Marine Management News: March 2001

Welcome to the March 2001 edition of the Marine Management News newsletter! This issue features an article that explains the Overall Policy on Living Marine Resources. It also contains an article explaining the difference between the Fish and Game Commission and the Department of Fish and Game. You will also find numerous updates.



Overall Policy on Living Marine Resources

by Mike Weber
Marine Advisor to the Fish and Game Commission

The Marine Life Management Act's (MLMA) overriding goal is to ensure the conservation, sustainable use, and restoration of California's living marine resources. This includes the conservation of healthy and diverse marine ecosystems and living marine resources. To achieve this goal, the MLMA calls for allowing and encouraging only those activities and uses that are sustainable. Although most of the MLMA is devoted to fisheries management, it also recognizes that non-consumptive values such as aesthetic, educational, and recreational are equally important.

Unlike previous law, which focused on individual species, the MLMA recognizes that maintaining the health of marine ecosystems is important in and of itself. The MLMA also holds that maintaining the health of marine ecosystems is key to productive fisheries and non-consumptive uses of living marine resources. As in other areas of the United States and the world, restoration of depleted fisheries and damaged habitats has become a pressing need.

The words "sustainable" and "sustainability" have inspired mountains of reports and hours of discussion. The MLMA defines a sustainable fishery as one in which fish populations are allowed to replace themselves. The MLMA recognizes that populations of marine wildlife may fluctuate from year to year in response to external environmental factors, such as climate and oceanography. A sustainable fishery also ensures that marine wildlife can continue providing the "fullest possible range" of economic, social, and ecological benefits. Unlike traditional definitions of sustainability in fisheries, the MLMA's definition calls for maintaining biological diversity.

It is fruitless to try to identify exact measures for determining how sustainable individual fisheries are. The Legislature wisely decided to describe the features of a fishery management system that would likely produce sustainable fisheries. The Legislature's formulation reflected hours of discussion within the Legislature and in other settings around the world, where people had struggled to develop a new, more sustainable approach to fisheries.

The Legislature identified the features it believed would foster fisheries that can reliably provide the range of benefits that Californians seek from marine wildlife. These features include limiting bycatch, rebuilding depressed fisheries, maintaining long-term benefits rather than opting for short-term benefits, making decisions in the open, basing decisions on scientific advice and other useful information, and adapting to changing circumstances. In so many words, the Legislature said that doing these few things would lead to the kind of fisheries that Californians desire.

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What's the Difference Between the Fish and Game Commission and the Department of Fish and Game?

by Travis Tanaka
Marine Biologist

We are often asked ... "What is the difference between the Department of Fish and Game (Department) and the Fish and Game Commission (Commission)?" Many believe they are the same body. While the Department and Commission work in a partnership to ensure the long-term sustainability of California's fish and wildlife resources, they are very different and separate entities.

The Commission is a 5-member body created in the State Constitution. These members are appointed by the Governor and are subject to confirmation in the State Senate. Commission members are not full time state employees but are selected private individuals with specific expertise in fields relating to fish and wildlife. Currently, the Commission employs a staff of eight to handle everyday operations. At eleven scheduled meetings a year, the Commission addresses and takes action on issues relating to the State's fish and wildlife resources. All official actions taken are done during these regularly scheduled meetings. Actions taken or powers exerted relate to the setting of regulation, establishment of limits, methods of take, and the regulation of commercial fishing. These are some of the Commission's powers, delegated by the Legislature, which are found in the Fish and Game Code. Another primary function of the Commission is to set the policies under which the Department is managed.

The Department, on the other hand, is a different but equally important body. Approximately 2,200 people are employed by the Department and carry out its day to day operations. Unlike the Commission, the Department has only two people appointed by the Governor: the Director and one Deputy Director. While the Commission sets the regulations, the Department can only make recommendations to the Commission. The Department also provides scientific information and data to the Commission and the general public. It is also charged with implementing regulations and safeguarding the State's resources through enforcement.

While very different, the Commission and Department work together to better manage our fish and wildlife resources. Using its diverse and knowledgeable staff, the Department provides the Commission with the information and recommendations required to allow the Commission to set and make policies. Then the Department must implement and enforce these policies. This system is a highly effective means to rapidly and expertly deal with resource issues facing the State.

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Marine Protected Areas

by Paul N. Reilly
Senior Marine Biologist

The team creating a Master Plan for the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) has been conducting monthly meetings since May 2000. These internal planning meetings are designed primarily to develop an initial strategy for the implementation of the MLPA. The Team intends to have an "approach" statement available to constituents by early spring, and to conduct a mass mailing to solicit initial input prior to public meetings. Two series of public meetings are planned for July and September 2001 at 10 coastal locations from Eureka to San Diego. These will be designed to solicit input from the public on more specific parameters related to Marine Protected Areas (MPA), which the Team must provide to the Fish and Game Commission in draft form by January 2002.

The Team, presently consisting of seven marine scientists, four agency representatives, and a graduate student intern, has divided the coast into four marine regions for the purpose of creating MPA networks; the boundaries of these regions are the Oregon border, Pt. Arena, Pt. Ao Nuevo, Pt. Conception, and the Mexican border, include offshore islands, and are limited to state waters. San Miguel, Santa Rosa, and San Nicolas Islands are included with the coastal region that extends from Pt. Conception to Pt. Ao Nuevo. The Team has completed a preliminary evaluation of the 52 existing state MPAs with harvest guidelines, and will use these evaluations as a starting point from which to create alternative recommended networks.

The approach will be habitat-based, as specified in the Fish and Game Code. Maps showing resource harvest by DFG block number will serve as the primary tool to assist the Team. Since limited information is available on marine habitat from mapping studies or surveys, particularly in subtidal areas beyond 20m, these maps will serve as a proxy for habitat type and allow the Team to consider fishery-based, socio-economic implications in the initial stages of recommending alternative networks of MPAs. The Team plans an extensive public outreach process once the "approach" statement is drafted and reviewed by the Department.

The DFG representative on the team (Paul Reilly) has been attending the monthly meetings of the Channel Islands Marine Reserves Working Group as a liaison between localized and statewide MPA processes.

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Interim Nearshore Regulations

by Sandy Owens
Research Manager

The Department offered a broad range of management options for the nearshore fisheries to the Fish and Game Commission in August. Public hearings were held in September and October and regulations were adopted at the Commission's December meeting. Some regulations were designed to bring state regulations into conformity with federal regulations adopted by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), and some were meant to reduce catch of nearshore species as a cautionary measure while the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan is being developed.

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Master Plan for the MLMA

by Chuck Valle
Associate Marine Biologist

A working draft of the Master Plan for the State's fisheries has been developed. It presently contains chapters addressing the following topics:

  • Marine Fisheries Managed by the State
  • Prioritization of Fisheries
  • Process for the Preparation, Adoption and Implementation of a Fisheries Management Plan
  • Current Research and Future Research Needs
  • Constituent Involvement
  • Scientific Peer Review
  • Marine Life Management Act Policy Needs
  • Process for Periodic Review of the Master Plan

The Department's Master Plan Team (MPT) found the task of determining the fisheries most in need of a management plan to be complex, primarily due to the difficulty in prioritizing the many fisheries. The MPT explored published approaches, consulted other scientists, and received input from the Marine Life Management Act (MLMA) Evaluation Advisory Committee composed of a large range of constituents. The resultant prioritization methodology uses biological, environmental, fishery, economic, and management factors to identify the top finfishes for the next Fishery Management Plans (FMPs). The MPT is now challenged with developing a similar process to identify the top marine invertebrates and algae for FMPs.

The MPT has also determined that several "policy" issues may need an open public dialogue to clarify terminology or to provide clear guidance for future actions. The MPT has identified potentially eight unclear or undefined policy areas, and has proposed a framework approach for further developing these issues.

Selected individuals from academia, sport and commercial industries, environmental and conservation groups, and government agencies are providing a focused review of the Master Plan working group. In addition, the MLMA-Evaluation Advisory Committee met in Oakland on February 8-9 to discuss the working draft and provide guidance. The Master Plan Team will consider all suggestions and comments for a first draft of the Master Plan which will be available for public review and comment on the Department's website May 1, 2001.

For further information, please contact Marija Vojkovich at (805) 568-1246.

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Nearshore Fishery Management Plan

by Sandy Owen
Research Analyst

The fishery management plan for nearshore finfish has achieved several significant milestones in the last few months. The recreational and commercial fishery profiles have been completed and will soon be available for public review. Recreational information, from three sets of data, has been extracted, analyzed, and described. This data includes Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel (CPFVs or party boats) logbook information; Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey data from anglers on beaches, piers, private skiffs, and CPFV's; and information from a CPFV fishing survey in central and northern California. The commercial fishery data came from the Department's commercial fishery landing database. The fishery profile report provides historical perspectives of both fisheries. While the entire report will be hundreds of pages long, a much shorter executive summary will also be available.

The complete fishery management plan will include biological information on nearshore species, ecological information, social and economic characteristics of the fishery, and fishery research needs.

One of the most important components of all fishery management plans is constituent involvement. An active constituent involvement process for the nearshore fishery is being conducted. Public scoping workshops were held in February in three parts of the state to introduce the Department's approach for developing the plan and the range of management options. The complete plan will be available later this spring as will more opportunities for input into the plan's development.

For more information, please contact Sandy Owen at (562) 342-7112.

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White Seabass Management Plan

by Jonathan Ramsay
Marine Biologist

White seabass are large, highly prized fish found in waters off the coast of California and Mexico and represent the largest member of the croaker family. Individuals have been recorded in excess of 90 lbs and over five feet in length. White seabass stocks off California are recovering from the low population levels of the mid to late 1900s. Management tools such as seasons, size and bag limits, and gear provisions allow for moderate harvest levels while protecting young white seabass and spawning adults, promoting recovery.

A White Seabass Fishery Management Plan (WSFMP) was first prepared as a pilot fishery management plan by the Department in cooperation with academic and Federal fisheries scientists, consultants, and fishery constituents. The WSFMP was prepared as an environmental document as directed by Assembly Bill 2121 and in conformance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). A final WSFMP was adopted by the Fish and Game Commission (Commission) on March 8, 1996, but regulations to implement the WSFMP were not adopted at that time due to disagreement over management authority.

With the passage of the Marine Life Management Act (MLMA) in 1998, California granted broader regulatory authority to the Commission, and declared that the WSFMP shall remain in effect until amended pursuant to the MLMA. The MLMA directs that the WSFMP be brought into conformance with the MLMA on or before January 1, 2002. The MLMA further directs that fisheries management for all fisheries be conducted on a sustainable basis utilizing fishery management plans (FMPs). The MLMA specifies the content of FMPs, encourages management utilizing the best available information, supports research to obtain essential fisheries information, and promotes cooperation and collaboration with fisheries participants and other constituents.

The WSFMP utilizes a framework plan approach to managing recreational and commercial fisheries through a process of data collection, analysis, and review by a Department white seabass management team, an external scientific advisory panel and a constituent advisory committee. Management changes stem from proposals brought before the Commission by the Department, advisory groups, or the public. The Commission will then review and consider all proposals before adopting any new management changes.

The amended WSFMP will go before the Fish and Game Commission at its April meeting in Monterey, at which time a 45-day public comment period will commence. The Commission will also take comments on management of the white seabass resource and the FMP at the May and June meetings as well.

For more information on the WSFMP, please contact Mary Larson at (562) 342-7186.

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Spot Prawn Observer Program

by Paul N. Reilly
Senior Marine Biologist

Regulations adopted by the Fish and Game Commission in February 2000 required a valid spot prawn observer stamp for all commercial fishing vessels landing spot prawns from July 2000 through March 2001. The fee was $250 for each trap vessel and ranged from $250 to $1,000 for each trawl vessel based on prior landings. All funds are used to place observers (DFG Scientific Aids) on board commercial spot prawn vessels to obtain information on bycatch (i.e., species caught incidental to spot prawns) and to process the data collected. As of January 15, the program has received $6,250 from 25 trap vessels and $13,750 from 23 trawl vessels.

The first on board observations occurred in August 2000. Since then observers have completed 12 single-day trips on trap vessels and spent 13 days on board trawl vessels, documenting the bycatch in 104 trap strings and 37 trawl tows. Trap observations have occurred from waters off San Diego to Monterey, while trawl observations have occurred from waters off Ventura to Monterey. Data have not yet been analyzed due to the anticipation of additional observations.

Although the observer fee will not be required for license year 2001-2002, the Marine Region intends to continue observations during that time if all funds have not been expended by March 31 (a likely prospect), the end of the 2000-01 license year. Unexpended funds at present would provide for approximately 35 observer days for trap vessels and 65 observer days for trawl vessels.

For more information, please contact Paul Reilly at (831) 649-2879.

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Squid Fishery Management

by Marci Yaremko
Associate Marine Biologist

Based on input from the Squid Fishery Advisory Committee (SFAC), Squid Research and Scientific Committee (SRSC), and Department staff, a suite of squid fishery management options were developed and are being considered for recommendation in a report due to the State Legislature April 1, 2001.

The report, which will provide information on the squid fishery, status of the squid resource and recommendations for management, is the result of three years of work conducted by the Department and independent contractors focused on developing science-based management strategies for the fishery. Ultimately, the recommendations and information presented in the report will be assimilated into a Market Squid Fishery Management Plan, which is slated for completion in 2002.

Public hearings were held on January 26 and 27 for interested parties to provide feedback to the Department on the options developed and to allow for suggestions for additional or different options not yet included in the report. Additional written or verbal comments were considered for inclusion if submitted by February 9th. Based on this input, the Department will make decisions on which of the options to support by the end of February.

Among the options considered, the topic of greatest interest to the audience was whether limited entry is appropriate or necessary for the squid fishery. Currently, there are 197 vessels permitted to fish squid, yet only a fleet of approximately 75 boats make up the core fleet.

Specific components of the limited entry plan including: what an ideal fleet capacity goal may be, what the initial issuance criteria should be based upon, and what provisions should permits be allowed to be transferred under were the subject of many comments.

Additional new management measures which may face the squid fleet in the future include daily trip limits, seasonal landing caps and additional area closures. The permit fee structure, continuation of weekend closures, light and shielding regulations, advisory committee structure, and a management re-evaluation schedule were other topics addressed in the report and were of interest at the public hearings.

For more information, please contact Marci Yaremko at (858) 546-7150.

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Get On Our Mailing List

by Ed Roberts
Marine Biologist

In order to continue involving our constituents in the management process, Marine Region staff are developing a database to contain current contact information for people interested in receiving items such as this newsletter, notices of upcoming events, opportunities for public comment, and proposed regulation changes. While it currently contains several thousand entries (if you received this newsletter by mail, you're already in the database), we'd like to expand and broaden the spectrum of individuals and organizations it reaches. For anyone interested in learning about or becoming more involved in helping us manage California's marine resources, please sign up online. For folks without Internet access, please contact Edgar Roberts at (562) 342-7199.

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