California Fish and Game Commission Meets

At its December 9-10 meeting, the California Fish and Game Commission acted on several issues affecting California’s natural resources. The following are just a few items of interest from this week’s meeting.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) presented its annual report on the progress of its statewide Marine Protected Areas Program. The report highlighted research and monitoring efforts, outreach and education, enforcement and compliance statistics, policy, permitting and Tribal engagement.

Fish and Game Commission logo

The Commission voted to extend the recreational red abalone fishery closure sunset date by an additional five years to April 1, 2026.

The Commission adopted new regulations for the recreational crab fishery intended to provide additional whale and turtle protections. These changes will take effect at the start of next season scheduled for November 2021.

The Commission also adopted new regulations regarding recreational take of sea urchins in Caspar Cove and Tanker Reef to evaluate mechanisms to promote kelp recovery.

The Commission authorized staff to publish a notice of intent to amend regulations for Klamath River Basin sport fishing, Central Valley sport fishing, waterfowl hunting, and deer and antelope hunting tags. As part of the mammal hunting notice, the Commission also authorized the inclusion of a temporary regulation that would allow hunters to receive a refund and restore preference points if they were unable to fill their tags for specific elk, pronghorn antelope, and bighorn sheep hunts during the September 2020 statewide forest and public land closures due to fires.

At its September 2020 meeting, the Commission determined that listing western Joshua tree as threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) may be warranted, making it protected under CESA as a candidate species. On Dec. 10, the Commission unanimously adopted regulations to authorize conditional take of western Joshua tree during its candidacy for CDFW, the town of Yucca Valley, the City of Palmdale and San Bernardino County. The decision will authorize take of western Joshua tree under strict criteria related to hazard trees, public works projects, and single family residences and accessory structures. This emergency rulemaking is conditioned upon mitigation measures and a limited total number of trees that can be taken, and is a result of discussions and consultation between CDFW, the local governments and the Center for Biological Diversity.

The full commission – President Eric Sklar, Vice President Samantha Murray and commissioners Jacque Hostler-Carmesin and Peter Silva – was present on Wednesday, Dec. 9. On Thursday, Dec. 10, Vice President Samantha Murray and commissioners Jacque Hostler-Carmesin and Peter Silva were present, and President Sklar was absent. There is one vacant seat on the commission.

As a reminder, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting budget gap in California, Commission meetings through June 2021 will be held via webinar and teleconference.

The agenda for this meeting along with supporting information is available at www.fgc.ca.gov/meetings. An archived audio file will be available in coming days. The next regularly scheduled meeting of the full Commission is scheduled for February 10-11, 2021. In addition, the Commission has scheduled a meeting for January 12, 2021 to hear only two agenda items.

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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.