Pismo clams

CDFW Reminds the Public Not to Disturb Pismo Clams on Central Coast Beaches

With the re-opening of several State Parks beaches in San Luis Obispo County, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reminds visitors to avoid disturbing small Pismo clams and rebury any small clams they encounter.

“We have not seen a population boom of this magnitude in decades,” said CDFW Marine Environmental Scientist Derek Stein. “We are hopeful that these young clams could increase the chances of a recreational fishery returning to the central coast.”

Pismo clams were once prolific along central coast beaches, supporting a vibrant recreational fishery. Due to overharvest, illegal removals and other environmental conditions, the fishery has not rebounded to historical levels. Although it is currently legal to harvest clams recreationally, almost no legal-sized clams have been found in recent years.

Pismo clams are frequently encountered by people walking along the beaches or digging in the sand. CDFW encourages the public to leave the clams in the sand to help the population expand. Any disturbed clams should be immediately reburied to increase the chance of survival. Beachgoers may also notice interesting round formations in clam beds. These formations are created by the clams as they expel sand from their siphons and are not caused by other human disturbances. However, the tidal flat environment is sensitive and beachgoers should do their best to avoid disturbing clam beds.

Pismo clams can be harvested with a valid fishing license. Anglers may retain 10 Pismo clams per day if the clams meet the minimum size of 5 inches in greatest diameter north of the San Luis Obispo/Monterey county line, and 4½ inches south of the county line. All undersized clams must be immediately reburied in the area they were found. In Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, the season for Pismo clams starts Sept. 1 and ends after April 30. In all other counties, the season is open year-round. No commercial harvest is permitted.

With the help of the public we can all protect this once abundant and iconic central coast species. 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:
Derek Stein, CDFW Marine Region, (805) 242-6726
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

California spiny lobster

Recreational Spiny Lobster Season to Open Saturday, Oct. 3

California’s recreational spiny lobster season is set to kick off Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020 at 6 a.m., continuing through March 17, 2021. California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) marine biologists are hopeful that this could be a bountiful year for divers and hoop netters.

“Scientists have observed that lobsters produce more offspring in El Niño years, and it takes five to seven years for lobsters to reach legal size,” said CDFW Marine Environmental Scientist Jenny Hofmeister. “There was a major El Niño event that started in 2014, so we might see an abundance of legal-sized bugs this year!”

Season-opening weekend is one of the busiest times on the water, as thousands of lobster divers and hoop netters flock to their favorite lobstering spot. Before heading out to the water, be sure you know all the current regulations.

“No one can attempt to take lobster prior to 6 a.m. on Oct. 3. This includes baiting your hoop net or grabbing lobsters with your hand prior to 6 a.m.,” said CDFW Lt. Eric Kord. “With a sunrise at around 6:45 a.m. on the morning of the opener, that means there will be a very short window of time to legally take lobster in the dark, when most lobsters are out.”

A lobster report card is required for all persons fishing for lobster, and individuals 16 years or older must have a valid sport fishing license and ocean enhancement stamp. When finished fishing, changing locations or changing gear type, you must immediately record the number of lobsters kept from that location. Last season, close to 46,600 lobster trips were reported with an average take of about two lobster kept per trip. This average has remained relatively stable since 2008. Santa Catalina Island and San Diego Bay were popular locations for catching lobster with 15.5 percent and 13.3 percent of the total reported recreational catch, respectively.

Lobster report cards must be returned or submitted online to CDFW at the end of each season by April 30, regardless of whether the card was used, or whether any lobsters were caught. If you fill up a lobster report card, you can report it to CDFW and purchase another. Failure to report catch, or lack thereof, from all lobster report cards by the reporting deadline will result in a nonreporting fee of $21.60 when a lobster report card is purchased next season.

Lobster report cards can be purchased online. Report cards cannot be printed at home, so CDFW recommends allowing 15 days for the report card to arrive in the mail. Alternatively, lobster report cards can be purchased at participating sporting goods stores and other approved license sales agents.

The daily lobster bag and possession limit is seven. Any lobster kept must be at least 3 ¼ inches long measured in a straight line on the midline of the back from the rear edge of the eye socket to the rear edge of the body shell. Everyone taking lobster must have a measuring device capable of accurately determining legal length. A diagram illustrating this can be found on CDFW’s website.

Lobster can only be taken with hoop nets or by hand. No other device (such as spears or poles) may be used. No more than five hoop nets may be possessed by a person when taking spiny lobster or crab from a boat, and no more than 10 hoop nets may be possessed aboard a vessel, regardless of how many people are onboard. When using hoop nets on piers, jetties or other shore-based structures, only two hoop nets may be used.

When taking lobster, please consult the Ocean Sport Fishing Interactive Web Map for the California coastline to ensure you are not fishing in prohibited waters. “It is extremely important that divers and hoop netters know the location and regulations for each Marine Protected Area (MPA) near where they will be fishing. Unfortunately, every year we issue numerous citations to people taking lobster, both divers and hoop netters alike, for unlawful take in an MPA,” said Lt. Kord.

The complete spiny lobster regulations are contained in the 2020-2021 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet, found on CDFW’s website and wherever fishing licenses are sold. A lobster fishing FAQ and other biological information specific to California’s spiny lobster can also be found on the CDFW website.

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Media Contacts:
Tom Mason, CDFW Marine Region, (562) 417-2791
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

Pacific halibut being measured on a boat

Recreational Pacific Halibut Fishery to End Aug. 11

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announces the recreational Pacific halibut fishery will close Tuesday, Aug. 11 at 11:59 p.m. for the remainder of 2020. Based on the latest catch projections, CDFW expects the 2020 California recreational quota of 39,000 pounds has been taken.

The quota amount is determined annually through an international process and is largely driven by results from the annual stock assessment conducted by the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC). CDFW tracks the progress of the fishery each year to ensure catch amounts do not exceed the California quota. CDFW field staff sample public launch ramps and charter boat landings to monitor catches of Pacific halibut throughout the season, along with other marine sportfish species.

During the last week of July and beginning of August, CDFW field staff recorded a record high number of Pacific halibut being caught.

“Reports from the public also confirmed an extremely hot Pacific halibut bite during the second half of July, with some anglers catching their limits by 8 a.m.,” said Marci Yaremko, environmental program manager with CDFW. “The significant number of fish caught during this time is unprecedented in California’s fishery, and the quota was reached very quickly.”

Using this information, CDFW conferred with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the IPHC and the Pacific Fishery Management Council to review projected catch amounts and to determine the 2020 quota had been attained. Formal authority to close the fishery resides with NMFS, which took action to close the fishery following consultation with CDFW.

Pacific halibut are a different species from California halibut, and occupy a large geographic range, from the Aleutian Islands eastward through Alaska to British Columbia and throughout ocean waters of the Pacific Northwest. Along the West Coast, they are commonly found as far south as Point Arena in Mendocino County.

For current information about the Pacific halibut fishery, science or management, please check one of the following resources:

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Media Contacts:
Marci Yaremko, CDFW Marine Region, (858) 442-3004

Melanie Parker, CDFW Marine Region, (831) 649-2814
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

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