Process Introduction & Comment Meetings

Oxnard and Carlsbad, April 18 & 19, 2012

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife held two public meetings to share information about the Spiny Lobster Fishery Management Plan process in April, 2012. The meetings, which were held in Oxnard and Carlsbad, provided the public and interested organizations with an opportunity to learn more about CDFW's plans to develop a comprehensive Spiny Lobster Fishery Management Plan. This page contains information shared at the meeting, as well as public comments and answers to questions.

Introductory Talk and Slide Show

This introduction to the Lobster FMP process was presented at both Oxnard and Carslbad by Kristine Barsky, Senior Marine Biologist and Project Lead, and by Kai Lampson, Marine Biologist and Assistant for the Lobster Fishery Management Plan process.

Home slide - CA Spiny Lobster
Slide - people signing paperwork
Welcome slide - Kristine Barsky
Kristine Barsky at podium

Good evening, and thank you for coming to the first public meeting for the development of the Spiny Lobster Fishery Management Plan! I'm Kristine Barsky, a senior marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and I am coordinating the development of the plan for CDFW. Our meeting tonight is intended to introduce you to what goes into a fishery management plan, or "FMP", and how it's developed. We will answer your questions, and listen to your thoughts about what should be considered in the plan.

The Marine Life Management Act of 1998 requires the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to develop fishery management plans for all of California's fisheries. The Act specifies what needs to be included in the plan, and the way the plan should be developed. Kai Lampson will be discussing those details after me.

When you leave tonight, we hope you'll be feeling positive about this opportunity to develop a roadmap for the future management of the spiny lobster resource in California.

CDFW has already completed an initial lobster stock assessment, which provides some of the information necessary to make sound choices about the lobster fisheries in southern California. The good news is that the current estimated harvest of lobster appears to be sustainable.

Many of you are probably thinking, "Well, if it's not broken, don't mess with it." The FMP process is our opportunity to take a close, hard look at how both the recreational and commercial fisheries are being managed, and see if anything should be improved or changed. If possible, the management plan will also provide guidance for how to respond to possible events in the future, such as a major drop in lobster harvest success, or domoic acid toxin occurring more frequently in the viscera of lobster, or a radical shift in commercial market demand. We all know that the world around us is constantly changing and becoming more interconnected by the day; the lobster resource and its fisheries are similarly being affected. However, with your help, we can develop a FMP that will provide us with the information & tools needed to respond to whatever the future might bring. The FMP process does not necessarily mean that our current management will change dramatically; but it will provide us with a process to consider how to manage better.

The development of a lobster FMP is a multi-year process. The current plan has the draft FMP being presented to the California Fish and Game Commission for adoption at the beginning of 2015. Any regulation changes that might be needed to improve management or implement the plan would also be considered at that time.

The lobster FMP is being put together by a small, core staff of Department biologists, including myself, Kai Lampson, Doug Neilson and Travis Buck. Tom Barnes is the manager for state-managed species. We are being assisted by other CDFW staff as needed and several contractors.

CDFW is a partner with the Ocean Protection Council, which is charged with coordinating the activities of state agencies that are involved in the protection and conservation of ocean ecosystems. The Ocean Protection Council has provided the Department with grant funds to contract out some of the tasks associated with the FMP under CDFW's guidance. The California Wildlife Foundation is a non-profit organization that was established to support programs of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and they are acting as CDFW's fund manager for the Ocean Protection Council grant.

One of the major tasks that we've contracted for is facilitation. The public process is critically important in the development of an FMP, and we want to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to participate, so that everyone can support the plan. The facilitators are here to make sure that everyone's voice is heard, and that the process remains objective.

CDFW's "agenda" is that we produce the best management roadmap (FMP) possible in a fair and transparent manner. Our management objective is to develop a plan that allows for the sustainable harvest of lobster into the future. We intend to take all the comments and suggestions we receive and consider them as we develop the FMP, so it represents the best information and science available.

CDFW felt that the creation of a Lobster Advisory Committee with representatives from all the critical constituencies would improve the FMP process. The Committee will provide us with advice, feedback, and recommendations regarding the issues and actions that need to be taken during the development of a FMP. We wanted to keep the committee small and balanced to allow for in-depth conversations. The Committee members will be committing their time and energy to thoroughly reviewing the information that is contained in the FMP.

CDFW has created a lobster FMP website to provide proceedings from all public meetings and meetings of the Lobster Advisory Committee to those that are interested. We intend to post draft chapters on the website as they're created. If you don't have access to a computer, we'll mail you the information.

There is no magic template for public involvement. If we're missing something, or there is another method, please let us know. The success of this FMP will not only ensure the sustainability of the lobster resource, but serve as a guide for producing management plans for other species. Without public input and support we won't be successful. Thank you for participating here tonight; giving up you personal time for a meeting is a reflection of your interest in California's lobster resource and fisheries. Thank you for being our valued partners in the FMP process!

PDF version of Introductory Talk

PDF version of Kai Lampson's Planning Process talk

Questions and Comments

April 18, 2012 - Oxnard Public Meeting

Note: These questions and comments are taken directly from the Oxnard Public Meeting, and have been summarized. They are not a verbatim transcript of what was said.

PDF version of this summary of questions and comments

I am a recreational fisherman. I fish from Oxnard to south of Orange County, and I have noticed a decrease in catchable legal lobsters. Is there something the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) can do to address this decline or does this have to wait until 2015?

Does CDFW have a website where questions can be posted?

Frequently asked questions and answers can be found on the Spiny Lobster FMP website. If you have a question you would like to ask, please email Travis Buck.

What are the plans for fishery independent monitoring?

We have California Recreational Fisheries Survey (CRFS) samplers who are doing fishery dependent monitoring at docks, launch ramps, piers and beaches who are in the room with us this evening. There is the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) study through Scripps Institution of Oceanography, lead by Dr. Tony Koslow, Research Professor and Director of CalCOFI. They are looking at 60 years of water samples. They have collected lobster larvae (phyllosoma) from the water samples, the abundance, and how this corresponds to changes in the ocean over time. We also will be looking at what is the best way to monitor the fishery in the FMP process.

Does CDFW ever get zeros on the report cards? Maybe people who are not having success fishing are not turning in their cards.

Yes, we do get report cards with zeros. It is important for us to distinguish between people who are unsuccessful fishing and people who did not fish at all, even though they purchased a lobster report card. CDFW sells around 30,000 lobster report cards annually. A lot of these recreational lobster fishermen are not successful.

Are commercial fishermen required to write down how many lobsters they take?

Yes, this is one of the required fields on the commercial lobster log. Logbooks record the daily catch: the number of sublegal lobster released, legal lobster retained, the number of traps pulled, and their soak time. In addition, the pull date, CDFW catch block, and closest landmark are also recorded. Landing weights are recorded on the landing receipt, and the receipt's serial number is recorded on the logbook page.

We would support a slot limit, but would CDFW be able to support such a change by getting new monitoring equipment? Would the scientist tell us if slot limits would make a difference?

There is a debate about whether a slot limit would help the lobster resource, and we will look at this during the FMP process.

Would it help to know the sex of the lobster we take and to provide that information on the report card?

It may be hard for some people to identify the sex of the lobster so I do not know if we could depend on the accuracy of the information we would receive.

Are lobsters from Mexico feeding into the fishery and then when they go into the cold water column are they dying? Has anyone done any genetic studies?

There is probably some exchange between the two countries, as lobster spend seven to ten months in the open ocean as larvae drifting in the plankton. There are some studies following drift and channel currents. There is likely some local recruitment going on, too. I am not aware of a scientific paper that answers the question. Some limited genetic work has been done.

Do you have any results you can show us as to how successful the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are so far?

Matt Kay has clearly seen a size increase inside the reserves in the northern Channel Islands. Additionally, based on tagging, he has seen lobster move outside the MPA and spill over into fishing grounds; but you do not see a "classic fishing the line" pattern. This may be because there are not many habitat corridors right outside the MPAs he studied.

Other than the size increase in the northern Channel Island MPAs, are you seeing any increase in lobster population?

He did see catch increase. Matt set traps inside and outside of three MPAs, and the catch was 4 - 8 times higher within the MPAs than outside of them. Many of the MPAs are in prime habitat. We do not know if there will be more offspring as a result of the MPAs, or if they will increase the overall population, mainly because we do not know if the offspring will survive. There is the potential for the overall population to increase, but we do not have scientific proof yet.

Informal Comments

  • As the Lobster Fishery Management Plan (FMP) is developed, the CDFW and the Lobster Advisory Committee need to be sensitive to taking money out of commercial fishermen's pockets
  • CDFW needs to increase the return rate for Spiny Lobster Report Cards.
  • CDFW is developing a program so that people will soon have the option of submitting their report card data online as well as mailing in their report card at the end of the year.
  • The Fish and Game Commission has decided to wait a couple of years before using the stick to enforce report card returns. We encourage people to be patient while we work to bring people into compliance before bringing out the stick.
  • There is a regulation that if you do not return your Spiny Lobster Report Card by a certain date you lose your fishing license. (Note: the regulation actually says you may be restricted from obtaining a report card the following year or subject to an additional fee for the card.) This law should be enforced.
  • The one constant about the sea is change. In response to the person who noticed a decrease in catchable legal lobsters, even established catch sites can change from day to day or week to week. I have not noticed a decrease in the lobster population.
  • The commercial lobster fishery is in really good shape. It just needs a little fine tuning and it will be an excellent fishery that will get better as the years go by. A capacity goal should have been determined before the fishery went transferable. The effort on lobster, commercial and sport, is increasing at an alarming rate. Add to the increased effort, the loss of fishing area of 25% from Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), and the potential for a viable and profitable lobster fishery will start to sharply decrease. To address this, I provide the following recommendations for commercial:
    • Decrease the number of permit holders
    • Choose a control date of April 18, 2012
    • Create a permit buyback program
    • Seek funding to support buyback program
    • Charge an additional fee on top of lobster license to help fund buyback program
    • Stop transferability of permits until a capacity goal is determined
    • Seek a goal that allows for almost all permit holders to be hard workers
    For recreational:
    • Lower the number of permits and have more efficient fishermen
    • Limit number of participants
    • A hoop net should be the traditional net not the modern design, which is a trap
    • Current recreational bag limit is fine; however, it might be worth revisiting total in possession, in freezer at home, and some type of annual limit
  • In many places in the 138-page December 2011 assessment of the California Spiny Lobster report the words estimated, extrapolated and assumed constantly appear making it very hard for everyone to truly understand what is actually happening with the lobster stock assessment. I recommend the following changes to the process to increase the credibility of any future stock assessment or the Lobster FMP:
    • Change the report card to being on a calendar year to coincide with the lobster season. Make it available for purchase September 1st and have it cover the entire lobster season dates. The cards must then be returned by April 15th. This would allow the data to be available in a timelier manner.
    • The new report cards have a bar code that identifies each fisherman. Fishermen who return their lobster card(s) should be able to purchase one the following year. Those who do not return their cards should not be able to purchase a card for one year. After the one year penalty time, they can buy a new lobster card.
    • We need a slot limit from 3¼" to 5¼" or whatever a five pound lobster is.
  • In other marine studies the fishing community has cried foul because of lack of scientific data. In the case of the spiny lobsters the recreational fishing community is actually causing the lack of scientific data by not turning in their lobster cards.
  • We need biologists to advise us on slot limits and tell us who the best breeders are.
  • As a recreational fisherman it should be my right to fish for lobster. CDFW should balance it so that recreational and commercial fisherman have equal access.
  • I do not dive anymore, and now I rely on commercial fisherman for my lobster. If I pay them I get a lobster for sure.
  • I support having a Report Card that corresponds to the lobster season and there should be a penalty for those who do not return their cards.
  • It is not worth thinking about a slot limit. In the reserves there will be larger lobsters and with the MPAs you are reducing the effort so the size frequency is going to increase.
  • During the FMP process, we need to keep in mind the closing of the areas due to the MPAs and how this has impacted fishermen.
  • The water has definitely been cold the last two years and I have not seen a single lobster this year that is even close to molting.
  • The FMP requires us to be able to monitor the fishery. Currently, the funds do not exist to appropriately monitor the Spiny Lobster Fishery. We need to identify a suitable and sustainable funding mechanism to pay for ongoing monitoring of the fishery and for research. I suggest these funding possibilities:
    • Endowment or capital pool
    • Add fee to commercial permit or transfer of permit which would be dedicated to monitoring
    • Funding should not grant funded
  • Concerned that OPC is driving a political process
  • Commercial Port sampling in every port
  • We need to do a proper stock assessment that includes port sampling data
  • It is shocking that there were 30,000 Lobster Report cards sold last year. The commercial fishermen have to file a daily log and they keep good records. The recreational fishery is data poor. We need to improve this. Changing the reporting period of the report card to coincide with the lobster season is a good idea. It might be useful for people reporting online to be able to do so monthly. I recommend limiting the number of Lobster Report Cards sold. People who do not return their card should get put on a waiting list or into a lottery system. I have to fish twice as many traps to catch the same amount of lobster. If we are going to decrease the amount of effort it should be on the commercial and the recreational end.
  • Set-up port representatives to support advisory committee
  • Get together a joint fishery and scientific stock assessment review that is going to analyze the current stock assessment and address the problems it identifies in the data collection system
  • Close all fishing one mile from any harbor entrance
  • Add additional columns to the report card to record number of shorts released, number of males and females kept, and the sizes kept: legal, medium, and trophy
  • Consider creating a higher minimum size limit of 3¾"
  • Use lobster card funds for enhancement
  • Clarify what a hoop net is
  • Advisory committee member's phone numbers should not be publicly shared
  • Encourage report card returns
  • Labeling hoop nets to identify the owner who is fishing it
  • Problem with unattended gear and animosity of hoop netters towards divers
  • Slot limit (minimum and maximum sizes)
  • Commercial trapping in near-shore diving areas should have depth requirements
  • Set-up a sport and commercial habitat committee to evaluate marine map data from MLPA process
  • Increase minimum distance between traps
  • Penalize those that don't return report card by denying card for next year
  • Develop communication with wardens about technical design of trap limits as harvest control. Utilize experience with Dungeness crab fisheries in Oregon and Washington
  • Set an upper size limit, the equivalent of an 8-9 lb. lobster
  • Remaining fishing areas have more concentrated effort due to protected areas
  • There should be a minimum distance between adjacent traps
  • The lobster season opening date should be flexible. If the lobster are still soft delay the season. Mexico floods the commercial market right before our season opens. A later season would be better financially.
  • Use a slot limit. A slot limit is successfully used in West Australia
  • No berried females should be taken by anyone
  • Don't make regulations that CDFW can't enforce
  • Get rid of latent commercial permits by making those permittees pay more if they don't fish
  • Buyers and commercial fishermen should be assessed $1,000 annually for lobster research
  • There should be a monetary incentive for returning your Report Card. Your price for a Report Card stays the same the next year if you return your card. Use a carrot, not the stick.
  • Don't limit Report Card sales or commercial fishermen more
  • Trap limits are a good idea
  • Some commercial trappers fish the line in the La Jolla Reserve. The buoy is outside, but the trap is inside
  • Analyze the number of traps a commercial fisherman can actually pull
  • Fishermen should be responsible for abandoned traps
  • Should regulate the mesh size of hoop nets and conical nets
  • Reduce the number of hoop nets per boat and per person
  • Raise the size limit to 3½" carapace length and the bag limit to 10 lobster per day
  • Close lobster season on January 1.
  • Mandate that female lobster are catch and release
  • Do not allow hoop netting in harbors
  • Don't allow commercial fishing any closer than one mile from harbor entrances
  • Use the funds from Lobster Report cards proactively, for raising lobsters and enhancement. Don't use the funds just for data entry.
  • The recreational bag limit is okay, but limit the yearly take or total catch overall
  • Since the majority of lobster are caught before January, shorten the season
  • If you don't return your Report Card you're not eligible to purchase one the next year
  • Make the report card correspond to lobster season, not annual
  • Establish a slot limit

 April 19, 2012 - Carlsbad Public Meeting

Note: These questions and comments are taken directly from the Carlsbad Public Meeting, and have been summarized. They are not a verbatim transcript of what was said.

View a printer-friendly version of this summary of questions and comments (PDF)

I know the goal of the FMP is to enhance the lobster fishery, but what kind of regulations are you considering?

CDFW does not have a predetermined plan. The fishery is not necessarily broken, but it may need improvement. In the commercial fishery, we have heard concerns about a lot of gear in the water and transferability. We have not decided on anything. One of the things our researchers are doing is looking at lobster fisheries all over the world and seeing how they are managed and if those techniques would work here. The FMP must contain the information outlined in the Marine Life Management Act (MLMA), but we are going to listen to you, the constituents, to determine the issues and concerns that need to be discussed and considered.

Who is the OPC and why do we have to take money from them?

The Ocean Protection Council (OPC) coordinates ocean protection actions in California. They are an oversight agency that coordinates what government agencies do with regard to the ocean. Lobster was identified as a high priority for a FMP by CDFW, but we realized we did not have a budget to support the effort. Reaching out to OPC for supplemental funding bolstered our existing resources. We are pleased with the partnership and what it is allowing us to do, and we hope this can be a model for the development of future FMPs.

Is there a separate meeting for non-governmental organizations (NGOs), a closed door meeting?

There are two public meetings being held with the same content presented at each. The first one was in Oxnard on April 18th. There are no separate meetings being held, closed door or otherwise.

I am a focused partner, but with you sitting up there and me sitting back here I do not feel like this is a partnership. You are framing the issues and setting the agenda we are not doing it together in partnership.

Our facilitation team is currently conducting a telephone assessment with key people inside the lobster industry and out. They are asking these individuals for their input, concerns, interests and opinions about the spiny lobster fishery, FMP, and the Lobster Advisory Committee. Hopefully this addresses your concerns.

What is the process for getting on the Lobster Advisory Committee (LAC)?

Go to the Lobster FMP website online to apply. We asked several questions: Why do you want to be on the committee? What group do you want to represent? What other advisory groups or issue groups have you participated in? We will look at all the applications and pick the best ones. We may also be conducting focus groups on specific issues that need to be further developed.

Will CDFW select the members of the LAC?

Yes the Marine Region staff will select the LAC. It is our responsibility. You cannot be on the committee if you are a poacher. We want people who represent their constituency group, not their personal agenda. If you have ideas about how to do this let us know.

We have been filling out report cards. Are the results of the report card data available?

Yes, lobster report card data can be found on the Lobster FMP website.

Why was lobster picked as the species for the fishery management planning (FMP) process?

As an agency we went through a great deal of work, going through the Master plan. Admittedly, it is old. We looked at all the fisheries, and which ones would be good candidates. Some fisheries were mandated to have plans in the MLMA. Afterwards, it was left to CDFW. During internal prioritizations, lobster kept coming up as number one. Some of the considerations were that it is an important fishery, state managed (as opposed to federally managed), and of fairly significant size. It was also helpful that is was a Southern California fishery. This makes it easier to tackle (and less expensive) than a statewide species.

Where does OPC get their money?

The funds that are going to this process are public bond funds specifically from Proposition 84: The Clean Water, Parks and Coastal Protection Act, which the tax payers adopted in 2006.

Why are we in such a rush to conduct a process that has such important and far reaching impacts?

We want to have the meetings during the off season, so we waited until the season closed to begin and we only have the window before October to finish the first phase of public and Lobster Advisory Committee (LAC) meetings.

When I sign-up for the LAC, what am I signing up for? Is my travel compensated? When are the meetings?

The meetings are during the day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mileage is reimbursed at the state rate. We do have some limitations in what we can provide. We cannot give you anything a state employee cannot receive.

Informal Comments

  • Dr. Tony Koslow: The CalCOFI program has been monitoring the waters from Point Conception to San Diego since 1951. They conduct a large scale survey four times a year. They have obtained funding for a paper on a time series of California spiny lobster phyllosoma (= larval lobster), looking at abundance and how it relates to the changing ocean conditions. The assessments that have been done provide the opportunity to update fishery independent data for the species.
  • I called about the 30 recreational fishermen and they saw this as some new regulation that the government was trying to ram down their throats. There is a lot of fear out there and people do not know what the FMP actually is. There is a need for more outreach and the more transparency the better. My board and club will put out as much information as possible to explain what an FMP is, what the process and the purpose is. The lack of information out there needs to be addressed.
  • I support more regulations for lobster fishing. Population is the number one pressure on the earth. The increase of people and their impact on the fishery calls for an increase in regulations.
  • I am concerned with the lack of data from the recreational fishery and the 14% return rate of lobster cards. How do we tap into the volunteers to obtain more data (i.e.: Surfriders)? A lot of people are diving and fishing, can we tap into this resource to improve data collection?
  • A lot of people's fears are based on the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) process. A lot of people were unhappy with the MLPA process. It is viewed as a compromise, and many people were very dissatisfied with the outcome. I want to see something that everyone is happy with for the FMP process. There is an MPA right off the coast from here, what will happen to that?
  • This is very reminiscent of the first MLPA meeting. Transparency is not the most important part of the process. I do not want to feel heard, I want to be heard. I do not want to feel like my comments fell into a black hole. I want to know that my comments were heard.
  • I am interested in an upper size limit, a slot limit. These lobsters would be too large to fit into a commercial fisherman’s trap. Lobsters that are 75 years old put out a lot more offspring, many more than a normal size lobster. How do people feel about a slot limit?
  • When you create your LAC make sure you have representation from the various regions: Santa Barbara/Ventura counties, Orange County and San Diego. Fishing in these regions requires different equipment, and the conditions are extremely different as well. This has also become an export market. Make sure information gets to that sector so they can take part in the process.
  • Matt Kay: It is okay that the CDFW does not know what they want included in the FMP (aside from what is required) right now. It is not okay for them to be in this same place in six months or a year from now. They need some input. Some of the conversations I am having with fisherman in Santa Barbara is "What do you want your fishery to look like?" If the answer is, "What it looks like know," that is a valid answer. These questions help us find a starting point.
  • I am not sure if CDFW is selecting the members of the LAC without outside input suggests a partnership. I would prefer to have the opportunity to nominate someone from my group. If you have the best people with the most support from their constituents on the LAC it would make your process more viable. It would give you more buy-in.