San Miguel Island Red Abalone Fishery Consideration Process


In December 2005, the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) adopted the Abalone Recovery and Management Plan (ARMP). The Commission at the time of ARMP adoption also directed the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to begin a fishery consideration process for a limited fishery for red abalone, Haliotis rufescens, at San Miguel Island. San Miguel Island is the northwestern most Channel Island located in the southern California Bight. CDFW began the fishery consideration process by applying a cooperative planning approach to engage interested stakeholders in the fishery consideration process. Stakeholder participation in the process included collaborative resource surveys at San Miguel Island and the formation of the Abalone Advisory Group.

Collaborative Resource Surveys

The initial step in the fishery consideration process was to try to determine the current status of the red abalone population at San Miguel Island. CDFW worked collaboratively with various constituent groups including, the California Abalone Association, UC Santa Barbara, Reef Check, the Channel Islands National Park, and the Channel Islands National Sanctuary to develop survey protocols and conduct a snap shot survey of the island. Surveys were conducted in 2006, 2007, and 2008 to gather size frequency, and population abundance (# of abalone per square meter) information to be used in the fishery consideration process.

Abalone Advisory Group

CDFW empanelled a ten member stakeholder group consisting of representatives from: Commercial fishing; Recreational diving (consumptive); Fisheries science; Government agencies; and Marine conservation/non-consumptive use. Nominations for stakeholder representatives were solicited and the Commission appointed individuals to the Abalone Advisory Group (AAG).

Early in the process a set of charges and a mission statement were developed to help guide the AAG's work and role. The elements of the AAG's charge are to provide recommendations to CDFW regarding: 1) a "total allowable catch" (TAC), 2) alternatives for allocation between recreational and commercial take, 3) alternative regulations, and 4) potential management, enforcement, and monitoring techniques. The mission of the group is, "to recommend a limited range of fully developed alternatives for managing a potential red abalone fishery at San Miguel Island to the California Department of Fish and Game. CDFW will use these management alternatives in recommendations to the California Fish and Game Commission when a red abalone fishery at San Miguel Island is considered."

To ensure neutrality and transparency in the process, CDFW employed a team of external facilitators from CONCUR Inc. and RESOLVE. The facilitation team, lead by CONCUR Inc., designed a novel collaborative process to develop a range of management options for a potential red abalone fishery.

The AAG process included a sub-process to develop a scientifically based TAC to fulfill the AAG's first charge. The AAG worked collaboratively with CDFW, and the facilitation team, to design a TAC process with a Technical Panel performing the TAC development work and a Review Committee peer reviewing the work. A Terms of Reference was produced to help guide the scientific roles of the Technical Panel and Review Committee in the effort.

The Abalone Advisory Group Report

The AAG process produced a report that was presented to the Marine Resources Committee (MRC) of the California Fish and Game Commission on February 16, 2010. The Report, "Management Options for a Potential Red Abalone Fishery on San Miguel Island (January 29, 2010)", authored by CONCUR in concert with Department staff and the AAG members, describes a suite of management options including considerations of a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for a potential abalone fishery. The Report also details the AAG's collaborative and joint fact-finding process and the population modeling effort the AAG members used to support the various options. The Report is the culmination of four years of work by the San Miguel Island AAG. Along with the report, Appendix A provides further details on the management options; Appendix B contains the summary of surveys information; Appendix C chronicles the AAG meeting outcomes throughout the process; and Appendices D through K provide details of the TAC development process.

Presentation of the report at the MRC meeting included Department staff, CONCUR, and proponents of the four proposed management options. In considering these options, AAG members and interested members of the public discussed concerns regarding the health and abundance of the abalone population on San Miguel Island, considerations of the abalone population's ability to sustain a harvest, and the opportunity to launch an innovative approach to fishery management.

At the meeting, the MRC thanked the AAG for their hard work to date. The MRC recommended that additional modeling to explore the San Miguel Island abalone stock projections over a longer time frame be completed and that Department staff provide cost estimates and a more refined analysis of implementation of each management option to the MRC. The MRC also recommended a recess of the AAG until the supplemental modeling and cost estimates have been completed. The MRC recommendations were presented to the full Commission at the March 3, 2010 meeting at which the Commission agreed and approved the recommendations of the MRC.

For more information on the AAG process and report contact Ian Taniguchi at (562) 342-7182 or email CDFW's Marine Region.