Wildlife Officers Protect Pismo Clams from Poachers

  • Wildlife officers with seized undersize clams
  • Seized undersize clams in back of wildlife officer's pickup truck
  • Undersize clams with gauge

Since the beginning of the year, CDFW wildlife officers have seized more than 12,000 undersized Pismo clams and issued 116 citations to suspected poachers in San Luis Obispo County for unlawfully harvesting Pismo clams. In Santa Cruz County, wildlife officers have issued 60 citations and seized more than 5,000 undersized Pismo clams. Many of the citations involved extreme overlimits and about 90 percent of issued citations were for harvesting clams without a fishing license. When possible, wildlife officers will attempt to document where the undersized clams were taken and return those clams to the wild.

In past decades, Pismo clams were an important recreational sport fishery in California. A steep decline in the statewide Pismo clam population resulted in a dramatically reduced fishery and minimal recreational harvest. Pismo clams may still be harvested in California, in compliance with season, bag limits and size restrictions.

Despite a significant resurgence in the Pismo clam population in much of its historic habitat, most Pismo clams are still too small to legally harvest. Pismo clams are slow-growing animals and the majority are still in the growth stage. Marine biologists expect it will be at least another five to 10 years before any legal-size clams are present on most beaches.

“The central coast is seeing a resurgence of Pismo clam populations and our wildlife officers will continue to protect them from poachers,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “The vast majority of these clams are still undersized, and we need to give them an opportunity to become a robust recreational fishery for the future.”

Recreational clam harvesters with a valid fishing license may take the maximum bag limit of 10 Pismo clams per day, as long as they meet the minimum size of 5 inches north of the San Luis Obispo/Monterey county line and 4.5 inches south of the county line. Sub-legal sized clams must be immediately reburied. In Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, the season for Pismo clams starts Sept. 1 and ends April 30. In all other counties, the season is open year-round. The current regulations are in place to allow for limited recreational take but prevent a depletion of the Pismo clam resource.

If a member of the public witnesses a poaching, wildlife trafficking or pollution incident, or has information about such a violation, immediately dial the toll free CalTIP number, (888) 334-2258, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to CDFW using tip411. Anyone with a cell phone may send an anonymous tip to CDFW by texting “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message, to 847411 (tip411).

Tips can also be reported through the free CalTIP smartphone app, which operates similarly to tip411 by creating an anonymous two-way conversation with wildlife officers. The CalTIP app can be downloaded via the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

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crab in tidepool

CDFW Reminds Beach Visitors of Tidepool Collection Regulations

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has noted an increase in the number of visitors to our rocky seashore this summer, and reminds people they must know the rules governing harvest and should do what they can to protect these amazing places.

“Regulations that either prohibit or limit the collection of species like turban snails, hermit crabs and mussels are meant to protect our tidepools, which are full of fascinating life that’s important to the marine ecosystem,” said Dr. Craig Shuman, CDFW Marine Region Manager.

Individuals should not remove any animals from tidepools that they don’t plan on keeping and should also be aware that even walking over some sensitive areas can unintentionally harm tidepool plants and animals.

“It is important to watch where you walk, not only to avoid unintentionally harming the myriad of sea life that call California’s tidepools home, but to avoid an accidental fall,” Shuman said.

Tidepool animals have special regulations that limit the species and numbers that can be taken (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.05). Most species found in tidepools can only be collected by hand. The use of pry bars, knives or other devices to remove them from the rocks is not allowed. There are also regulations that cover fish found in tidepools, which can only be taken by hook and line or hand. No nets or other devices can be used. In addition, the California Department of Public Health’s annual mussel quarantine is in effect until at least Nov. 1, because eating mussels at this time of year may be hazardous to your health. Mussels can be collected for bait but may not be taken for human consumption during this period.

“People may not realize that anyone age 16 or older must have a valid sport fishing license to collect tidepool animals, and that there are limits to how many can be taken,” said Assistant Chief Mike Stefanak of the CDFW Marine Law Enforcement Division. “In Southern California, an Ocean Enhancement Validation is also required for tidepool collection.”

Most marine protected areas (MPAs) do not allow collection of tidepool animals. MPA maps and regulations are available on CDFW’s MPA web page, and on the mobile-friendly Ocean Sport Fishing interactive web map. Local authorities may also close off other areas to tidepool collecting.

Tidepooling and legal collecting can be a safe outdoor activity that maintains physical distancing from others as we work to minimize transmission of COVID-19. Those interested in participating must make sure to stay six feet from anyone not in their same household, wear a face mask, follow all fishing regulations, watch for incoming waves and where they step, and stay safe. Any wildlife crimes witnessed can be easily reported to CDFW’s “CalTIP” hotline, by calling 1-888-334-2258, or by texting “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message, to 847-411 (tip411).

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Media Contacts:
John Ugoretz, CDFW Marine Region, (562) 338-3068

Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

California Fisheries Relief Funding Soon to be Available for Select Sectors Affected by COVID-19

Coastal and marine fishery participants – including licensed commercial fishermen, fish buyers, aquaculture businesses, charter boat owners and guides – who have experienced a loss of income due to the effects of COVID-19 may be eligible for federal relief funding disbursed through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

The funding is part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This more than $2 trillion economic relief package provides direct economic assistance for American workers, families and small businesses that have been impacted COVID-19. About $18 million in CARES funding was earmarked specifically for fisheries assistance in California.

CDFW estimates that there are more than 11,500 potentially eligible applicants for this funding, including individuals who work in the offshore, shoreside, aquaculture, commercial passenger fishing vessel and guide sectors.

Eligibility will be based on, among other things, a minimum 35 percent loss of fishing related income due to COVID-19 between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2020. Applicants must also submit documentation demonstrating active involvement in a qualifying sector. See the approved disbursement plan.

The Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC) is serving as fiscal agent for these funds. PSMFC will mail claim forms to all potentially eligible applicants to the address on file with CDFW. Forms and documentation must be returned within 30 days to be eligible for disbursement. Following the close of the 30-day response period, final disbursement totals will be calculated and relief checks will be issued to qualified applicants. CDFW is requesting all potentially eligible applicants update their address on file by Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. See the address verification instructions.

For more information, please refer to CDFW’s web page for the CARES Act. Email inquiries can be sent to CDFW at CARESfisheriesInfo@wildlife.ca.gov.

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Media Contacts:
Craig Shuman, CDFW Marine Region, (916) 215-9694
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

July 2020 California Department of Fish and Wildlife Calendar

All calendar items are subject to change as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Various Days — Sign Up for Environmental Response to Oil Spills (EROS) Course. This free three-day course will be held October 13-15, 2020 at the Granite Bay Activity Center in Granite Bay. It is provided to new oil spill responders and consists of demonstrations, lectures by experienced response personnel, case studies and interactive field trips. Applications are due Aug. 1. For more information and to register, please contact Lea Gibson at (916) 215-5581 or lea.gibson@wildlife.ca.gov. Please include your name, contact information and oil spill response role.

1 — Recreational Chinook Salmon Season to Open on Portions of Klamath and Trinity Rivers. Emergency fishing regulations for the spring Chinook salmon fishery in the Klamath River Basin have been extended. The spring Chinook salmon fishery on the lower Klamath River (downstream of the Highway 96 bridge at Weitchpec) and Trinity River (upstream of the confluence of the South Fork Trinity River) will open July 1 and run through Aug. 14 on the Klamath River and through Aug. 31 on the Trinity River. The daily bag limit has been set to one Chinook salmon (no size restrictions), and the possession limit set at two Chinook salmon. Please see the 2020-2021 California Freshwater Sportfishing Regulations and 2020-2021 California Supplement Sport Fishing Regulations for more information.

1 — General Season for Rabbits and Varying Hare Opens Statewide (Extending through Jan. 31, 2021). For more information on small game seasons and limits, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/small-game.

1 — Dungeness Crab Sport Fishing Season Closed in the San Francisco and Central Management Areas (South of Mendocino County). For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/crabs.

4 — Free Fishing Day. One of two Free Fishing Days being offered by CDFW in 2020 is scheduled July 4 (the other is Sept. 5). While all fishing regulations – such as bag and size limits, gear restrictions, report card requirements, fishing hours and stream closures – remain in effect, anyone can fish without purchasing a fishing license on Free Fishing Days. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing/free-fishing-days.

4 — Weaving Yesterday’s History Series Virtual Event, 1 to 1:30 p.m. Reserve naturalists and historians will host a Facebook Live series exploring the cultural heritage of Elkhorn Slough. Held on the first Saturday of every month, each event features the backstory on a different location around the slough. Please visit www.elkhornslough.org/events/weaving-yesterdays-a-live-history-series to view the series’ schedule and find recordings of previous installments.

9 — California Wildlife Conservation Board Stream Flow Enhancement Program Proposal Solicitation Notice Opens. Program priorities include enhancing flow in streams that support anadromous fish, supporting special status species and providing resilience to climate change. Please visit wcb.ca.gov/programs/stream-flow-enhancement for more information.

16 — Recreational Chinook Salmon Season to Open in Central Valley. The season will open on portions of the American, Feather, Mokelumne and Sacramento rivers. For full information on open waters and limits, please see the 2020-2021 California Freshwater Sportfishing Regulations and 2020-2021 California Supplement Sport Fishing Regulations. The season will open on the Sacramento River from the Deschutes Road bridge to the Red Bluff Diversion Dam on Aug. 1.

24 — Shared Habitat Alliance for Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Access Permit Application Deadline for Elk Hunting Opportunities. An $11.50 non-refundable application fee (plus handling fees) is charged for each hunt choice. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/share.

29 — California Fish and Game Commission Marine Resources Committee Meeting, time to be determined. This meeting was originally planned to take place in San Clemente but is expected to be held via webinar/teleconference due to health and safety concerns related to COVID-19. For more information, please visit fgc.ca.gov.

30 — Last Day of Dungeness Crab Sport Fishing Season in Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte Counties. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/crabs.

31 — California Wildlife Conservation Board Lower American River Conservancy Program 2020 Proposal Solicitation Notice Closes, 5 p.m. Please visit wcb.ca.gov/programs/lower-american-river for more information.

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Media Contact:
Amanda McDermott, CDFW Communications, (916) 817-0434

CDFW Director to Allow Commercial Dungeness Crab Season South of Sonoma/Mendocino County Line to Continue Until May 15, Then Close to Protect Whales

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham has issued a declaration closing the California Dungeness crab fishery south of the Sonoma/Mendocino county line (Districts 10, 17, 18 and 19) on May 15 at 11:59 p.m. to protect whales and sea turtles from entanglement in fishing gear. Under the authority of Section 8276.1(c)(1) of the Fish and Game Code, the Director may restrict take of commercial Dungeness crab after making a preliminary determination that commercial crab fishing poses a significant risk of marine life entanglement. Before taking this action, the Director considered all recommendations and information provided within the public notice period that ended at 5:30 p.m. on April 17.

Effective May 15, at 11:59 p.m. no vessel may deploy commercial Dungeness crab fishing gear, take or possess crab in Districts 10, 17, 18 or 19 due to significant risk of marine life entanglement. The closure will remain in place for the remainder of the 2019-’20 California commercial Dungeness crab season.

CDFW will engage regularly with the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group to review scientific information and advise efforts to minimize the risk of whale and sea turtle entanglements. Based on that process, CDFW may take additional management actions in response to future risk assessments in the Northern Management Area (Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9). For more information related to the risk assessment process or this closure, please visit CDFW’s Whale Safe Fisheries page.

CDFW understands the challenges faced by California’s commercial fishing industry during these difficult times. CDFW is committed to working with our industry partners to maximize their ability to safely deliver fresh, sustainably caught seafood during the COVID-19 crisis. Today’s decision provides additional time on the water while balancing the need to protect whales and turtles. Further, we will continue to explore options to assist commercial fishermen regarding federal funds earmarked for fisheries and aquaculture in the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act. Finally, we encourage local ports and harbors to maintain continuity of commercial fisheries and sales of fish in a manner consistent with the health and safety guidelines issued by the California Department of Public Health and local public health officials.

For more information on Dungeness crab, please visit: wildlife.ca.gov/crab.