public meetings to share information about the Spiny Lobster Fishery Management Plan (FMP) process. The meetings, which will be held in Oxnard and Carlsbad, will provide the public and interested organizations with an opportunity to learn more about DFG’s plans to develop a comprehensive Spiny Lobster FMP.

DFG photo by Dianna Porzio

The public feedback from these meetings will help inform the Spiny Lobster FMP process and aid in the plan’s development.

“The spiny lobster is a prime candidate for an FMP,” said Senior Biologist Kristine Barsky, who will coordinate the FMP process. Barsky has worked predominantly with invertebrate species such as lobster during her 37 years with DFG’s Marine Region.

The Spiny Lobster FMP is being developed in accordance with the Marine Life Management Act of 1998, as the spiny lobster supports important commercial and recreational fisheries and plays a key role in the Southern California kelp forest ecosystem.

“DFG is committed to making this process transparent, objective and accessible to all, with the goal of completing an adaptable FMP that will ensure a sustainable lobster resource and healthy fisheries,” said Barsky.

The agenda is identical for both public meetings so interested parties need only attend one meeting. Members of the public can provide comments in person at either of the following locations and times:

Oxnard: Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Open house begins at 6 p.m.
Public meeting will be held from 6:30-9 p.m.
Oxnard Performing Arts and Convention Center
Ventura Room
800 Hobson Way
Oxnard, CA 93030
www.oxnardpacc.com/directions.html

Carlsbad: Thursday, April 19, 2012
Open house begins at 6 p.m.
Public meeting will be held from 6:30-9 p.m.
Grand Pacific Palisades Hotel
Grand Ballroom
5805 Armada Drive
Carlsbad, CA 92008
www.grandpacificpalisades.com/map-directions

Written comments may also be submitted after the meetings, either by e-mail through the Lobster FMP web site (www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/lobsterfmp/) or by regular mail to:

Department of Fish and Game
Attn: Lobster FMP
1933 Cliff Drive, Suite 9
Santa Barbara, CA 93109

For more information about these meetings, the Spiny Lobster FMP process or to be added to the list server, please visit www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/lobsterfmp/.

Individuals who cannot receive e-mail may sign up to receive the Lobster FMP news notices via mail. Please contact Rosalyn McFarland at (805) 568-1231 to provide your mailing address.

Redondo Beach Lobster Poachers Get Pinched

Media Contacts:
Patrick Foy, Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-2084
Andrew Hughan, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8944

California Game Wardens made several poaching cases in Redondo Beach recently, including one with suspects in possession of 132 lobsters.

two orange spiny lobsters on ocean floor of California coast

California spiny lobsters. DFG photo by Derek Stein.

“We are focusing our patrols on the worst abusers of our lobster resource to protect it for responsible users,” said Assistant Chief Paul Hamdorf of the California Department of Fish and Game Law Enforcement Division. “We are successfully using a team patrol concept and will continue to seek out those who intentionally violate fishing and hunting laws.”

With lobster season open and under way, wardens throughout Southern California are making numerous lobster poaching cases, but nowhere has the poaching pressure been greater than Redondo Beach.

On Sept. 29, two nights prior to the lobster season opener, Wardens Michele Budish and Kory Collins observed five men poaching lobsters from the King Harbor Jetty. They observed the men for approximately four hours and ultimately contacted them at 2 a.m. as they drove away in their pickup. The five men possessed 132 lobsters, many of them were shorter than the size limit. All five subjects were arrested for gross overlimit of lobster and possession of lobster for commercial sale. They were booked into Redondo Beach Police Department jail, their gear was seized as evidence, and their vehicle was towed. Arrested during the case were Ramon Gonzalo Montes, 28, Omar De Leon Aguilar, 26, and Juan Manuel De Leon Haro, 34, all from Los Angeles and Augustin Granados, 67, and Ruben Flores, Jr.,38, both of South Gate. Budish and Collins returned to the King Harbor Jetty the same night and made four more lobster poaching cases totaling 13 additional poached lobsters before the morning sun came up. All lobsters from the night’s cases were photographed as evidence and successfully returned to the ocean.

Recreational lobster fishing season opened Oct. 1, 2011 and extends to Mar. 21, 2012. Lobster fishing regulations are found on page 57 of the Ocean Sportfishing Regulations and are available at: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/sportfishing_regs2011.asp.

Lobster report cards are required for all anglers fishing for lobsters. The report card must be filled out prior to fishing for lobster, a common violation that has generated numerous warnings since the season opened, but will transition to citations soon. Data from the lobster report cards helps biologists closely monitor the health of the population.

Lobster seasons and size limits are set to allow lobsters the opportunity to reproduce prior to being old enough to retain by anglers, which takes about five to six years.

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