Commercial Regulations: Focus on Invertebrates

CDFW is primarily responsible for management of fishery resources within state waters. The CDFW formulates general state programs and policies concerning management and conservation of fish and invertebrate resources and establishes seasons, methods and limits for harvest. In California, this is done in concert with the governor-appointed California Fish and Game Commission(opens in new tab) and in cooperation with the State legislature for those species not managed exclusively by the Commission.

The following links lead to California commercial fishing regulation information that applies to marine invertebrates:




Frequently Asked Questions - Crab

Can I sport crab for Dungeness from a commercially permitted vessel?

You can fish recreationally for Dungeness crab, but you may not combine any commercial activity with a recreational trip and must comply with all of the recreational regulations. However, if you also hold a valid CPFV license you may only fish for Dungeness crab during the commercial Dungeness crab season. In Districts 6 and 7, after the close of the commercial Dungeness crab season, vessels with both a valid CPFV and a valid Dungeness crab vessel permit may fish only under the provisions of their commercial passenger fishing vessel license until the close of the recreational season.

If I have both a Rock crab permit and a Dungeness crab permit, when can I fish?

You are prohibited from setting trap gear for 30 days prior to the pre-soak of the area you are fishing. After the authorized pre-soak time you may set gear. You may retrieve gear upon the season opening.

Can I take spare crab traps aboard my boat if I don’t use them?

No. You may possess up to six (6) derelict traps aboard your vessel. Derelict traps are traps that have been damaged, abandoned or otherwise found at sea while conducting normal fishing operations.

Can I contract out for another vessel to set my crab traps?

You may contract for another "unpermitted" vessel to deploy your traps under the authority of §8280.7 of the Fish and Game Code.

Frequently Asked Questions - Lobster

When will my trap tags be sent to me?

 You will receive your trap tags before the start of each fishing season.

How much do trap tags cost?

 The cost of the tags is incorporated into the new lobster operator permit fee.

How do I affix trap tags to my traps?

Regulations do not specify how tags are to be attached. But rather just state that a CDFW-issued trap tag must be attached to the trap and be legible.

What happens if I lose tags, or traps with tags affixed to them?

Each permit holder should take care to minimize trap loss under the new trap limit program. To cover minor tag loss during the season, permit holders should retain a portion of the initial 300 tags in reserve. For example, if a pulled trap is missing its tag, the permit holder should attach another tag and continue fishing the trap.

Can I get replacement tags?

Yes, in the event that a permit holder loses 75 or more trap tags due to events beyond his/her control, those tags can be replaced upon CDFW approval. The permittee will need to submit a link opens in new tab or windowLobster Operator Permit Catastrophic Lost Trap Tag Affidavit - DFW 1701 (PDF) for CDFW review.

Do I need to get a new set of trap tags every year?

Yes, a new set of tags will be mailed to commercial fishermen with a valid lobster operator permit before the start of each fishing season.

Can I transport traps, with no tags affixed to them, upon my vessel?

All traps possessed by a permit holder aboard a vessel are required to have a trap tag attached. This is to help facilitate enforcement efforts of a trap tag program. There is an exception that allows a commercial lobster fisherman to recover six lost or abandoned commercial lobster traps of another. These six traps may be possessed aboard a commercial lobster vessel without a trap tag attached. See section 122.2 (h), Title 14, CCR (link is above).

If I transfer my lobster operator permit to another commercial fisherman during the lobster season, will I need to pull up my traps to give the tags to the new permit holder?

Not necessarily, the new permit transfer regulation just requires that all trap tags be provided to the new permit holder once the transfer has been approved.  It is up to the current and prospective permit holders to work out how the tags are to be transferred.

What information should I keep for lost traps, and where do I send the “End of Season Spiny Lobster Trap Loss Reporting Affidavit”?

Please keep track of the tag numbers, last known CDFW fishing block, suspected reasons for loss, and approximate dates associated with any lost traps, as this information is requested on the trap loss reporting form and if you apply for replacement tags. For each lobster operator permit that you possess, you are required at the end of each season to submit the completed End of Season Spiny Lobster Trap Loss Reporting Affidavit - DFW 1020 (PDF) by April 30 to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, 3883 Ruffin Rd., San Diego, CA 92123 or by email to

What is the intent of the “End of Season Spiny Lobster Trap Loss Reporting Affidavit”?

The affidavit will help estimate the number of traps lost during a season, and provides CDFW with needed essential fisheries information to help inform future management decisions. The additional spatial information on trap loss will also be useful for informing gear recovery programs, identifying potential conflicts within the marine environment, and for the issue of marine mammal gear interactions.

I heard the recreational lobster season opener start time has changed, how about the commercial lobster season?

The recreational lobster season opener start time has changed from 6:00 a.m. of the Saturday preceding the first Wednesday in October to 6:00 p.m. of the Friday preceding that first Wednesday. However, the commercial lobster season will stay the same.

What does the revised “Daily Lobster Log” form look like, and what new information is being collected?

The updated link opens in new tab or windowDaily Lobster Log - DFW 122 (PDF) form looks very similar to the old one, except that each page now accommodates two days of fishing instead of three. The field for “nearest landmark” has been replaced with fields for GPS locations (decimal minutes) for a specific set of traps in addition to CDFW fishing block number. “Number of traps currently deployed in the water” is new information being collected and there is now room for up to four (4) landing receipt numbers on the form.

In what ways is it legal to mark my buoys?

Due to an emergency, I need to have another lobster operator permit holder pull my traps. How do I request a temporary waiver?

When there are circumstances beyond the control of the lobster permit holder that results in the inability to service their traps, CDFW may grant a temporary waiver that allows a lobster permit holder to service trap(s) of another. Fishermen applying for a waiver must submit a request in writing to CDFW’s License and Revenue Branch at or by mail to: California Department of Fish and Wildlife, License and Revenue Branch, P.O. Box 944209, Sacramento, CA 94244 describing why having another lobster permit holder service your traps and/or receivers is necessary. The waiver must include the following information: names and permit numbers of the lobster permit holder requesting the waiver and the lobster permit holder to be given permission to pull, service, or transport the traps and/or receivers; proposed time period and location to conduct operations; and trap tag number(s) or number of traps and/or receivers to be pulled, serviced or transported. CDFW may request other related information prior to granting or denying the waiver. The waiver may include conditions CDFW deems necessary. The lobster operator permit holder must have a copy of the waiver in possession when pulling, servicing, or transporting the traps and/or receivers, and may retain lobsters caught in the traps or contained in the receivers unless otherwise specified as a condition of the waiver.

Can I retrieve lost or abandoned gear belonging to others, either in-season or outside of the lobster fishing season?

In-season, lobster operator permit holders can retrieve up to six lost or derelict traps per fishing trip with a dated note (electronic or written) from the trap owner authorizing their retrieval. The note must contain the commercial fishing license identification of the trap owner. Lobsters within the retrieved traps must be released, and the lobster operator permit holder (retriever) must document the circumstances and details surrounding a retrieval. Any traps retrieved under the authorization of a note cannot be redeployed by the retriever. From 15 days after the close of the season through September 15, an unlimited number of lobster traps may be retrieved by a lobster operator permit holder or a CDFW designee and transported to shore. Lobster traps not retrieved 14 days after the close of the commercial lobster season will be considered abandoned.

Is it possible to own a non-transferable lobster operator permit as well as a transferable lobster operator permit? What happens if I already possess both and I purchase another transferable permit?

Yes, commercial fishermen are allowed to possess up to two lobster operator permits, with no restriction on the type of lobster operator permits in possession. If a transferable lobster permit is transferred to a person already in possession of a valid transferable lobster operator permit and a non-transferable lobster operator permit, the non-transferable permit is rendered null and void. That non-transferable permit and the trap tags associated with it must be immediately surrendered to CDFW’s License and Revenue Branch. Here is the new link opens in new tab or windowLobster Operator Permit Transfer Application - DFW 1702 (PDF).

Can the trap limit be changed? Increased or decreased?

Yes, the FMP lists possible management measures to be implemented in the future if needed, including adjusting the trap limit. So yes, it is possible that in the future the trap limit could be increased or decreased. However, this is not expected in the near future. 

Am I required to mark my lobster receiver?

Yes, any receiver impounding lobster must be individually buoyed and marked. Lobster receiver buoys must be clearly and distinctly marked with the lobster operator permit holder’s commercial fishing license identification number. The numbers must be at least 1.5 inches in height and drawn with a line at least 0.25 inch thick in a color that contrast with the buoy.

Marine Region (Region 7)
Regional Manager: Dr. Craig Shuman
Main Office: 20 Lower Ragsdale Drive, Suite 100, Monterey, CA  93940
Email CDFW's Marine Region  |  (831) 649-2870
Office Locations  |  Marine Blog  |  Subscribe