Category Archives: Marine

Entanglement Settlement Protects Whales, Sea Turtles and California’s Crab Fishery

SAN FRANCISCO — Californians will be pleased to know that Dungeness crab will be caught off the coast with greater care for endangered wildlife under a settlement announced by the Center for Biological Diversity, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA).

The legal settlement protects whales and sea turtles from entanglement in commercial Dungeness crab gear. The Center for Biological Diversity sued CDFW in October 2017 after a drastic increase in the number of whale entanglements off the West Coast.

“As I’ve said many times, no one wants whale entanglements to happen,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “This agreement represents hours of intense negotiation to help ensure they don’t happen while supporting the resiliency of the crab fishery in the long run. I am thankful for the leadership of the Center for Biological Diversity and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations who realized something needed to be done together.”

“This is great news for whales and sea turtles fighting extinction off California’s coast,” said Kristen Monsell, a Center for Biological Diversity attorney. “The settlement will reduce serious threats from crab gear to these beautiful and highly endangered animals. This agreement is a turning point that gets us closer to zero entanglements and a healthy ocean.”

The lawsuit was brought by the Center for Biological Diversity against CDFW (Center for Biological Diversity v. Bonham) in federal court in San Francisco. The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, which represents crabbers, intervened in the lawsuit.

The settlement, subject to court approval, creates a comprehensive approach to the problem of whale entanglements. It expedites state regulation, ensures stakeholder input from the Dungeness crab Fishing Gear Working Group and formalizes a first-ever commitment by CDFW to pursue a federal permit for protecting endangered species. While these steps are executed, the settlement calls for this year’s crab season to end three months early and prescribes protective measures for future springtime fishing seasons, when the greatest number of whales are present off the California coast.

In November 2018, CDFW announced it would seek a federal permit under the Endangered Species Act to address protected species interactions with the crab fishery. Obtaining a permit and developing a conservation plan as part of that process can take years, so the settlement spells out interim protections.

“This settlement represents the path back to normality for California’s crab fishery with built-in protections for whales and crab fishing operations under the Endangered Species Act,” said Noah Oppenheim, executive director of PCFFA. “The past several years have been extraordinarily challenging for fishing families, and the actions we’re taking here are no exception. But in the end, we’re going to emerge together with a resilient, prosperous, and protective fishery that will continue to feed California and the nation.”

Details of the settlement can be found at http://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=166146.

The mission of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is to manage California’s diverse fish, wildlife, and plant resources, and the habitats upon which they depend, for their ecological values and for their use and enjoyment by the public.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations is the largest commercial fishermen’s organization on the West Coast, representing 17 local and regional associations from Santa Barbara to Southeast Alaska. As a major commercial fishing industry trade association, PCFFA represents the interests of commercial fishing families who make their living harvesting and delivering high-quality seafood to America’s tables.

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Media Contacts:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW, (916) 654-9937
Kristen Monsell, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7137
Noah Oppenheim, PCFFA, (415) 723-1801 or Michael Coats, (707) 235-6203

2019 Recreational Ocean Salmon Fishery to Open Off Much of the California Coast in April

California’s recreational salmon fishery will open in ocean waters on Saturday, April 6 in the Monterey management area, between Pigeon Point (37° 11’ 00” N. latitude) south to the U.S.-Mexico border. In the Fort Bragg and San Francisco management areas, between Horse Mountain (40° 05’ 00” N. latitude) and Pigeon Point, the recreational salmon fishery will open on Saturday, April 13. The Klamath Management Zone (Horse Mountain to the Oregon state line) will remain closed for the month of April. The remaining 2019 season dates will be finalized next month.

At its meeting this week in Vancouver, Wash., the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) made the decision to open limited sections of the California coast on April 6 and April 13. Returns of Sacramento River fall Chinook and Klamath River fall Chinook in 2018 were insufficient to overcome their “overfished” status this year.

“Continued concerns over the overfished status of Sacramento and Klamath River fall Chinook, as well as protections for threatened and endangered stocks, are expected to limit salmon seasons in certain times and areas this year,” said Kandice Morgenstern, an environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). “Despite these constraints, we expect California sport anglers to see a greater amount of fishing opportunity overall compared to last year.”

Traditionally, fishing in the Monterey area is better early in the season. Recreational fishing representatives prioritized opening this area ahead of others on the California coast, though it may lead to decisions to close the season earlier in Monterey than in other areas. Delaying the opener in areas to the north should allow for more fishing opportunity there later in the year, when catch rates are typically better.

Final season dates will be decided during the April 9-16 PFMC meeting in Rohnert Park. The public is invited to comment on the PFMC’s season proposals at that meeting, at a hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 26 at the Hampton Inn (1160 Airport Park Blvd.) in Ukiah, or through the PFMC website at www.pcouncil.org.

In April, the minimum size limit in the Fort Bragg management area is 20 inches total length. In the San Francisco and Monterey management areas, the minimum size limit is 24 inches total length.

Anglers are advised to check for updated information when planning a salmon fishing trip. Season dates, bag/possession limit information, and gear restrictions can be found on CDFW’s ocean salmon webpage at www.wildlife.ca.gov/oceansalmon. Public notification of any in-season change to conform state regulations to federal regulations is made through the NMFS ocean salmon hotline at (800) 662-9825.

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Media Contacts:
Kandice Morgenstern, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 576-2879
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169

 

‘Slightly Improved’ Forecast for California’s 2019 Ocean Salmon Season

California’s 2019 ocean salmon fishing season should be slightly better than last year’s, according to information presented at this week’s annual Salmon Information Meeting held in Santa Rosa by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). The ocean abundance projections for Sacramento River fall Chinook (SRFC), a main salmon stock harvested in California waters, is estimated at 379,600 adult salmon, an increase over 2018 forecasts. This may result in increased fishing opportunity in some central coastal areas. The Klamath River fall Chinook (KRFC) abundance forecast of 274,200 adult salmon is lower than 2018 forecast, but still an improvement over low forecast numbers seen in recent years.

“We are cautiously optimistic that the increase in ocean abundance of SRFC will translate into more fishing opportunity this year,” said CDFW Environmental Scientist Kandice Morgenstern.

Recreational anglers and commercial salmon trollers at the meeting provided comments and voiced concerns to a panel of fishery managers, scientists and industry representatives. Stakeholder input will be taken into consideration when developing three season alternatives during the March 6-12 Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meeting in Vancouver, Wash. Final ocean salmon seasons will be adopted during the April 9-16 PFMC meeting in Rohnert Park.

The PFMC may take a conservative approach when crafting 2019 ocean salmon seasons since both SRFC and KRFC stocks are considered to be overfished under the terms of the federal Salmon Fishery Management Plan due to three years of low spawning escapement. Additionally, persistent concerns over protected Sacramento River winter Chinook and California Coastal Chinook could limit fishing opportunity south of Point Arena and north of Point Sur, respectively.

For more information on the salmon season setting process or general ocean salmon fishing information, please visit the Ocean Salmon Project website or call the ocean salmon hotline at (707) 576-3429.

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Media Contacts:
Chenchen Shen, CDFW Ocean Salmon Team, (707) 576-2885
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958

 

CDFW Seeks Input on 2019 Recreational Pacific Halibut Season Dates

California anglers who are interested in the recreational Pacific Halibut fishery are invited to participate in an online survey. The data gathered through this survey will help inform the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) about angler preferences for open fishing dates during the upcoming 2019 season, and will be used to develop recommended season dates that will be provided to the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The survey can be found online through Friday, Feb. 15, 2019.

The Pacific Halibut fishery takes place off northern California. In 2018, the fishery was open May 1-June 15, July 1-15, Aug. 1-15, and Sept. 1-21. The fishery closed Sept. 21 at 11:59 p.m. due to projected attainment of the 30,940 net pound quota. The 2019 quota will be 39,000 net pounds, approximately 8,000 net pounds greater than the 2018 quota.

For more information, please visit the CDFW Pacific Halibut Fishery webpage.

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Media Contacts:
Melanie Parker, CDFW Marine Region, (831) 649-2814

Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

 

Conviction in Great White Shark Shooting

A San Jose man was recently convicted in Santa Cruz Superior Court for unlawfully killing a Great White Shark (also known as a White Shark) in Santa Cruz County last summer.

Vinh Pham, 41, was fined $5,000 and placed on conditional probation for two years. The court also ordered his firearm to be destroyed.

Wildlife officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) began their investigation on June 17, 2018, immediately after the nine-foot male White Shark washed up on Beer Can Beach in Aptos. A necropsy (animal autopsy) performed on the shark confirmed that it had been killed by multiple shots from a .22 caliber firearm. Soon after, CDFW received a tip on its CalTIP reporting line that a member of a commercial fishing boat crew may have been responsible for the shark’s death.

Officers investigated the tip that night and observed the vessel fishing after dark near where the shark was discovered. Two wildlife officers contacted the crew as the vessel returned to Santa Cruz Harbor early the next morning. A regular commercial fishing inspection uncovered multiple violations involving their catch for that day, including possession of undersize halibut, no landing receipts, failure to weigh their commercial catch and failure to turn in landing receipts. During this investigation, the officers located a fully loaded .22 caliber rifle concealed behind the seat of the truck the suspect was using to transport his commercial catch to markets. Officers seized the rifle as evidence, then submitted both the rifle and the .22 bullets extracted during the shark necropsy to the California Department of Justice crime lab to see if they matched.

As the investigation progressed, Pham confessed, claiming he shot the shark after seeing it swimming near the wings of his deployed fishing net. On Jan. 14, 2019, Pham pled to multiple charges including wanton waste of the White Shark, possessing a loaded rifle in his vehicle, possessing undersize halibut, failing to accurately weigh his catch, failing to complete landing receipts and failing to submit landing receipts.

CDFW thanks Assistant District Attorney Ed Browne of the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office for prosecuting the case.

If you witness a poaching or polluting incident or any fish and wildlife violation, or have 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 to CDFW using tip411, an internet-based tool that enables wildlife officers respond directly to the reporting party, initiating a two-way conversation. Tipsters may remain anonymous if they choose. Tips can be sent to CDFW by texting “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message, to 847411 (tip411).

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Media Contacts:
Capt. Todd Tognazzini, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (805) 610-3916
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-6692