Fighting for space in Santa Barbara's coastal zone

For over a decade the commercial fishing community has had its eye on one of the last pieces of undeveloped land near the harbor, a city owned property at 125 S. Calle Cesar Chavez. This land would make for an ideal boat yard and gear storage area, to prepare for the inevitable loss of the current boat yard managed by CFSB at 31 Garden St, the Wright Family property, which will surely one day be developed into a Funk zone hipster destination.

The property is 2.4 acres, made up of 4 parcels, and big enough to think creatively about additional components that could enhance the infrastructure, culture and identity of Santa Barbara’s maritime community, like a boat repair shop and welder (long since pushed out into the far reaches of Goleta), and potential revenue generators like a recreational boat and gear livery.

Uni diver Jeff Maassen has been a leading force in visioning a maritime-themed community development project for this site, nicknamed the 'Fisherman's Village'  -  a working marine collective of entrepreneurs, artisans, maritime educators, boaters, fishers and other ocean enthusiasts to be a hub for a diverse and thriving ocean economy in Santa Barbara.

Concept by Jonathan Gonzalez, 2010

Concept by Jonathan Gonzalez, 2010


Add in educational displays on fishing history, event space for seafood cooking classes and a market and cafe, and this site could be Santa Barbara’s own unique take on Seattle’s Pike Place market, drawing in both locals and tourists for an authentic and interactive maritime experience.

Prior to the State’s victory in the RDA divestment ruling of 2012 that caused the current sale of this property, Santa Barbara city officials expressed serious support for leasing the site for the Fisherman's Village, in an arrangement similar to the MOXI museum project.  No other land near the waterfront is available or feasible for this community project.

Now, more than 5 years later, the City has appraised 125 S. Calle Cesar Chavez at $5 million and announced a sealed-bid auction that closes June 7th.

Given the impending sale, we are looking at all options for promoting some form of ocean-dependent use of this property into the future (see our proposal).

Our hope is to find potential partners or investors interested in taking on this property and helping us to solidify a plan for developing some version of mixed-use that includes the Fisherman's Village concept, or at the least, some boat yard space.  We hear the City may buy it (from themselves!) for future Water Resource needs (e.g., a 'potable-reuse' water recycling facility), and to preserve some space for community development, e.g., expansion of Casa Esperanza and our maritime use proposal.

One strategy is to request a delay in the bid deadline to buy more time, but we are unclear how to go about that.  I will be trying to get meetings with all of our city council members about this over the next week...

UPDATE 5.16: We have gotten great interest and support from every one of our City Council members and the Mayor. The City is moving forward with pursuing a bid focused on using the site for water storage and future water recycling facility. However, they indicated that they will discuss how to include mechanisms to help the fishing community with their space needs at this site also. If the City buys this property and if there is any square footage left over after the Water Resources Department's needs are met, I am optimistic the fishing community will be given a chance to make use of it. Either way, I am optimistic the City will partner with us to strategize diverse options for developing maritime infrastructure in the Coastal Zone. Big thanks to Jeff Maassen, John Colgate, Ken Oplinger and Chris Voss for their time and effort on this issue!

If you have any leads, ideas or ways to help out, please contact me!!! (kim@cfsb.info).

Commenting: If comments box doesn't appear below, click on the blog post title and then scroll to the bottom of the post.

A proposal for a Spiny Lobster Commission

Dear Spiny Lobster Fishermen,

As you are hopefully now aware, Chris Voss has recently initiated the proposal of a bill in the State Assembly, named AB944. If passed, this bill would authorize the participants of the spiny lobster fishery to hold a referendum vote that would establish a Lobster Commission.

As the executive director of Commercial Fishermen of Santa Barbara, I have been assisting with this process. I am writing to you today to detail the process we’ve gone through and hopefully answer most questions about what a lobster commission is, why we have pursued it and who has been involved. I apologize for the length of this letter!

I have written a sign on letter of support for the bill. We would like to collect signatures from lobster fishermen for this letter. If you are willing to add your name to the sign on letter, please email me (kim@cfsb.info) by Thursday evening (April 13th)  with your name and either the name of your vessel or your permit number.

The legislative digest of the bill is on the web here: https://legiscan.com/CA/text/AB944/2017, and the actual language of the current version of the bill is here (what’s online is out of date). The Fact Sheet sent out last week is here, with a couple updates.

Although it might seem like a lot has happened without much notification to the fleet, the reality is that its been touch and go until recently. We apologize if it hasn’t seemed like a transparent process. In fact, we are very interested in maintaining transparency and ultimately, motivating better participation and cooperation among lobster fishery participants.

Your involvement in this process moving forward would be greatly appreciated. One way to help now is to solicit more letters of support from, e.g., processors, chambers of commerce, city and county offices, and anyone else with an interest in spiny lobster. I can help with providing talking points for letters.

If after reading what's below and attached you have remaining questions, comments or would like clarifications, please email me and/or Chris Voss. Chris is traveling so I may be quicker at responding, although he may have more answers than I do.

Thank you so much for your time and attention to this important issue.

Best,

Kim Selkoe- Kim@cfsb.info

 

Q&A

Why support this bill?

·      The power of a Commission to make contact with all permit holders and to hold elections and referendums will serve as a critical means to improve fleet-wide communication streams and motivate better engagement in proactive and cooperative decisionmaking from a larger fraction of the fishery participants.

·      Strong representation, and a unified voice for advocacy is needed on multiple fronts, including:

o   The new Domoic Acid monitoring program that was haphazardly implemented last fall by California Depts. of Public Health and Fish & Wildlife. This monitoring program is likely here to stay and there may be a window of opportunity over the next couple years to negotiate on its structure, such as the process and timing of sample collection, compensation, transparency and ways to reduce market disruptions. A Commission could organize funding for key research, such as the rate at which DA is purged from lobster. 

o   Advocacy is also critical on NMFS’s listing of the fishery as category II, an action which may lead to new observer coverage requirements and marine mammal authorizations for every vessel before fishing operations continue in the fall. 

o   Dealing with the increase in whale entanglements and the public relations surrounding it.

·      We see this organizational capacity and channels of communication as a step toward meaningful co-management of our resource.

How does this impact the CLTFA?

·      The CLTFA does not need to be replaced by the Commission, instead there will be increased capacity beyond what just one or the other could provide. The decision whether to merge the two should be made in the year or two after the bill is passed. Having a paid executive and a fund to spend wisely may motivate a higher quality and quantity of fishery engagement than the CLTFA has been able to support.

What will happen if the bill is passed?

·      There will be ample time to come together after the bill is passed to have more discussion about the exact priorities of the Commission and the size of the assessment on landings.

What about the landing fee increase?

·      Although it might seem difficult to consider adding a self-assessment now given the proposed increase to landing fees, its looking promising that the Fish and Game Commission will realistically increase fees ~80% instead of the proposed ~1000%. Better representation on issues such as this one is exactly what the Lobster Commission would help with. If somehow the fees are raised astronomically, the assessment could ramp up slowly or with a delay after the Commission is formed.

How can a Commission be terminated?

·      CA Dept. of Food & Ag will terminate a commission directly if it receives a petition supported by 51% of the affected producers or those who account for 51% of the volume.

How did this come about?

·      After months of contemplating the idea of creating a commission, Chris Voss reached out to staffers for Oxnard’s new Assembymember, Monique Limón  in February of 2017 to ask about sponsoring a Commission bill. This timing had to do with finding out that there was a February deadline for introducing bills, and knowing that Limon was new to the Assembly and so would have room to sponsor something new.

Who has been involved in this process?

·      As a favor, Tom Dempsey at the Nature Conservancy provided the introduction to Limon’s staffer, Jimmy Wittrock. Jimmy confirmed within just 3 days that Limon was enthusiastic about sponsoring the bill. No doubt seeing the collaboration between an NGO and industry helped Limon feel confident that this was a win-win situation for various stakeholders and move forward quickly.

·      We have checked in with Tom Dempsey a couple times during this process, but he hasn’t really played any further role.

·      Chris and I spoke with David Goldenberg, Director of the Urchin Commission, to get his advice on what else to change to learn from the Urchin Commission’s experiences.

·      Mike Conroy has also been consulted a couple times on the process and provided edits to the fact sheet.

·      The Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce, which has been supporting CFSB, has also been briefed about this bill and will be providing a letter of support.

Where did the bill language come from?

·       In late February I worked on creating the draft bill by simply taking the Urchin Commission bill and subbing in spiny lobster, taking out the role of handlers on the Commission, and adjusting the Commission composition to reflect the regional representation of the lobster fleet.

·      David Goldenberg made edits to the bill language concerning selection of alternates and reaching a quorum based on his experiences.

·      An attorney, George Soares, who has worked on Commission bills for many other California agricultural Commissions, was recommended by David Goldenberg. Mr. Soares made a few small changes to reflect the most up to date boilerplate language. Chris Voss covered the attorney’s fee.

·      Last week I went through the language in the bill with Limon’s legal council. We edited out synonyms, clarified definitions and laid out a Commission structure that is made up of 7 individuals, a minimum that Mr. Soares strongly advised. 

Ventura Shellfish Enterprise & CFSB's letter of support

Dear CFSB Members,

The next public engagement workshop about the proposed Ventura Shellfish Enterprise is Tuesday April 11 from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Four Points Sheraton in Ventura Harbor. Please attend if you can.

This workshop will focus on opportunities to minimize the risks of environmental impacts (including cumulative impacts or carrying capacity of the region for the project’s planned production) and maximize the benefits of offshore shellfish production through management and design of grower regulations.

See more by clickingmore information under ‘Upcoming workshops’ at http://www.venturashellfishenterprise.com/#NewsEvents

The board of CFSB sent a letter of support for the Ventura Shellfish Enterprise to the Ventura Harbor Commission. We are supportive of this venture because we want to see more folks who will add to our constituency as watermen and women, and we think it is good for our coastal economy to see a new form of California seafood on the market. 

We also made suggestions to support the long term success of the endeavor, stressing the need for continued transparency and a focus on local control, co-management and accountability. We propose that priority is given to working with leasees who have a demonstrated track record of commercial fishing or mariculture, live locally, and have sound business plans that avoid overcapitalization. We hope to continue to be involved in guiding the process as it takes shape.

See the full letter here

Thank you,

Kim Selkoe,

Executive Director, CFSB

Letters of concern about the >1000% Landing Fee increase in the State's budget.

Governor Jerry Brown requested that the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife make up its budget shortfall. Because landing fees haven't been raised at all in over a decade, the plan includes a huge jump in landing fees that will generate $12.4 million dollars for the Department.

From Mike Conroy:

"The DFW is running at a significant deficit. By all accounts they take in 75M and spend 95M. To close that gap, the Governor (and by extension the Director of the DFW) has proposed increasing landing taxes (which are soon to be called landing fees)."

On Tuesday in Sacramento, fishermen submitted written and oral testimony in response to this proposal.

CFSB sent a letter  to Sacramento. An excerpt:

"locally caught seafood cannot compete in the marketplace with the overwhelming supply of cheaper imports that often come from questionable environmental, labor and legal practices. A large increase in the dockside cost of California seafood will only serve to reduce our market share relative to imports and further destabilize the future existence of our sustainable fisheries and the working waterfronts they support." 

Here is Fort Bragg's letter, kindly shared by Capt. Scott Hockett. An excerpt:

"A fishing business that operates closer to the border will likely harvest inside California's management lands and land in the neighboring state of Oregon. When a local fishing port community loses highly dependent landings from fisheries... the port's ability to provide needed shoreside infrastructure... is reduced exponentially..."

Please take a moment to add your voice or signature to this campaign! Lobster fishermen in the CLTFA should contact Mike Conroy to add their name (mike@wecofm.com). You can also email me at kim@cfsb.info with comments.

David Goldenberg of the Sea Urchin Marketing Commission attended the Tuesday meeting in Sacramento and wrote up this account. An excerpt:

"The Committee recognized the severity of the situation and held off making a decision.  They asked for more detail from the Director.  I suspect they will pass a moderate increase as the Department is truly lacking funding... Several enviro groups said they participated in the Department's Vision Blue Ribbon panel and they said that the Department needs to tax groups that have not been taxed before...namely conservation groups.  It remains to be seen how this gets resolved."

Assemblyman Jim Wood and Senator Mike McGuire are also voicing strong concern to their colleagues over the huge jump in fees. Read more about that here.

Notes from our meeting with BOEM's Task Force to site new Wind Farms in our waters.

BOEM's map of potential wind power with marine sanctuary zones in turquoise. The first area of commercial interest is the SW corner of the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary where the orange hotspot is.

BOEM's map of potential wind power with marine sanctuary zones in turquoise. The first area of commercial interest is the SW corner of the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary where the orange hotspot is.

On March 15 2017 5:30pm in the Community Room, CFSB had a meeting between Fisheries reps and some members of the BOEM California Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force.

Below are notes by Kim Selkoe about the meeting *On 4/6/17 I updated these notes with corrections and additions aftervetting them for factual accuracy by BOEM,

Fisheries Reps in attendance: Chris Voss, Kim Selkoe, Bernard Friedman, Brian Colgate, Max Shearer, Laszlo Nemeth, Craig Brooker,

Task Force Reps in attendance: Donna Schroeder (BOEM), Chris Potter (Ocean Protection Council), Eli Harland (California Energy Commission), Eric Wilkins (CA Department of Fish and Wildlife), Susan Zaleski (BOEM), Janet Thomson (Kearns & West facilitator), Zach Barr (Kearns & West note taker)

The meeting started with some facts and figures by the Task Force:

Chris Potter, State Natural Resources Agency and Ocean Protection Council:

·         Governor Brown created a target to get 50% of California’s energy from renewables by 2030 and a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2030

·         In Oct. 2016 in Sacramento, at the BOEM California Task Force meeting, a process was announced for planning offshore renewables.

·         First phase is focused on data gathering and outreach

Susan Zaleski, BOEM:

Process outline:

·         Data gathered on how and where to plan floating wind installations will be presented to the Task Force on July 13th (in San Luis Obispo)

·         After that, the next phase will be to put out a call for lease applications for floating wind installations.

·         The earliest lease sale notice would be end of 2018, with an auction mid-2019.

·         There is then a 5 yr period granted to the lessee to do surveys to inform a construction operations plan to be submitted ~2024.

·         Earliest date of construction on the water would be 2026.

·         Approximately 30 separate agencies have permitting authority.

Current situation:

·         BOEM received 1 application for floating wind (from Trident). That triggered BOEM to look for competitive interest from other companies. One was found, and that triggered the competitive leasing process and planning for offshore wind began with the October 2016 Task Force Meeting.

o   Note that CFSB speculates that if one or both of these corporations change their minds, the process will likely evaporate until new interest is re-established.

·         Because of the depth, a floating installation is necessary.

BOEM’s ask:

·         BOEM’s goal at this point is to get input from fishermen about available data that could be helpful for planning for offshore floating wind.

o   We noted that congestion at the adjacent ports due to the wind farm’s supply boats may interfere with fisheries uses of docks.

·         Cal Fish and Wildlife presented a very coarse map of fishing pressure and solicited feedback.

o   We suggest BOEM uses VMS data instead to get better data and focus on fixed gear groundfish data especially.

Discussion Q &A:

Where will the energy ultimately be used?

·         Depending on where the installation is interconnected to the transmission grid, some or all of the energy may be consumed on a local system before excess energy moves across the State’s larger transmission grid to load centers.

Who will pay for the power generated?

·         Any load-serving entity, such as the 3 investor owned utility companies in CA would likely be the buyers of the power from the installations. They would pass on the costs to their customers.

Where is renewable energy coming from now?

·         Installations of large desert solar installations have grown rapidly in recent years and along with land based wind energy are the two main sources of CA renewable energy.

·         Rooftop solar is also spreading quickly and is ideal because there is no cost to transfer energy to the point of use.

·         Wind can be complementary to solar because in some places it tends to be available when the sun is not shining.

·         Storage of solar energy is becoming more efficient and cost–effective but the technology has yet to reach scale.

What is the State’s interest and role in this project?

·         There will be impacts under state jurisdiction. Also, the state is engaging with BOEM early in the planning process to inform future planning and decision making.  

·         Investors make the plan and take on all the risk

·         Similar to the role the state plays in issuing fishing licenses. They are not involved in the business aspects of how to make a profit or a good design.

·         The companies pursuing floating wind may have proprietary info they’ve gathered to inform their planning, just like fishermen have guarded knowledge of fishing grounds

What happens if an installation is put in and then fails or causes damage?

· Before a company can request or bid on a lease, BOEM must determine they are financially qualified. Part of the leasing process also includes the demonstration by the lessee of financial assurances (e.g. bonds) before installations are permitted so costs would be covered in case the structures would need removal. For instance, BOEM has required over $1 billion in bonds to cover decommissioning from the oil and gas leasing program.

·         Not all of the past telecom cables had a bond system and this was problematic.

Future meetings on the horizon:

·         April 13th an evening public meeting in SLO

·         May or June, another meeting in Santa Barbara

What is the size of an installation?

·         Trident is looking at a ~100 square mile area with an intent to develop ~55 square miles that would have maybe 100 turbines. Each turbine is 60-70 stories and puts out 6-8 megawatts. 1 megawatt = power for ~750 homes. So total, estimating power for 450,000 to 600,000 homes during peak output (note: wind energy is variable and will not always operate at peak output so 450,000 homes powered by the installation is on the far upper range of the load the project would serve)  The Trident proposal is the first and at this point only proposal for a large-scale floating wind installation off of the coast of California and it is likely that competing companies may use different technologies.

Why aren’t Sanctuary waters being considered?

·         BOEM has no jurisdiction in Sanctuaries. So if an installation was pursued in a Sanctuary, they would have no involvement. Bill Douros at the National Marine Sanctuary West Coast Office, has stated in public meetings that if a wind energy installation were to be sited in a future Sanctuary location, it would be grandfathered in when the Sanctuary went into effect.

What sort of plan is there for offsetting the costs and inconvenience to stakeholders to participate in this process?

·         Every port is unique, so please suggest what would work for you.

Other relevant background info:

·         An area of interest that has a good wind resource is the SE corner of the Monterey Bay NMS. It is an L-shaped zone that borders the Sanctuary.

·         Santa Rosa flats, south of Santa Rosa Island, is also an area of interest. It is attractive because models show that the development of a wind farm may be economically feasible there.

·         Floating wind turbines have been installed in several countries internationally but have not yet been installed in the U.S.

·         Ben Ruttenberg, Crow White, and Ryan Walter, professors at Cal Poly SLO has received a research contract from BOEM to

o   delineate feasible offshore renewable energy scenarios along the central coast of California

o   identify information and resources needed to evaluate and predict the impacts of potential proposals for offshore energy

o   model potential energy generation from different wind farm build out scenarios in different locations offshore central/southern California.

 Link to more information on this study:

https://www.boem.gov/pc-16-01/

Below are websites for the BOEM California offshore wind planning process:

BOEM: www.boem.gov/california

Data Basin: https://caoffshorewind.databasin.org/

 

Letter to Coast Guard

12.18.16

Regarding: Docket ID: USCG-2012-0025

Agency: Coast Guard (USCG)

Parent Agency: Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

Commercial Fishing Vessels- Implementation of 2010 and 2012 Legislation

To Whom it may concern,

·       As a commercial fisherman for over fifty years I have grave concerns about the practicality, viability, and financial burden imposed by the section of the regulation regarding survival craft.  I am a sea urchin (su) diver who operates a 26-foot inboard/outboard vessel.  My boat is typical of the 100 boats in the fleet, however there are boats as big as 40 feet and as small as 16 feet.  Harvesting su is  space exhaustive, therefore the boats in the fleet are specific in their design.  Basically, a surfboard with a motor.  Most if not all boats have enough flotation built into the hull to keep the boats afloat.

·       Requiring the diverse su fleet to have a device on board that keeps one out of the water is well meaning, but poorly informed and likely unsafe.  The su fleet is unique to the commercial fleet.  These boats are designed to have little windage due to needing to safely anchor during diving operations.  As a result of the low silhouette and small cabin there is no safe space to stow the considered device.  These devices are normally stowed on top of cabins.  The su fleet has no room on cabin tops and will likely make the vessel top heavy and prone to capsizing.  Su are a dangerous load to carry as it is, for obvious reasons, without adding to the windage and stability of the boats.

·       Financially the burden on the small su fishery will be onerous.  Beyond the initial cost there will be inspections.  These inspections will force the fleet to have two devices.  One on the boat and one being inspected or in transit from being inspected.  This is a financial obligation that that is not commensurate with the supposed increase in safety.  

·       Finally, the su fleet respect and understand the wishes of those who write these regulations to make all fisheries safe.  Unfortunately, the broad-brush approach, while convenient, is uninformed, unwise and ultimately is contrary to the stated goal.  Fishermen are always aware of safety.  If it is watching knuckles while turning a wrench, stepping off the boat onto the dock to tightening the packing gland.  Safety is number one and if the su fleet thought that the life raft regulation would increase safety we would be endorsers

I respectfully request that the exemption for life rafts that the su fleet has received,  has served the goal of safety well.  The old saying “If it works, don’t fix it” is most appropriate.

Respectfully,

Michael Harrington

Executive Committee

Commercial Fishermen of Santa Barbara, Inc.

6 Harbor Way

Santa Barbara, CA 93109

Cfsb.info

Domoic Acid Testing in Lobster: current status and future challenges

It is not surprising that many lobster fishermen are scratching their heads about the new domoic acid testing strategy and response that California agencies are pursuing (the Agencies involved are: CA Departments of Fish and Wildlife, Public Health and The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment). Some fishermen have guessed that maybe the Agencies have decided to alternate rock crab and lobster testing each year, and this is a ‘lobster year’. It might seem that way, but no.  Because the Agencies have very abruptly changed their testing rational, and possible responses, over the past year without much clear communication about it, we can only guess at the logic and rules guiding their actions. Here’s what we know so far.

Because rock crab is open year round, testing for DA in rock crab in a region or county normally occurs only when bivalves from CDPH’s shellfish sampling program in the region reports levels of DA above 10 ppm. (Note there can be other prompts to test DA in rock crab, such as during pre-season testing for Dungeness crab[i], marine mammal strandings, bird die-offs, and academic field monitoring results[ii].) Because no shellfish samples in the Santa Barbara Channel have exceed 10 ppm this fall, rock crab samples here have not been tested. (Note that rock crab samples from Morro Bay and farther north were tested for DA in August and September, and levels were moderate).

It would seem logical that lobster would be tested under the same circumstances as rock crab, and the agencies have indicated that indeed, any time rock crab are being tested for DA, lobster samples will also be tested from now on. However, we haven’t yet seen this situation come to pass yet, thanks to the low levels of DA in the seawater and shellfish samples taken over the past few months.

Rock crab fisheries are open year round, whereas lobster season is only open from early October to March.  Now that lobster will be routinely included in the Agencies’ DA monitoring, pre-season testing in lobster was initiated for the first time, akin to pre-season testing in Dungeness. The likely thinking was that it would be ‘cleaner’ for DFW to delay the season opener than shut it down within days or weeks of the opener if DA is found to be a problem in lobster this Fall.

DFW collected lobster before the season opening from Catalina Island, Long Beach Breakwall, Santa Barbara Coast, San Diego and Santa Cruz Island for DA testing (however, not all these results were posted before the opener).  They continued collecting and testing samples after the opener too - as of October 14, the most recently posted test results[iii], samples were collected post-opener from Santa Cruz Island and two blocks from the Port Hueneme area. It is unclear presently whether the (delayed) ‘pre-season’ testing of DA in lobster is finished for the time being, or if more sample results will be released.

In total, DA test results of 8 samples have been released by CDPH to date (a sample typically consists of a set of 6 animals, but have ranged 3-7 animals). Three of the 8 samples showed all animals had non-detectable levels of DA, and one sample had very low levels. We were told in September by the Agencies that areas that test clean will not be retested until and unless there is some reason to do so.  However, 4 samples were not 100% ‘clean’ – each showed a single animal which exceeded the 20 ppm action level (these ranged between 27-45 ppm DA in the viscera).  

The agencies have not released any statement about what levels and how many animals it takes to trigger a regulatory response. We heard from the Agencies in September that when a sample doesn’t test 100% clean, they plan to take a second sample from the same fishing block. If that second sample comes back 100% clean, no action will be taken and the area will not continue to be re-tested.  To date, only one of the four ‘dirty’ areas has been retested – Block 708 at Santa Cruz Island – and that second test was clean.

Agency reps have indicated that if one of these areas did not test 100% clean in the follow-up testing an appropriate management response would be then determined, with an aim to keep the area under advisory or closure small in geographic scope.  Note that advisories may come with evisceration order[iv], but a fishery closure isn’t expected unless and until the level of DA in the meat of the lobster exceeds 20 ppm.  Anecdotal information suggests DA levels in the viscera would have to be near 200 ppm to result in levels near 20 ppm in the meat. So far, only lobster viscera has been tested this season.

Moving Forward

We can be grateful that this inaugural year of monitoring DA in lobster has been free of any fishery disruptions so far, thanks to the favorable ocean conditions. However, moving forward there are several grey areas to be problem-solved, preferably sooner rather than later – and certainly before we get hit with the first DA advisory and go into crisis mode.

As stated above, high levels of DA in bivalves triggers testing of DA in rock crab (as do a number of other factors). Currently, there are no bivalve testing sites in much of the So Cal Bight (e.g., Los Angeles and all of the Islands); therefore, unless the Agencies start to collect bivalves from these locations, high levels of DA in bivalves cannot be used as a prompt to initiate routine testing in lobster from many fishing grounds. Note also that in past years, CDPH felt that testing of rock crab south of the Ventura county line was unwarranted because ‘DA doesn’t occur that far south.’ However, in the case of lobster this year, they have chosen to test throughout Southern California. This choice was probably based on a number of reasons including fairness to the fleet, and building a dataset for future comparisons if harmful algal blooms intensify in future years as some are predicting[v]. Consequently, we don’t yet know if in future years lobster will continue to be tested throughout Southern California while rock crab is tested only North of Ventura, or the two sampling programs will be made consistent.

We are unsure whether pre-season testing of lobster is the new normal, or if in future years, pre-season testing will only occur if other indicators suggest DA levels could be elevated. DFW has been planning to collect lobster samples for DA testing this fall for nearly a year now, but currently there are no formal policies, procedures and/or protocols in place for monitoring DA in lobster. The Agencies do acknowledge that industry is under no legal obligation to provide samples and to do so would have created an undue financial burden to participating harvesters as there is no mechanism currently in place to reimburse fishermen for their time and/or expenses. This will be a key action item for us as we look toward future seasons. In particular, fishermen have expressed concern that they be shown a pre-season sampling plan in advance that demonstrates fairness and parity to the fleet and fishing grounds, and outlines sound regulatory responses.  DFW could work through designated leaders approved by the fleet to source samples from the fleet, instead of hand-picking individual fishermen directly to represent the entire fleet without clear rationale.  Agency support for the verification of sample methods and results by an independent testing laboratory would also put many fishermen at ease that sample results from the Agencies are robust and reliable.

In the meantime, CFSB is working with Carrie Culver of Sea Grant to encourage and facilitate new academic research on two urgent topics: 1. Developing accurate field testing kits for DA in crab and lobster that fishermen could use in making decisions out on the water about where to harvest their catch and 2. Doing controlled lab experiments on the how quickly DA purges or ‘depurates’ from lobster meat and viscera. If lobster were to show high levels of DA, it is possible that holding them for several days may be all that is necessary for the levels to fall below the action level of 20 ppm and continue on to market. Dr. Culver has set up an analytical lab at UCSB for in-house HPLC testing of DA (i.e., the same procedure used by the State labs) to enable this research, and we will partner with her to find adequate research funds to initiate the work and engage fishermen in providing her animals for study.

Copyright 2016 Kim Selkoe

Relevant resources available online:

·      CDPH’s Marine Biotoxin Monitoring Program’s monthly reports on DA testing of water samples, bivalves and crustaceans can be found here.

·      There is a delay to posting of reports, but you can sign up to receive the monthly report as it is generated by submitting a request to redtide@cdph.ca.gov.

·      Weekly updates are viewable with a mapping tool here. Levels of Pseudo-nitzschia ('Pn' in the legend), the diatom that produces domoic acid, are shown in green. Note Pn can be high without producing high levels of Domoic Acid.

·      A recorded message updated with each lobster DA test result was set up by Mike Conroy of West Coast Fisheries Consultants and APEX Wild Seafoods. Dial (614) 636-6642.  The message reports advisories, closures and/or test results as they occur, so that a fisherman can make informed decisions about moving gear if an area goes under advisory or closure.

 

Endnotes

[i] For example – on October 13, 2016 the DPH tested 6 rock crab samples in Monterey, all of which had non-detectable levels of DA.  See CDPH's report

[ii] See page 15:  FAQ – Harmful Algal Blooms and California’s Fisheries produced by California Ocean Science Trust.

[iii] See CDPH's lobster report

[iv] See CFSB’s Summary of Recent Events (September 10, 2016)

[v] See Ocean Science Trust’s just released report: Framing the Scientific Opportunities on Harmful Algal Blooms and California Fisheries: Scientific Insights, Recommendations and Guidance for California.

 

Domoic Acid Closures

The California Department of Public Health monitors domoic acid levels in the water, bottom sediment, shellfish and fish so that the Department of Fish and Wildlife can issue health advisories or fishery closures when domoic acid levels in seafood approach concerning levels for human health. Santa Barbara crabbers and lobstermen have been deeply engaged in discussions with regulators and policymakers about how to better avoid unnecessary fishery losses in the future while protecting public health during domoic acid events. They have also been guiding new science and improved monitoring, pushing for more rational sampling strategies and faster processing of seafood samples for domoic acid testing. They have been working with their supply chain and the Dept. of Public Health to come up with new market solutions to enable the sale of crab meat after the removal of viscera (guts) when the meat is safe to eat. Collectively, CFSB reps have logged many dozens of hours attending meetings to make progress on these issues. Thankfully, the oceanographic conditions of fall 2016 do not predispose us to likely domoic acid fishery closures in the near future as the community works to recover from last year’s losses.

Domoic acid is a neurotoxin produced under certain conditions by the diatom Pseudo-nitzschia that can result in the illness called amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP). There has only been one confirmed event of ASP in humans, following mussel consumption in 1987 in Prince Edward Island, Canada; however, ASP is not uncommonly blamed for marine mammal illness.

At moderate levels of domoic acid, crab consumers are advised to remove the viscera (internal organs or ‘butter’ where domoic acid concentrates) before eating the crabmeat, and discard the water used to boil crab to minimize potential exposure. Elevated domoic acid levels have occurred in the Santa Barbara Channel for decades without any evidence of harm to seafood consumers. Upset stomach and dizziness are main symptoms; amnesia can occur in severe cases.

In 2015, a persistent bloom of Pseudo-nitzchia stretched from Santa Barbara to Washington State, fueled by the "warm blob" and El Nino conditions. The bloom produced the most far reaching and intense domoic acid event in history. Dungeness and rock crab fisheries were hit especially hard and remained closed for many months in some places, leading to devastating economic losses for fishing families. California congressional representatives are now seeking a Federal Disaster Relief package for these families, but are likely to be unsuccessful in this political climate.

Click the following titles to view updates and additional information regarding domoic acid.

CFSB Letters and Reports on Domoic Acid

  1. Letter from CPDH responding to the inquiry from CFSB (November 18, 2015)
  2. Letter to Sen. McGuire: CFSB Solutions for Domoic Acid (June 6, 2016)
  3. Rock Crab CFSB Domoic Acid Regulatory Update (June 17, 2016)
  4. Lobster Fleet Proposed Management Responses (August 24, 2016)
  5. Summary of Recent Events (September 10, 2016)
  6. Minutes of Lobster Fleet meeting (September 16, 2016)
  7. Report of meeting about Lobster DA testing with DFW (September 21, 2016)

Agency releases about Domoic Acid

  1. Coastal Dungeness Crab Tri-State Committee 2016 Meeting Summary (June 8 & 9, 2016)
  2. Harmful Algal Blooms and Domoic Acid: Latest Forecast and a Look Ahead to the Upcoming Season (August 1, 2016)
  3. FAQ: Harmful Algal Blooms and California Fisheries (August 1, 2016)
  4. Domoic Acid Background and Potential Options for Future Events (August 5, 2016)

Scientific Research on Domoic Acid

  1. Graduate Dissertation: Examining the Toxicity, Exposure, and Regulatory Approach to Potential Human Health Risks of the Algal Toxin Domoic Acid

Offshore Monument Proposal

In spring of 2016, a small, anonymous coalition of environmentalists drew up a proposal for President Obama to declare all of California’s Offshore Seamounts, Ridges and Banks as a single new Marine National Monument. Because the Monument designation process is made as a unilateral decree by the President under the Antiquities Act, there is no official public engagement involved. By summer, members of congress had been made aware of the proposal and brought it to the attention of the California fishery leadership, because all of the areas in the proposed closures are important fishing grounds.

A coalition of fisheries and industry supporters was quickly formed, spearheaded by Diane Pleschner-Steele of the California Wetfish Producers Association. CFSB joined this coalition, and as a group we were successful in making a case for transparency, stake-holder engagement, policy alignment and the need for a scientific process in the planning of any new closed areas.  We sent a letter to President Obama outlining our concerns and helped in the process of gathering hundreds of signatures (sign here).

We also made an effort to reach out to the marine science community because many scientists had been misled into signing their names in support of ‘new offshore protections’ without full disclosure that their signatures would be used to support a Monument designation (read our letter here). More than a dozen local scientists expressed concern over the lack of science, transparency and due process in the situation.  

In late July, CA representative Sam Farr introduced Bill H.R. 5797 to advance the Monument proposal. Certain defeat of this Bill paves the way for justifying a Presidential decree.

In September, the Pacific Fishery Management Council sent a letter to President Obama expressing their concerns with a Monument designation (read more here).

In October, Mr. Chuck Tracy, Executive Director of the Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council), sent a letter to Congressman Sam Farr and Congressman Duncan Hunter regarding the Council comments on H.R.5797, the California Seamounts and Ridges National Marine Conservation Area Designation and Management Act. In addition, CA State legislators Jackie Speier and Jared Huffman created a sign on letter for their colleagues opposing the Seamount proposal.

Currently, no announcement has been made about the President’s plans to pursue this Monument proposal.

Excerpts from our letter to Obama:

“California has the most strictly regulated fisheries in the world. Precautionary policies for protecting resources in federal waters exist under the federal Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), and many other bipartisan laws, such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act, which require science-based analysis conducted in a fully public and transparent process.”
“Further, the use of the Antiquities Act to designate marine protected areas as monuments in open ocean waters is inconsistent with the nation’s ocean policies set forth in the panoply of Federal laws in the US – even this Administration’s own National Ocean Policy Plan, which promises “Robust stakeholder engagement and public participation."

Oil Spill Readiness & The Refugio Spill

Our fishermen actively train for participation in oil spill response, and are often the first responders to a spill on the water, such as in the case of the Refugio Oil Spill of 2015. Fishermen’s local knowledge of safe boating, tides and currents is critical to spill containment. The availability of dozens of nimble, small boats make our fleet indispensable in oil response.

Currently, 2 members of CFSB are part of a year-long Task Force through the Coastal Commission on the role of “Vessels of Opportunity” (i.e, fishing boats) in the State of California’s oil spill response practices.

Our fishermen also coordinate with the Clean Seas program and the Harbor Master of Santa Barbara to stay up-to-date with gear and training. Santa Barbara’s ideal oil spill response plan calls for having at least 60 fishing boats on active call for immediate response, 24 hours a day. This ideal is a constant challenge as boats and fishermen come and go from our fleet. We are working with community partners to identify new ways to optimize fleet readiness and rapid communication lines.

Importantly, Clean Seas is strongly considering cutting the Fisherman's Oil Response Team program entirely in 2017, despite consensus that fishing vessels are extremely well suited as first responders for this stretch of coast. If the FORT program were to sunset, the most urgent need is to find a program and funding source to continue annual ‘hazardous waste emergency response worker training’ (CFR1910120) for next year so that fishermen are able to respond at the time of a spill. 

The Refugio oil spill had a negative impact on local fisheries, both due to closure of fishing grounds and market fears that Santa Barbara Channel seafood was tainted. A Risk Assessment on Seafood Consumption released in December 2015 used lab testing of collected fishery species during the spill to confirm that there was no oil contamination of fishery species due to the oil spill.

Plains All American Pipeline set up a claims process in May 2015 for those who can document personal and/or business losses due to the oil release. In July 2015 a group of fishermen and buyers initiated a class action lawsuit.

Read the Coast Guard's May 2016 'Post Mortem' report on the Refugio Oil Spill response, with recommendations based on lessons learned.

Groundfish Quota Transfer

CFSB is working on an agreement with The Nature Conservancy to acquire their quota share in the groundfish trawl fishery to be harvested with fixed gear.  The purposes of quota acquisition are:

Securing community ownership of access rights to manage and harvest certain IFQ groundfish species in the Santa Barbara region.

Collaborating with local fishery stakeholders, including scientists, fishermen, and community business leaders to determine best use of fishing privileges to support the local fishing economy and fishing-dependent infrastructure and services.

Administering and managing fishing privileges for social, economic, and environmental benefits by developing and participating in community based fishery management that strives to meet needs of local community while maintaining or improving resource and ocean health.

Improving knowledge of and information on regional fish stocks and marine resources in order to support cooperative and adaptive management of the fishery.  


CFSB is connecting with other quota banks across the west coast to learn successful strategies for managing quota on behalf of our community as we prepare for the acquisition.

Protecting Domestic Swordfish Supply

With some regularity, members of the animal rights/environmental extreme attempt to shut down our offshore drift gillnet fishery which targets swordfish. This is an ill-conceived “not in my backyard” rationale that appeals to bleeding hearts.  In fact, the efforts fail to take into account or acknowledge that the effects of reducing CA swordfish supply is detrimental to the very objectives of these extremists of protecting sea turtles and marine mammals.

Our drift gillent fishery is highly regulated with high observer coverage. Not a single turtle death is evident via observer data, since fishery reforms and gear improvements were made in 1998. However, 3 turtles were entangled and released alive; with no scientific or mathematical basis, the activists extrapolate that 22 turtles have been killed.

NOAA and academic scientists confirm that:

1. CA swordfish is under exploited, meaning the populations of swordfish can be sustainably fished at a higher level to meet the very high demand for swordfish, whereas elsewhere in the world swordfish is overexploited.

2. Making fishery reforms are not nearly effective as protecting nesting beaches for reducing  sea turtle declines. One estimate found that protecting just one turtle nesting beach in Indonesia would be 132 times more effective for helping turtle populations than a CA gillnet ban.

3. Studies show that an increase in swordfish imports may result in 500+ new sea turtle mortalities per year, because other countries do not have proper fisheries practices and enforcement compared to the US.

CFSB is working to educate environmentalists about the nuances of this issue so that local seafood supply is protected, global sea turtle populations are better served, and the fishing community can stop wasting valuable time and money fighting ill-conceived CA senate bills on the topic.

Read a May 8th, 2016 Letter sent to Senator Allen from CFSB opposing the bill.

See the Swordfish Brief we created for lawmakers.

Whale Entanglement Training

The interaction of whales with fishing gear fluctuates over the years, but recently has been on the rise statewide. NOAA has created a new set of best practices for response to entanglement events and protocols for disentanglement. Santa Barbara fishermen recently attended a 2-day training event to learn these new practices and protocols and continue to work with managers to find ways to reduce interactions with whales. 

Update October 24 2016: California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group released a memo with 2016-17 recommendations and next steps to reduce the risk of whale entanglements in Dungeness crab fishing gear. You can download the document here.

Update October 18 2016: NOAA has released an updated Best Practices Guide from the Dungeness Crab working group on whale entanglement. The main change is the direct recommendation regarding length of line for trailer buoys. Note that not all trap fishermen use trailer buoys (e.g., lobster). You can download the document here.