The California Fish and Game Commission yesterday voted to close the 2018 northern California recreational abalone fishery due to ongoing environmental conditions that have significantly impacted the abalone resource. The closure affects next year’s recreational abalone season, which was scheduled to open on April 1, 2018.
The Commission’s 4-0 decision (Commissioner Jacque Hostler-Carmesin was absent) upholds the policies of the Abalone Recovery and Management Plan, which was adopted by the Commission in December 2005. Over the past several years, the Commission has taken several actions to reduce take and shorten the season to protect abalone from the unprecedented environmental conditions.
The Commission directed the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to work with stakeholders to deliver a new fishery management plan that includes guidance on navigating these unprecedented conditions. The Commission also directed CDFW to consider how the new fishery management plan can inform the potential reopening of some fishing opportunity for the 2019 season.
Wildlife officers have arrested four suspects on charges of harvesting abalone with a recreational fishing license then selling it on the black market for profit, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced. The arrests were preceded by a five-month investigation of the suspects, some of whom have been previously convicted of similar violations.
Arrested were Oakley resident Thepbangon Nonnarath, 48, El Sobrante resident Dennis Nonnarath, 45, and San Jose residents Thu Thi Tran, 45, and Cuong Huu Tran, 42.
The group came to the attention of CDFW wildlife officers in November 2016, when Thepbangon and Dennis Nonnarath and two associates were cited for multiple abalone violations at Moat Creek, a popular recreational abalone fishery in Mendocino County. Thepbangon Nonnarath had previous abalone poaching convictions and the wildlife officers suspected the group may be engaged in the commercial sale of recreationally harvested abalone, which is unlawful.
Beginning in May 2017, wildlife officers observed suspicious activity by the same group of suspects in several popular recreational abalone diving locations in both Mendocino and Sonoma counties. Further investigation revealed an extended group of people who were harvesting abalone and allegedly selling it on the black market. The five-month investigation uncovered evidence of various poaching crimes among the group, including unlawful sale of sport caught abalone, take of abalone for personal profit, commercial possession of sport caught abalone, exceeding the seasonal limit of abalone, falsification of abalone tags and conspiracy to commit a crime, among others.
“The collective efforts of these suspected poachers show a blatant disregard for the regulations designed to protect California’s abalone resources,” said David Bess, Chief of CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division. “Whether it be California abalone or African ivory, wildlife officers will not tolerate trafficking of our wildlife resources.”
The alleged abalone poaching crimes occurred at a time when abalone are facing significant threats to their populations due to unprecedented environmental and biological stressors. As a result, the California Fish and Game Commission has re-adopted an emergency abalone regulation to continue the restriction of the annual abalone limit to 12 abalone per person and continue the reduced open season which is limited to May, June, August, September and October.
Media Contact: Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-9982
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is seeking public input to assist in the development of a red abalone fishery management plan (FMP). An online survey to collect public opinions on red abalone management can be accessed on the CDFW website.
To complete the survey by mail instead of through the website, please call (707) 964-5791 to request the survey forms or write to: CDFW, attn. Jerry Kashiwada, 32330 North Harbor Dr., Fort Bragg, CA 95437. The survey will close April 16, so interested parties should participate as soon as possible.
A similar survey was conducted in 2015 (results available online) but CDFW is interested in learning if recent unprecedented environmental conditions have changed preferences on abalone management. The online survey is intended to reach a broad audience and help ensure the abalone management framework developed under the FMP addresses the interests and concerns of the public.
More details about abalone management and the FMP process can be found on the CDFW website.
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Media Contacts: Jerry Kashiwada, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 964-5791 Carrie Wilson, CDFW Communications, (831) 649-7191
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reminds anglers and divers that Jan. 31, 2017 is the due date for turning in steelhead, sturgeon, abalone and north coast salmon report card data.
Information collected from sport fishing report cards provides CDFW biologists with important data necessary to monitor and manage California’s diverse recreational fisheries, including preparing recommendations for sport fishing seasons and limits that allow for sustainable levels of take. This science-based management helps to ensure healthy populations of fish for future generations.
Anglers and divers are required to return their report cards pursuant to section 1.74 of the California sport fishing regulations. Anglers and divers must report even if the report card was lost, they did not fish or they did not catch any fish. Cards should be reviewed carefully for accuracy prior to submitting them.
There are two ways to meet the mandatory angler reporting requirement. Online reporting (www.wildlife.ca.gov/reportcards) is easy, fast and free. Online reporting includes instant confirmation that the report has been received and accepted.
Sport fishing report cards may also be returned by mail to the addresses listed below:
North Coast Salmon Report Cards CDFW – Klamath River Project
5341 Ericson Way Arcata, CA 95521-9269
Abalone Report Cards
CDFW – Abalone Report Card
32330 N. Harbor Drive
Fort Bragg, CA 95437-5554
Regulations for California’s popular red abalone sport fishery have changed in 2017. Due to concerns about the declining population, the season will be shortened and the take limit reduced.
The 2017 season will be shortened by two months, with the traditional opening date of April 1 now delayed until May 1. The fishery will also close a month earlier than usual, on Oct. 31.
The annual (calendar year) limit is changing from 18 abalone to 12. As in the past, no more than nine abalone may be taken south of the boundary between Sonoma and Mendocino counties.
The red abalone catch is being reduced because surveys conducted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) found that red abalone populations in deeper waters are on the decline due to unfavorable environmental conditions. Over the past three years, growth of kelp — a major food source for abalone – has declined significantly. Dramatic increases in purple sea urchin populations have further reduced the food available for abalone. Details can be found at https://cdfwmarine.wordpress.com/2016/03/30/perfect-storm-decimates-kelp/.
Other regulations relative to abalone remain unchanged. Fishing for abalone will be allowed from 8 a.m. to one half-hour after sunset in waters north of San Francisco Bay. People may travel to fishing locations before 8 a.m. but may not actively search for or take any abalone before that time. The daily bag and possession limit remains at three. Parts of Fort Ross State Historical Park remain closed to the take of abalone. A map of the closed area can be found online at http://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=42101&inline=true.
Northern California’s recreational red abalone fishery is enjoyed by tens of thousands of divers along the Sonoma and Mendocino coast. A recent CDFW study estimated that approximately 31,000 abalone divers derived between $24 million and $44 million per year of recreational value from the fishery. The value of this fishery declined nearly $12 million after stricter regulations were imposed in 2014 following a harmful algal bloom that killed thousands of abalone in Sonoma County. Information about the study can be found at http://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=136510.
The changes to the abalone regulations were approved by the Fish and Game Commission at their Dec. 7 meeting, under emergency rulemaking provisions that allow fast-tracking of the approval process when there is an urgent need for regulatory change.
Media Contacts: Jerry Kashiwada, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 964-5791 Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988