Conditions at Imperial Wildlife Area, Wister Unit, May Impact Hunting Opportunities for Waterfowl Opener

Due to recent natural events, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Imperial Wildlife Area, Wister Unit, has recently experienced water-delivery delays that have resulted in the wildlife area receiving less than the amount of water needed to fully flood the waterfowl area.

This may result in fewer hunt sites than normal being available for the waterfowl opener scheduled Saturday, Oct. 20. CDFW estimates 10 to 20 blinds out of 100 blinds onsite may be unavailable.

An active mud pot, a natural geothermal event, recently caused water-delivery delays and then recent severe thunderstorms affected the wildlife area in Imperial County and surrounding areas, causing widespread flooding and closures to Highway 111 and other surrounding areas. The flooding damaged Imperial Irrigation District water-delivery canals and ditches, as well as some roads at the wildlife area. CDFW has been informed that the District has started repairs to its system but there is no timeline on when the work will be completed.

The Wister Unit will likely be less than completely flooded on the waterfowl opener. For more information on conditions, please contact Rick Francis at (760) 359-0577.

Media Contacts:
Scott Sewell, CDFW Inland Desert Region, (760) 359-0577
Kyle Orr, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958

California Fish and Game Commission Meets in Fresno

At its October 2018 meeting in Fresno yesterday, the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) took action on a number of issues affecting California’s natural resources. The following are just a few items of interest from the meeting.

The Commission voted unanimously to adopt the vision statement for co-management among the Commission, California tribes and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). The vision statement was a recommendation forwarded to the Commission from the Tribal Committee, which met Tuesday.

In partnership with the California Waterfowl Association, the Commission also recognized six newly inducted members of the California Waterfowler’s Hall of Fame: Dr. Mickey E. Heitmeyer, Jeff Kerry, Peter Ottesen, Thomas Quinn, Mark Gregory Steidlmayer and Peter Stent. Former executive director of the Commission, John Carlson, Jr. who is currently the president of the California Waterfowl Association, made the presentation.

The Commission approved a 90-day extension of the emergency regulations for recreational take of purple sea urchin that increased the bag limit from 35 individuals to 20 gallons in Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

The Commission also authorized publication of a notice of intent to amend regulations for recreational take of purple sea urchin under a regular rulemaking, to increase bag limits to 40 gallons in Sonoma and Mendocino counties, and also to potentially apply these regulations in Humboldt and Del Norte counties. The Commission will take action on this proposal at its February meeting in Sacramento.

The Commission took action to adopt regulations to limit incidental take of crabs other than the genus cancer. The action will subject box and king crabs to a 25 lb. possession and landing limit, and sheep crab to a 95,000 lb. annual total allowable catch.

In support of a collaboration among CDFW, the California Ocean Protection Council, and academic partners, the Commission adopted a marine protected area monitoring action plan that, for the first time, provides a statewide approach to monitoring California’s marine protected area network. The action plan incorporates novel scientific approaches and offers important prioritization of long-term monitoring and evaluation metrics.

Commission President Eric Sklar, Commission Vice President Anthony Williams and Commissioners Jacque Hostler-Carmesin and Peter Silva were present. Commissioner Russell Burns was absent.

The full Commission video and audio minutes, supporting information and a schedule of upcoming meetings are available at www.fgc.ca.gov. An archived video will also be available in coming days.

The California Fish and Game Commission was the first wildlife conservation agency in the United States, predating even the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries. There is often confusion about the distinction between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Commission. In the most basic terms, CDFW implements and enforces the regulations set by the Commission, as well as provides biological data and expertise to inform the Commission’s decision-making process.

Media Contacts:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

Commercial Spiny Lobster Fishery Closed in State Waters Around Anacapa Island Due to Public Health Hazard

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham has enacted a commercial spiny lobster fishery closure effective immediately.

State health agencies determined that spiny lobster near Anacapa Island in Ventura County had unhealthy levels of domoic acid and recommended closure of the commercial fishery in the area. The recreational fishery for spiny lobster remains open statewide with a warning from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to recreational anglers to avoid consuming the viscera (tomalley) and roe of spiny lobster.

The commercial closure includes state waters around Santa Cruz and Anacapa islands east of 119°30.000’W. longitude, and west of 119°10.000’W. longitude. State waters extend three nautical miles beyond outermost islands, reefs and rocks. Commercial take and/or possession of spiny lobster is prohibited in closed waters.

This closure shall remain in effect until the Director of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), in consultation with the State Public Health Officer at CDPH, determines that domoic acid no longer poses a significant risk to public health and recommends lifting the fishery closure. CDFW will continue to coordinate with CDPH and OEHHA to test domoic acid levels in spiny lobster to determine when the commercial spiny lobster fishery in this area can safely be opened.

Pursuant to Fish and Game Code, section 5523, the Director of CDFW will notify the Fish and Game Commission of the closure and request that the Commission schedule a public discussion of the closure at its next scheduled meeting.

Domoic acid is a potent neurotoxin produced by a naturally occurring marine alga, whose levels can be increased under certain ocean conditions. State and federal laws prohibit the commercial distribution of seafood products that contain domoic acid levels above the federal action level, which is 20 parts per million in the viscera of spiny lobster.

For more information:

Media Contact:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

San Diego Eighth-Grader Ethan Mayes Becomes First to Receive ‘Master Ocean Angler’ Award From CDFW’s California Fishing Passport Program

Thirteen-year-old Ethan Mayes of San Diego has become the first person to earn the title of Master Ocean Angler from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) California Fishing Passport program by catching at least 50 different species of saltwater game fish.

Mayes, an eighth-grade honor roll student, reeled in a black-and-yellow rockfish from the Coast Guard Pier in Monterey on Aug. 13 to record his 50th ocean game fish species.

Mayes’ exuberance at landing the smallish rockfish and scurrying to find a camera to document his catch left tourists and fellow pier anglers a little perplexed about all the excitement over catching a small fish.

“I was so happy to finally do it,” Mayes said of seeing his 50th saltwater species on the end of his line. Mayes caught his 51st species – a cabezon – about an hour later from the same spot. The next day, aboard a Monterey fishing boat, he landed species No. 52 – a yellowtail rockfish – and followed that up less than a week later with species No. 53 – a 50-plus-inch, 15-pound dolphinfish caught outside of San Diego’s Mission Bay aboard a charter boat.

“Ethan has the adventurous spirit and determination needed to travel the state’s waters in search of new fish to catch – which are the hallmarks of a California Fishing Passport Master Angler,” said CDFW’s Mary Patyten, awards administrator for the program. “It really is an amazing feat, especially for such a young angler. He is an extraordinary young man.”

CDFW’s California Fishing Passport program was launched in January 2007 to encourage Californians of all ages and backgrounds to experience fishing for a variety of fresh and saltwater fish and shellfish. The California Fishing Passport booklet is the centerpiece of the program, allowing anglers to record the date, place and species of sport fish and shellfish caught within California waters. Each catch must be verified by a photo or a witness signature. Each catch can then be stamped by an official stamping agent such as a CDFW License Sales Office.

Fourteen different recognition awards can be earned – from the My First Fish Award to the Supreme Master Angler Award available to those who have earned a Master award in at least two other award categories – such as Warmwater Fishing (Inland), Coldwater Fishing (Inland), Ocean Fishing and Shellfish (Inland and Ocean). Mayes previously achieved the Ocean Angler Award – for catching 10 different qualifying species – and the Accomplished Ocean Angler Award – for catching 25 different qualifying species.

With a minimum of 50 different ocean species, however, the bar may be highest to reach Master Ocean Angler status. A Master Coldwater Angler, for example, needs to catch and record just 10 different qualifying fish. A Master Warmwater Angler needs to catch at least 25 different warmwater fish species.

No California angler has yet earned the Supreme Master Angler Award, though Mayes said his next goal is the Shellfish category. Catching at least 15 different qualifying inland and ocean shellfish would earn him the additional title of Shellfish Master and qualify him for Supreme Master Angler status.

Mayes was not born into a fishing family. He began fishing – mostly unsuccessfully – as an eight year old when a family friend gave him a fishing rod and reel for Christmas. His passion for fishing grew and he began logging his catches in the California Fishing Passport program in 2014. His parents have learned to fish to accompany him on his outings and support his passion.

Almost half of the saltwater species Mayes has caught – 26 of the 53 – have been taken off public piers, one of the most accessible types of fishing available in California as no fishing license is required. Mayes honed his saltwater techniques over the years at his home pier – the Shelter Island Pier in San Diego.

As he has gotten older, Mayes has broadened his interests and skillset to include more offshore species. His biggest catch so far is a 125-pound bluefin tuna he caught on an offshore trip with his father. Although saltwater fishing is his primary passion, he also enjoys sailing, tennis, surfing and snorkeling.

Becoming California’s first Master Ocean Angler didn’t become a goal for Mayes until he caught his 25th species.

“That was really a big turning point,” he said. “I was like, wow, this is really happening and I could get to 50 at some point.”

For more information on the California Fishing Passport program, please visit http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Passport.

Media Contacts:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908
Mary Patyten, CDFW California Fishing Passport Program, (707) 964-5026

 

Photo: San Diego’s Ethan Mayes shows off the black-and-yellow rockfish he caught in Monterey that marked his 50th saltwater species.

Ivory Sales Lead to Court Conviction in Los Angeles County

A Los Angeles County jury has convicted Anthony Buccola, 51, of Newport Beach, and his business, Antonio’s Bella Casa, on misdemeanor charges of selling narwhal tusks. Buccola and his business were found guilty on Aug. 1 in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Buccola was sentenced to 36 months probation with search terms, 200 hours of community service or 20 days in jail, $5,000 fine plus penalty assessment and forfeiture of the narwhal tusks. Antonio Bella Casa, Inc, was sentenced to 36 months probation with search terms, a fine of $5,000 plus penalty assessment and forfeiture of the narwhal tusk. The penalty was set pursuant to Fish and Game Code, section 2022, which took effect on July 1, 2016.

The investigation began in December 2016, when wildlife officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Law Enforcement Division Trafficking Unit saw two narwhal tusks displayed at the retail antique store. The tusks were 79 and 87 inches long. An officer visited Antonio’s Bella Casa and an employee offered to sell the narwhal tusks for $35,000 each. He ultimately agreed to sell the tusks to an undercover officer for $30,000 each.

The tusks were seized as evidence and the CDFW Wildlife Forensics Lab conducted additional analysis. Wildlife forensics specialists confirmed the tusks were from narwhal.

“We would like to thank the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office and specifically their Environmental Justice Unit for their assistance in this investigation and the subsequent prosecution,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Law Enforcement Division Chief. “The penalties assessed by this court should deter further acts of ivory trafficking and prove California’s commitment to halting the demand for ivory which contributes to poaching of narwhal in their native range.”

“Selling ivory is not only illegal, it’s immoral,” said Mike Feuer, Los Angeles City Attorney. “The ivory trade is abominable, with devastating consequences that imperil threatened species like the narwhal. This prosecution and conviction sends the strong message that those who may think of selling ivory tusks will be held accountable. I also want to thank our partners at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for their close partnership on this important issue.”

Assembly Bill 96, authored in 2015 by then Assembly Speaker and current Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), made it unlawful to purchase, sell, offer for sale, possess with intent to sell or import with intent to sell ivory or rhinoceros horn, except as specified. AB 96 defines ivory as the tooth or tusk from a species of elephant, hippopotamus, mammoth, mastodon, walrus, warthog, whale or narwhal, or a piece thereof, whether raw ivory or worked ivory, and includes a product containing, or advertised as containing, ivory. A first-time violation of this law is a misdemeanor subject to specified criminal penalties and fines between $1,000 and $40,000, depending upon the value of the item.

Media Contacts:
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-6692
Kyle Orr, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958

California Department of Fish and Wildlife News