Red Abalone FMP - Phase 1 Workshops

Red Abalone Fishery Management Plan
September-October 2014

Comments Summary

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and Fish and Game Commission (FGC) conducted four workshops during September and October to receive public input regarding the California abalone fishery. The evening workshops were held in Sacramento, Fort Bragg, Santa Rosa, and San Rafael. The purpose was to give stakeholders an opportunity to express their ideas about how abalone management could be improved, and to allow them to provide their vision of a successful abalone fishery. Constituent involvement is essential for effective fishery management as well as a requirement for developing fishery management plans (FMPs) under the Marine Life Management Act.

At the workshops, participants engaged CDFW and FGC staff in dialogue to explore new ideas that could be considered as CDFW begins to prepare the FMP. Although participants were encouraged to suggest any concepts related to abalone management, it became apparent that most comments fell into one of eight general categories:

  • Fishery Management
  • Enforcement
  • Regulations
  • Fishery Science
  • Funding
  • Socioeconomics
  • Education and Outreach
  • Population Recovery

Several common themes were expressed among the participants at the various venues:

  • Participants expressed concern that survey work currently being conducted by CDFW may not be properly tracking the health of the overall population, and it was recommended that alternatives be explored to attain a better measurement of the overall health of the stock.
  • Participants suggested that management could be improved by setting regulations on a smaller geographic scale to better reflect the uneven abundance of the stock from place to place, recognizing that the cost of data collection to support finer scale management could be significant.
  • Participants recommended that CDFW explore ways to work with the public to obtain the necessary data in a more cost-effective manner.
  • Participants expressed a preference for retaining or increasing fishing opportunity at the expense of ensuring high fishing success.
  • Participants suggested that CDFW explore innovative ideas about how to cut back on effort when catches require a reduction for sustainability reasons.
  • Participants expressed concern about how to appropriately reopen closed areas as they begin to show signs of recovery.
  • Participants suggested that CDFW increase the focus on education and enforcement of the regulations.
  • Participants felt there is a need for better socioeconomic information to feed into fishery management considerations.

Many other thoughtful concepts and ideas were discussed. The full summary from all the workshops can be viewed below.

CDFW will use the workshop input to help identify focus questions for a broad-based angler survey. The intent of an angler survey is to gain input from a wider cross-section of stakeholders interested in the abalone fishery. The survey will reach out to abalone report card holders to obtain their views on abalone management. At this early stage in the FMP process, CDFW is interested in constituent ideas about how to better manage this fishery. As we continue to move forward in drafting the FMP, these factors will be analyzed so that the trade-offs will be better understood for the various management options under consideration.

Full Summary of Workshop Comments

Comments captured from all four Phase I public workshops are listed below in broad topical categories. The bold capitalized acronym at the end of each comment signifies the location where the comment was made:

SAC: Sacramento, September 18
MEN: Mendocino, September 19
SRO: Santa Rosa, October 1
SRA: San Rafael, October 2

Click on the category below to access a list of comments. Similar comments heard at multiple workshops have been grouped together.

Fishery Management

  • Concerns over use of index sites:
    • Concern that index sites are not representative of the entire fishery and that fishery management is being directed by the changes occurring at overfished, popular, public access locations and not incorporating sites that have less fishing pressure locations. SRO
    • Incorporate index sites that are not open to public access. SRO
    • Concern that the current index sites are too large and that these sites could be smaller and more fine-scaled. SRO
    • Consider health of the stocks outside the index sites. Don't want large areas shut down due to localized depletions at an index site or sites, and should explore ways to get away from the current index site method. SAC
    • Should the fishery be managed based on total density across the population range, as opposed to using only the index sites ("canary in the coalmine" model)? SAC
  • Pay attention to effort shift whenever there is a closure area or change to the regulations (i.e., marine protected areas (MPAs), Fort Ross closure, etc.). SRO
  • Concern whether stakeholders will be involved in the process of determining what constitutes a sustainable abalone fishery. SRO
  • Concern over maintaining excellent quality of fishery driving out participants. SRO
  • Current approach used for regional restrictions in Sonoma County (9 total abalone and three trips if possession limit attained) and the south was too constraining to make participation worthwhile. SAC
  • Use of zone or area management strategies:
    • Zoning with zone-specific tags to allow for abalone fishing in total open access zones or limited fishing zones. SAC
    • Consider managing index sites (high-use sites) separately from other areas that are not as heavily used so density triggers don't only pertain to index sites. SAC
    • Determine the appropriate size and scale for a management area. Justify the current index site sizes for use as a management tool. SAC
    • Reduce fishing pressure at high-use and public access sites by limiting the number of abalone tags, which would be similar to a deer tag system. This could also be incorporated at less popular/lower density sites (i.e. North Coast Humboldt and Del Norte county sites). SRO
  • South Humboldt abalone divers would prefer a higher quality fishery experience (2 fish bag limit), out of concern for impact of 3 fish bag limit in their lower density population. MEN
  • Avoid losing fishing opportunity:
    • No reduction of season length. MEN
    • Loss of fishing areas (closed areas) is a concern due to compaction of effort; desire to spread out fishing effort to more area. MEN
      • Already lost area to MPAs. Losing more area to density-based site closures (e.g., Sonoma Coast, Fort Ross) is leading to even more compaction of fishing effort into smaller areas.
      • Belief that low densities of legal abalone will self-regulate fishing effort on site (i.e., law of diminishing returns – when fishing becomes unsatisfying, they will naturally redirect fishing effort to other sites). Thus, site-specific density-driven closures or limitations are not needed.
      • Others cited that there is loyalty to specific sites and familiarity is very important; therefore, people will keep fishing their favorite areas even if their fishery successes go down.
        • Number of trips is more important to some people, provided the access is local. SAC
        • Increased fishing opportunity is more important than ensuring fishing success or high catch per unit effort (CPUE). Opposition to the precaution in managing this fishery. Akin to "destroying the fishery to save it". MEN
  • Locals and visitors have different fishery priorities to be considered. MEN


  • Improving enforcement capability:
    • Direct more money from abalone card sales to law enforcement costs to monitor abalone poaching activities, and also increase enforcement staff, which could potentially include other law enforcement entities. SRO
    • Suggest exploring, enhancing, or improving enforcement strategy by taking advantage of technology. SRO
    • The CDFW CalTIP hotline (phone number to report poaching activities) does not seem to be readily available for receiving public reports. SRO
    • Should go after "bad guys" instead of punishing "good guys" who adhere to fishery regulations. SRO
    • Increase the cost of abalone card to increase funds to support enforcement. SRO
    • Suggest enforcement engage junior prosecutors (DAs) more since they are the core people who receive these cases to prosecute. SRO
  • Concern that adding complexity to regulations will increase costs to enforce these regulations. SRA
  • Concern that increased complexity is further driving poaching activity. SRA


  • Sell tags in increments of total annual limit. Let the user decide how to specify where to fish and how to spend money on different price tags. SAC
  • Flexibility to select where to fish (e.g., Sonoma versus Mendocino), and allow for area regulations that make removals more challenging in areas needing more conservation (e.g., higher size limit, lower bag limit, start time, limit number of people allowed, etc.); trade-offs play a role here. SAC
  • Suggest opening select areas to a limited number of anglers if the area fits a profile or criteria (e.g., new access to a previously inaccessible and thus pristine area, or recovering population but within the precautionary density zone). MEN
  • Proposed change of size limit: SRA
    • Increase size limit to protect more reproductive individuals.
    • Suggested to eliminate regulatory language that allows fishers to remove an abalone before measuring it to see if it is legal size.
    • Suggested that fishers take the first 3 abalone taken to reduce any incidental mortality.
  • Does not want responsible fishers to be punished by regulations meant to thwart poaching. SRA
  • Require fishers to watch an instructional video prior to allowing them to purchase an abalone card and/or insert a link to this instructional video on abalone card. SRA
  • Suggested closing the month of November when enforcement staff is required inland to oversee other hunting activities. SRA
  • Suggested that two types of abalone cards be printed to accommodate different members of the fishery: trophy hunters that are possibly more local than people who travel long distances to take abalone over a several day period. SRA
  • Questions about the impact/benefits of the 8 AM start time MEN
    • What was the reduction in number of abalone report card purchases as a result of new 8 AM start time? Concerns over reduced revenue due to the loss of rock pickers because of the regulation.
    • Safety concern raised (member of public, stated outside plenary).
  • Explore options for limiting number of fishers. SRA

Fishery Management Science

  • Concerns that sites are not chosen in a randomized method, and also determined by popularity, which is not scientifically based. SRO
  • Concern over methods used to determine baseline density (6,600 abalone per hectare), and that CDFW should reevaluate this methodology. SRO
  • Worry that the environmental impacts of the fishery might be misconstrued by environmentalists and further complicate management. SRA
  • Are there ways to estimate the entire abalone population within the fishery to understand what we are managing, and then determine what a sustainable fishery is? SRA
  • Suggested that the public assist CDFW with collecting data to facilitate management; "citizen scientists". MEN, SAC, SRO, SRA
    • Can public provide input by way of observations and digital recordings on abalone findings to CDFW biologists acting as "citizen scientists"? Could a database be developed to record this input? SRO
    • Density surveys are expensive; CDFW should figure out alternate solutions to completing surveys using outside organizations (NGOs and/or research institutions). SRO
    • Could fishers and volunteers contribute to a database that records their observations, and/or recordings to alleviate CDFW costs? SRA
    • Use citizen scientists to generate more data? MEN
    • Want data from outside index sites as well as more robust data inside index sites. SAC, MEN
    • Citizen scientists may help fulfill Ocean Science Trust (OST) recommendation in density peer review. MEN
  • What is CDFW's preferred method of assessing stock? SAC
  • Density considerations SAC:
    • Can we revisit the density criteria and density goals during FMP?
    • How do we manage in areas where natural density is lower than the density targets (i.e., Density criteria for management) in the Abalone Recovery and Management Plan (ARMP)?
  • What is the role of OST and science team in this process? SAC
    • Exploring different methods than density? Application of CPUE and other fishery-dependent trends?
  • Willing to contribute more data on their cards if it will enhance management precision. SAC
  • Consider MPAs within the FMP – can we get "credit" for the MPAs (e.g., reduce precaution); consider effects of MPAs on stock and fishery, and potential tolerance for more risk in light of MPAs providing a buffer against risk. SAC
  • Abalone cards need more specific landing sites. SAC
  • Many science/population dynamics inquiries MEN
    • Role of urchin fishing on improved recruitment of abalone
  • Concern that intertidal density counts are not being used. MEN

Fish Management Funding

  • Increasing the fees of a card could accommodate costs for CDFW to manage fishery (density surveys and enforcement), but would have negative consequences if fewer people purchase abalone cards due to higher fees. SRO
  • Concern that any change to regulations will affect future abalone card sales. SRA
  • Funding – interest in stable management funding that isn't dependent on the funding derived from tags, given that the number of tags sold varies. SAC
  • Belief that maintaining the perception of a good quality fishery will maintain abalone card sales. SRA
  • Wanted to know the current budget to manage the fishery: science and enforcement costs. SRA
  • Desire for lower cost abalone cards to be able to afford taking their kids. Maybe a card with fewer abs (e.g., 6) for a lower price, for folks that take one or two trips a year? SRO

Socioeconomics of the Fishery

  • Concern that increased regulations will hurt the local tourist economy. SRO
  • Would like a socioeconomic evaluation and to assess the cultural and economic value of the fishery to better inform management decisions. SRA MEN

Education and Outreach

  • Local community and general public could be better informed over the state of the abalone fishery. SRA
    • Post-season annual newsletter with the season's highlights, trends, and ideas of what CDFW is considering for the next season regarding potential regulation changes. This would allow for the public to engage early.
  • Suggestion that a video showing fishers how to measure an abalone with their gauge prior to removal would inform the public of responsible abalone fishing behavior. SRA
  • Recommendation for a user satisfaction survey. SAC


  • A lot of interest in revisiting recovery.
    • Desire to veer away from survey-intensive approaches to management, and to opening areas currently closed. SAC
    • Explore alternate ways to re-open closed areas, such as size limits, or incremental (staged) re-opening. SAC
      • Interest in staged re-opening (alternatives that allow slow reintroduction of fishing). This applies to fishery objectives: willing to tolerate higher risk that recovery will be slowed, stalled, or reversed.
  • What is the current status of abalone population south of San Francisco and why are surveys not being conducted here? SRA