California Fish and Game Commission Meets Remotely

At its February meeting, the California Fish and Game Commission acted on a number of issues affecting California’s natural resources. The following are just a few items of interest from yesterday’s meeting.

The Commission elected Peter Silva to succeed Eric Sklar as Commission President, a position Sklar has held for five years. The Commission also re-elected Samantha Murray as Commission Vice President.

FGC logo

“It has been one of the great honors of my public career to serve as president of the California Fish and Game Commission these last five years,” said Commissioner Sklar. “I am extremely proud of all the work we have done as a team and I look forward to the exceptional and progressive things we will achieve under President Silva and Vice President Murray.”

Under President Sklar’s leadership, the Commission worked with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) on numerous significant achievements, including:

  • Collaborated with the agricultural community to protect tricolored blackbird under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) while also supporting agricultural activities.
  • Simplified the state’s inland trout fishing regulations to make it easier for anglers to understand and to increase angling opportunities.
  • Helped ensure sustainable, long-term management of Pacific herring and spiny lobster by adopting fishery management plans for both species.
  • Created an opportunity for recreational fishermen to contribute to potential kelp recovery in California’s north and central coast ocean waters by participating in and evaluating urchin control activities.
  • Streamlined fisheries resource management through automatic conformance to federal salmon and Pacific halibut regulations, as well as moving commercial fishing landing receipts from paper submissions to allow near-real-time online reporting of fishing information.

About his new position, President Silva said, “I appreciate the trust my fellow commissioners have placed in me to lead the Commission at this time of anticipated change. Over the coming year we have several important tasks ahead of us, most significantly advancing a justice, equity, diversity and inclusion plan that will contribute to creating a more just and inclusive society.”

Late last year, the Commission began developing a justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) plan in collaboration with CDFW, to enhance the important work of both organizations in conserving and sustaining California’s fish and wildlife for their ecological values and for their use and enjoyment by the public.

“It is a pleasure to continue in my role as vice president of the Commission, where we have critical responsibilities related to conserving the state’s natural resources and preserving our wildlife heritage,” said Commission Vice President Murray. “I look forward to also advancing meaningful efforts to confront the history and impacts of structural discrimination and to take action to ensure equitable practices.”

“The Commission has made great strides under President Sklar,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “He has brought professionalism, intelligence and integrity to the dais, and I thank him for his passion for this work and for his friendship. I also look forward to the leadership of Commissioners Silva and Murray. If their efforts to elevate the JEDI plan are an indicator, the strength that Eric has brought to this Commission is certain to continue and the future is bright.”

The Commission assigned chairs for its three committees: Vice President Murray for the Marine Resources Committee, Commissioner Jacque Hostler-Carmesin for the Tribal Committee and Commissioner Sklar for the Wildlife Resources Committee.

The Commission unanimously voted to approve changes to mammal hunting regulations including changes to quotas and seasons for deer and antelope, and allow CDFW to provide refunds and reinstate preference points for specified elk, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn antelope hunts for hunters who endured a significant loss of opportunity due to forest closures and/or fire in specified hunt zones in 2020.

CDFW provided an overview of its five-year status review report of Milo Baker’s lupine and recommended that the Commission change its status under CESA from threatened to endangered. The Commission voted unanimously that listing the Milo Baker’s lupine as endangered may be warranted. This commences a one-year status review of the species and the Commission will make a final decision at a future meeting. During the status review, Milo Baker’s lupine is protected under CESA as a candidate species.

The Commission unanimously voted to adopt an emergency regulation to prohibit the use of hydraulic pump gear for recreational take of clams, sand crab and shrimp. The emergency regulation is in response to dramatic increases in recreational clamming effort and harvest rates using hydraulic hand pumps, necessitating immediate additional protections while a standard regulation is under development.

The full commission – President Peter Silva, Vice President Samantha Murray, and Commissioners Jacque Hostler-Carmesin and Eric Sklar – was present. There is one vacancy on the Commission.

The agenda for this meeting along with supporting information is available at fgc.ca.gov. An archived audio file will be available in coming days. The next meeting of the full Commission is scheduled for April 14-15, 2021.

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

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

Free Online Commercial Cannabis Permitting Workshop March 4

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), California Department of Food and Agriculture’s CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing Division (CalCannabis) and State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) are hosting a free online commercial cannabis cultivation permitting workshop on Thursday, March 4, 2021.

cannabis plants surrounded by flowers

The free workshop is ideal for new and existing commercial cannabis cultivators and consultants. Those interested in attending can use the link below to watch the webcast – no registration is required. Closed captions will be provided.

Questions can be submitted in advance of the event by sending an email to askcannabis@wildlife.ca.gov with “Cannabis Webcast” as the subject line. Questions not answered during the webcast will be forwarded to the appropriate agency for a response.

Date and time: Thursday, March 4, from 9 to 11 a.m.

Webcast link: https://video.calepa.ca.gov/

CalCannabis will provide an overview of the state’s cannabis cultivation licensing program and review the requirements for commercial cannabis farming. CDFW will cover permitting, use of the online notification system (EPIMS) and compliance requirements. The State Water Board will review the cannabis policy and permitting process for both the Division of Water Quality and Division of Water Rights. Other regulatory agencies will also present.

For more information about becoming a licensed commercial cannabis farmer and for an overview of the California Cannabis Track-and-Trace/Metrc System, please visit the CalCannabis website at calcannabis.cdfa.ca.gov, call (833) CALGROW (225-4769) or send an email to calcannabis@cdfa.ca.gov. To report suspected illegal cannabis farming or related complaints, call the CalCannabis toll-free hotline: (833) WEED-TIP (933-3847).

To learn more about CDFW’s cannabis program, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/cannabis or send an email to askcannabis@wildlife.ca.gov. To report environmental crimes, such as pollution, water diversions and poaching, please call the CalTIP hotline at (888) 334-2258 or text information to tip411 by texting “CALTIP” followed by a space and the message. The CalTIP app can also be downloaded via the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

To learn more about the State Water Board’s role in cannabis cultivation permitting, please visit waterboards.ca.gov/cannabis. For permitting and compliance assistance, send an email to dwq.cannabis@waterboards.ca.gov or call (916) 341-5580 (Cannabis Cultivation General Order), or send an email to cannabisreg@waterboards.ca.gov or call (916) 319-9427 (cannabis cultivation water rights).

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Media Contacts:
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, janice.mackey@wildlife.ca.gov
Rebecca Forée, CDFA’s CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing Division, rebecca.foree@cdfa.ca.gov

CDFW Wildlife Officer Works with Multiple Agencies to Stop Suspected Abalone Poachers in the Act

On the night of Jan. 30, 2021, a California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) law enforcement officer based out of Long Beach partnered with the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) on a joint agency boat patrol in and around Long Beach Harbor. While on patrol, the officers observed the silhouettes of two subjects on the rocks of a jetty. LBPD boat operators dropped the wildlife officer off on the rocks to make contact. When he attempted to contact the subjects, they immediately fled, initiating a brief foot pursuit. Upon a subsequent search and with the help of the LBPD Air Support Unit, officers located two men hiding in the rocks who were in joint possession of 16 abalone. The nearby Los Angeles Port Police also assisted with the response.

CDFW partnered with multiple agencies last month to apprehend two suspected abalone poachers.

The wildlife officer cited both subjects for 16 counts related to the unlawful take and possession of green and pink abalone. The abalone appeared to be in survivable condition and were carefully returned to the ocean.

“This is a perfect example of  mutual aid cooperation allowing us to create a force multiplier in order to protect our precious resources,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “This joint patrol effort allowed us to apprehend these suspected poachers who were targeting abalone, a protected species south of the Golden Gate for more than 23 years.”

CDFW thanks LBPD and the Los Angeles Port Police for their continued dedication in helping keep Southern California’s fish and wildlife populations safe.

A moratorium was established in 1997 for the take of abalone, commercial or recreational, south of the Golden Gate Bridge after the population neared collapse. A statewide closure of any abalone harvest took effect in mid-2017 as the red abalone population has continued to decline mostly due to environmental stressors. The recreational closure of abalone harvest has since been extended north of the Golden Gate Bridge until 2026.

If you witness a poaching, wildlife trafficking or pollution incident, immediately dial the toll free CalTIP number, (888) 334-2258, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Tips may also be submitted by texting to tip411 (847411). Anyone with a cell phone may send an anonymous tip to tip411 by texting “CALTIP” followed by a space and the message. 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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Media Contacts:
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement
Lt. Michele Budish, CDFW Law Enforcement

CDFW Cleans Up Illegal Cannabis Operation at Los Padres National Forest

Mounds of Trash and Banned Pesticides Removed from Pristine Region

Wildlife officers at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) completed a cleanup of an illegal cannabis operation in the Los Padres National Forest on Dec. 4. The grow complex was located one mile north of Ragged Point in the Big Sur region of Monterey County.

Wildlife officers were assisted by the California Department of Food and Agriculture on the ground and the National Guard’s 129th Rescue Wing Counterdrug Task Force, which provided air support for removing trash.

The illegal grow was removed in July 2020 and two men pled guilty in November 2020.

“This site was overrun with trash and dangerous pesticides at every corner of the grow complex,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “I’m proud of the work that was completed on this mission by our wildlife officers and support team.”

The team removed approximately 3,000 lbs. of trash, hundreds of feet of plastic irrigation piping, two makeshift stoves and other discarded camping equipment. Much of the trash was located in a seasonal stream channel, which led to the Pacific Ocean. If left in place, much of that garbage could have been carried to the coastline by high stream flows from winter rains.

Officers also removed numerous bottles of rodenticides, insecticides and high concentrate fertilizers, which can be lethal to fish and wildlife. Several additional bottles of the banned pesticide carbofuran were also discovered hidden throughout the site and removed.

Along with this, the remains of two deer and one dead skunk were discovered, which were likely poisoned from the illegal pesticides at the grow.

Cleanup, restoration and remediation are critical components of CDFW’s cannabis program, which is funded by the cannabis tax fund. Each site is approached differently, depending upon the location and available resources.

CDFW is currently developing a grant program to support restoration efforts on land impacted by cannabis grows near sensitive watersheds. A portion of that funding will be focused on the impacts from trespass grows such as this one.

The public can report environmental crimes to the CalTIP hotline at (888) 334-2258 or by texting “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message, to 847411 (tip411).

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Media Contact:
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 207-7891

Commercial Dungeness Crab Update

Proving that the Risk Assessment Mitigation Program is successfully striking a balance between the needs of the commercial Dungeness crab fleet and protection of marine life, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will open the commercial season statewide on Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020, allowing the fleet a chance to get Dungeness crab on California tables before the holiday season ends.

This statewide opener ends delays in place due to meat quality in the northern management area (NMA) and the potential for whale entanglement in the central management area (CMA). It also gives the fleet ample time for planning and gear preparation and promotes an orderly start to the fishery. For the NMA Fishing Zones 1 and 2, the pre-soak period will begin Sunday, Dec. 20 at 8:01 a.m. and for the CMA, Fishing Zones 3, 4, 5 and 6, the pre-soak period will begin Tuesday, Dec. 22 at 6:01 a.m.

map of California ocean fishing zones

Available data indicates some whales remain in the fishing grounds but risk is declining and CDFW supports a balanced approach to managing risk and providing opportunity for the commercial fishery that is grounded in expert science.

Whale entanglement risk still exists, but it is low. Thus, the opening declaration is accompanied by an notice to the fleet to use best fishing practices and avoid areas where whales may be congregating including around the canyon edges of Monterey, and between the Farallon Islands and Point Reyes. Crabbers are encouraged to review the Best Practices Guide and remember to minimize knots and line scope when fishing.

Recent survey data indicate most whales have started their annual migration out of the fishing grounds. Based on these data, CDFW made a preliminary recommendation to open the fishery statewide on Wednesday, Dec. 16. The Whale Entanglement Working Group evaluated all available data and did not provide a consensus recommendation to open or delay. After the Working Group meeting, the majority of ports requested further delay of the opener.

“Our recommendation was to open this Wednesday,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “But after hearing from parts of the fleet expressing a variety of views, and review of additional scientific information provided by Working Group experts, we decided on an additional seven-day delay. This gives the fleet extra time to get ready and get their gear in the water, certainty in that we’re opening statewide, hopefully the chance to get part of the holiday market and an additional seven days for any remaining whales to migrate. We support any additional measures the fleet or specific ports wish to take to minimize entanglements and also understand the additional hardships resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. CDFW staff, collaborators and partners have worked hard to collect data to inform a unified statewide opener.”

Since late October, CDFW in partnership with researchers, federal agencies and the fishing industry has conducted surveys from the Oregon state line to the Channel Islands to observe marine life concentrations. Based on recent aerial surveys and observation data, whales have begun to migrate out of California waters to their winter breeding grounds, which in turn reduces the risk of entanglement when the commercial fishery opens.

Through the course of the crab season, CDFW will engage regularly with the Working Group to review scientific information and advice efforts to minimize the risk of whale and sea turtle entanglements while maximizing fishing opportunity. Based on that process, CDFW may take additional management actions in response to future risk assessments. For more information related to the risk assessment process or this delay, please visit CDFW’s Whale Safe Fisheries page. For more information related to the risk assessment process or this delay, please visit CDFW’s Whale Safe Fisheries page or for more information on Dungeness crab, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/crab.

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Media Contact:
Ryan Bartling, CDFW Marine Region, (415) 761-1843
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937