CFSB & PCFFA's joint public comment on the Fishing Communities Report

The Fish and Game Commission recently completed a set of listening sessions with representatives of fishing ports across the state. The July 2018 report is available at

Below is our letter in response


Dear Ms. Ashcraft,

On behalf of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and our fourteen member organizations comprising over 750 commercial fishermen and women living in California’s fishing- dependent communities, we write to provide comments on the Fish and Game Commission’s draft Staff Report on California Coastal Fishing Communities Meetings (“report”).

Many of our members participated in the fishing community meetings the Commission hosted and we appreciate the time and attention taken to produce the draft report. The report, and the effort it represents, has tremendous potential to guide the Commission’s policies regarding the future of commercial fisheries in California. We look forward to working with as you work to enhance and finalize the report.

We have divided our comments into guidance for new policy considerations and constructive criticism on the contents of the draft report.

I. A vision based in innovation and collaboration to enhance management outcomes

As the report highlights, there are readily identifiable gaps between the needs of fishing communities and the abilities of, mandates for, and services performed by state regulatory agencies. We feel that some of these gaps can be addressed simply by designing projects and policies that establish trust and enfranchise commercial harvesters in the various management processes. When provided a stronger role in management, and when agencies and managers are enabled and trained to engage, fishermen can bring their knowledge and experience to bear in ways that enhance regulatory processes and achieve management objectives more efficiently. Collaborative partnership between managers and fishermen, and strategies to align economic incentives with quality management and monitoring, can also be supported by revisions to policy frameworks. This is all the more urgent as rapid and unpredictable climate change ups the role of

more intensive monitoring to understand changing resource status and economic vulnerabilities tied to these changes.

Against a backdrop of rapid climate-driven ecological change, it becomes harder to associate any human actions with ecological response with high degrees of certainty. Thus, in the future it may be less likely that any human action (whether harvest or management) will yield predictable responses in a fish population. There will be climate winners and climate losers, and the Commission must ensure that its policies enable the winners while supporting the losers as they transition to other opportunities.

This regime of ecological uncertainty differs from the steady-state management approaches conceptualized by the fisheries scientists of the last century, and from the fishing-driven ecosystem change that intensified around the turn of the century. A suite of management actions designed to reduce fishing pressure by rationalizing fisheries and implementing networks of MPAs have led us to an era in which the level of fishing effort for many fisheries in California is at historical lows for the past 50 years, while the intensity of climate stressors has climbed. The socioeconomic consequences of these actions have been severe: losses of opportunity, infrastructure, and confidence are rampant; these profound losses were articulated repeatedly during each of the fishing community meetings.

This reality leads should lead to a new conceptual framework by which to approach natural resource management: California must take proactive and innovative measures to manage for socioeconomic and ecological resilience in our fisheries. Steps must be taken by agencies to bring fishermen and managers into alignment on how these measures are designed and how they are implemented.

The draft report contains several recommendations that our organization agrees with, but it would be strengthened by additional content and sophistication. We suggest including an additional goals and objectives section of the report and aligning the final recommendations with the goals and objectives contained therein. Goals and objectives should be informed both by a thorough analysis of existing Commission and CDFW mandates to preserve and protect fishing communities, and any additional goals and objectives not explicated in statute that were elucidated during the community meetings. We stand ready to assist in this regard, including facilitating dialog between members of the commercial fishing industry and Commission staff/members as time and availability allow.

Here we provide several recommendations that build on the draft contents of the Fishing Communities Report:

  1. The report should include a review of the current mandates dealing specifically with fishing communities found within the Fish and Game Code and/or driven by the state’s coordination with federal management processes under the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

  2. The report should more specifically reference and reflect the provisions reviewed based on our recommendation (1) and, specifically, the MLMA’s various mandates for supporting fishing community needs.

  3. The report should include a new section listing goals and objectives for managing marine resources in order to support fishing communities, and it should specifically align the final recommendations with those goals and objectives where appropriate.

  4. The report should include a section on the public trust, including a discussion of the Commission’s various mandates to preserve access and enhance beneficial uses, as well as discuss how these relate to fishing community needs identified in the fishing community meetings and elsewhere.

  5. The report should focus on innovative approaches to data and collaboration with members of the fishing industry. The time is now to deploy an arsenal of ecosystem and fisheries indicators built on fishing behavior and fisheries-dependent data. Engaging fishermen in fisheries-dependent research while refraining from prescriptive and costly monitoring mandates whenever possible aligns fishermen with managers, facilitating trust and partnership. Let’s invest in pushing digital data collection systems by the Department and smartphone platforms for engaging fishermen in monitoring on the water. With these new tools and capacity, collecting more comprehensive data on size structure of catch and CPUE are cost-effective.

  6. The report should focus on recommending new approaches to enhanced local co- management, which are urgently needed as fish stocks shift their locations with warming sea temperatures. Importantly, however, a management regime focused on increased flexibility also comes with pitfalls. Stock assessments and fishery management plans must be designed to enable flexibility during and between cycles. In addition, Experimental Fishing Permits should become a standard part of the management repertoire, and the Commission should familiarize itself with them and become comfortable adjudicating their use.

  7. The report should include recommendations for the review of the Commission’s and Department’s budget processes with respect to supporting fishing communities, including a review of the funding for mandates listed based on our recommendation (1). The report should include specific recommendations for how the Commission could best approach the forthcoming service-based audit of the CDFW in order to improve its mission and better meet the goals and objectives of the report based on our recommendation (3).

  8. The report should specifically address anadromous fisheries and the ways that the Commission can support communities that rely on them. The Commission’s regulatory authority includes approaches to supporting the integrity of public trust anadromous fisheries for the benefit of fishing

  9. Any new Fishing Community policy framework should be founded on and explicitly enumerate the reinforcing pathways between the biological sustainability of fisheries and the economic sustainability of fisheries. Further, Fish and Game Code needs fleshing out on the mechanisms for the Department to prioritize minimizing adverse impacts to fishing communities, responding quickly to environmental and socio-economic factors harming fishing as a livelihood, and communicating with fisheries stakeholders.

  10. The number and quality of tools available to managers is a limiting factor in being able to respond adaptively to environmental change, especially in ways that are protective of the economic stability and success of fishing. Permit stacking (e.g., the Bristol Bay gill net sockeye fishery) is a great example of how a fishery can adaptively expand and contract with the resource with a mechanism that is economically rational.

  11. Challenges to access and changes to access are the prime message of the report. We urge the Commission to make limited entry reform a priority. A blue-ribbon panel, which is representative of stakeholders and chaired by 1-2 commission members, could be tasked with producing a set of detailed, well-researched recommendations on how to align the limited entry policy.

  12. The report should make specific recommendations for the support of redeveloping and maintaining port infrastructure. We incorporate by reference comments provided by the Alliance of Communities for Sustainable Fisheries and Mr. Mike Conroy, regarding infrastructure support, particularly the suggestion of the State-level adoption of the MSA’s Community Sustainability Plan program, which provides a framework for implementing an analysis of community needs in a structured and uniform basis.

  13. Market access and market dynamics must be considered in assessing the impact and effectiveness of new management actions. To do so, fishermen should be engaged as co- designers of new permits to make them economically feasible.

  14. The report should encourage the development of innovative solutions to mitigate risk in commercial fisheries in the face of climate change and uncertainty. Financial tools to mitigate risk can add to the strategies for rapid recovery from fisheries disasters.

II. Ideas for improving the quality and utility of the report

  1. The synopsis of answers to the 4 core questions gathered at the meetings is a highly valuable product, and as such, we feel that the descriptions of topics under Questions 2 and 3 could be fleshed out. Relative to the very informative information under Question 1, these two are fairly brief and unclear in places.

  2. In Question 2, more detail on the context in which these 4 listed adaptation strategies played out is important to document. Can you provide any insight into which of challenges listed in Question 1 (or something else) were mentioned as the likely triggers and causes of these adaptations? Did you hear perspectives on how well each of the adaptation strategies worked? Whether they had lasting positive or negative impacts on the nature of commercial fishing operations in the ports? Were these changes mostly permanent or temporary? Also lacking from the list is the frequent scenario in which fishermen must turn to public or family assistance because they do not find ways to implement these adaptation strategies. This is important to document here. The fisheries closures that led to Federal Disaster Assistance provide examples of this that are well documented in State senate hearings, etc.

  3. The descriptions of topics under Question 3 are sometimes unclear and should be explored and developed more completely. What does ‘streamlined’ refer to? Could an example or two be given? Why should ‘marine protected area collaboratives’ be embraced, and what value do they provide to efforts to support communities? What does ‘electronic representations’ mean? ‘Modernization of facilities’ is vague. Each of these bullet points deserves at least 2-3 sentences of description, context and use of examples where possible.

  4. Permit transferability, a critically important issue area for this report with a vast amount of complexity, is repeatedly mentioned in the report with little background or context. The report would benefit from an introduction to the topic within the ‘synopsis of perspectives. This is an important component of access that isn’t mentioned in the section on ‘fisheries management changes and access.’

  5. The Recommendations section begins by pointing out that each suggested action gathered and listed in the report could be labeled as ‘Management’ ‘Policy or ‘Other.’ Perhaps this could be actually done in the report? It would add clarity, inform expectations, and help focus the conversation moving forward.

  6. The stated goal was to develop potential ‘pathways forward.’ This effort presumably will be founded on the list of 8 stated recommendations at the end of the report. Many of these recommendations are lacking a basic definitions, a statement of reason and justification. Below are suggestions for strengthening the clarity and utility of these recommendations:

  7. The 1st priority listed needs a bit more clarity, given its top position. What is meant by this and what role it would play? For instance ‘This policy would be a vehicle for addressing x, y and z...” or “This policy would fill a gap that exists...” How might this policy might be generated? Are there examples elsewhere to draw from and/or ideas of what it might include?

  8. The 2nd recommendation could be strengthened by focusing on generating changes to the policy in response to a review of the past performance of the policy.

  9. The 3rd recommendation begs for an example. Please define what ‘small-scale fishing opportunities’ refers to or is defined as, and explain what is meant by ‘information gaps.’

  10. The 4th recommendation is somewhat obvious and vague. Can you explain how this should be done differently than how it is already being done?

  11. The 5th recommendation also needs sharpening and focus. There is one prior suggestion in the report that CDFW engage more with PFMC, but there is no context as to why and how? We assume that there is good justification for this, but without explaining the justification, it is difficult to motivate follow through and guide it to be done effectively. Please replace ‘etc.’ with named entities. To recommend that CDFW just engage ‘with everyone more’ is not effective advice.

  12. The 6th recommendation is concrete and specific - a good example to borrow from in how to improve the other recommendations.

  13. The 7th – did the set of community meetings provide any starting list of specific data gaps and examples of collaborative research to build on? This should be included as an appendix.

  14. The 8th – Can you describe this in more detail so it doesn’t appear to be asking for the same process to be repeated? Perhaps the report could include a section on information that was sought through the process, but not well acquired. Describe which topics were difficult to inform through stakeholder engagement, and which have been well informed.

  15. In appendix A, please use full sentences in order to communicate these ideas clearly, and leave less chance of misinterpretation. Examples: what does ‘decreased food system viability’ mean? Complete the sentence: ‘Fishery and area closures are...”

  16. . Please consider creating transcripts of the meetings so that they can be more fully utilized in the study of fishing communities.

We applaud the Commission’s time and attention to this critical matter for our members, and we stand ready to assist in the completion of this report. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or to continue the conversation. We look forward to reviewing your responses to these comments.


Noah Oppenheim Executive Director, PCFFA

Kimberly Selkoe, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Commercial Fishermen of Santa Barbara Marine Scientist, UC Santa Barbara

Chris Voss
F/V Bella “B”
President, Commercial Fishermen of Santa Barbara

Meeting Minutes: Ventura Shellfish Enterprise on July 9

Brian Pendleton, Oscar Pena and Doug Bush spoke on behalf of the Ventura Shellfish Enterprise. About 20 fishermen attended, as well as a couple reps from relevant agencies. 

Meeting Summary (in my view)

Overall, the meeting met the goal of hearing from VSE on their plan and motivations, and giving local fishermen a chance to provide input and raise concerns. Fishermen described two possible locations in State waters that the trawlers would support for siting the 2000 acre development. Would VSE consider moving back into a State permitting process at this point? They gave no indication. I need to follow up with them to get an answer to that. I We ran out of time to cover all the ground that I hoped to, partly because too much time was spent on extraneous information, e.g. details of the Port of Ventura’s budgetary needs. I will also continue pressing for more answers on how and when fishermen’s input on siting will be considered in the Federal permitting process. So, standby for more info soon.

Meeting Minutes

The VSE presentation:

1. overview of the goals tackled by the Sea Grant funded 3 year scoping project that is wrapping up now. Goals are:

  • Develop strategic plans for navigating permitting pathways for any new aquaculture projects in State and Federal waters
  • Develop templates for engaging in outreach and education on new aquaculture projects
  • Develop the permit application needed for moving ahead with the VSE

See the VSE website for the content of their presentation. Most of it was not highly relevant to our concerns.

Why is the project so big? There aim is to use economy of scale and allow many small operators to be viable by sharing infrastructure and biotoxin testing, monitoring.  2000 acres is still small in the world of open ocean shellfish aquaculture.

VSE developed rough business plans for how a single farmer can make a profit - available on the website.

They are currently looking to site the 2000 acres within a 200,000 acre stretch of the Federal Waters off Ventura. There are specific siting constraints: Need to be far from outfall of rivers due to pollution. Can’t be on top of oil and gas infrastructure. Depth 80-120 range. Close to Ventura port. They received feedback from fishermen to minimize spread of the 20 plots to reduce interference with fishing, so they will cluster the plots.

Current phase they are in is to analyze the siting options and to submit the permit application.

Env. Studies are being done now to evaluate impact of the project to Essential Fish Habitat and Endangered Species, etc. This is a component of the Sea Grant grant,

Army Corp, NMFS, USFWS, and CCC are the key agencies. Army Corp is the lead.

Timeline: End of august aim to get permit in. Fourth quarter 2018 they will have meetings with agency staff to review permit data needs. Then deploy sentinels. In 2019, do public comment and receive the draft permits.

VSE is in the process of building data layers for the 200,000 acre zone in the fed waters. They are developing an AIS heat map for trawlers they got from the Dept. showing intensity of effort. They realize these data have drawbacks: it doesn’t show fishing success or seasonal variation, etc.  They are looking for techniques to rate the adverse impact of various siting alternatives. They would like to add AIS for purse seiners, etc. Drift nets – very hard to get the data on value of grounds and frequency of use.

Q&A section

Question – do they have a mitigation plan for offsetting their impact to fishing? No, not yet. Its on the table for consideration.

VSE is doing a siting analysis with NOAA right now. There are 13 total aquaculture projects in Federal waters nationwide getting underway with a permitting process. All the rest are private big money finfish projects.

Question: Would a leasee of a VSE plot be able to opportunitistically switch from farming mussels to kelp as the environmental conditions fluctuate? No. They are keeping their permitting process as simple as possible by only pursuing shellfish.

Comment- Current area they’ve picked is horrible for weather. Its on the edge of a bank that intensifies  the current and waves there. Also very high conflict for fishing. 6 gear types fish there.

Comment: McCorkle, on behalf of the So Cal Trawlers, proposed a specific area within the State Halibut trawl grounds where no one catches a lot of fish.  Its outside and east of Ecomar’s lease, out to 3 miles.

Question: What is the goal on profit? Can you pass some profit on to the commercial fishermen who are displaced?

Income from VSE to the Port will come from slip fees, offloading fees, rent from new biotoxin monitoring shops. Army Corp dredging is a 6 mill annual cost that this income will contribute to covering.

Comment: A fisherman proposed another possible site: right south of Point Mugu has no fishing, sewer or river pollution. Others thought it might be too deep there?

Question: Are there lessons to be learned from how some of the large farms in New Zealand dealt with mitigation to fishermen when they were sited? Same with New England? Catalina Sea Ranch?  Answer: Mitigation info is not available but it is possible to inquire.

Comment: There will be benefits to having 20 more users of the ocean – the subleases of the plots. This will provide new opportunities for next generation of fishermen.

Comment: It will be very difficult for you to understand and quantify the impacts to fishing. Use of AIS is very rare. VMS is common. There are guys fishing that area right now that you don’t know about.

Question: What’s the concern with shallower waters – less than 80 feet? Answer: the Mediterranean mussel babies have very thin shells and so are very susceptible to predation by ducks.  Maybe could grow out the babies elsewhere? Even so, any site less than 50’ depth will be devastated by swell.

Comment: VSE would like to be able to scale slowly, put some lines out and experiment with best location. This is not feasible with the process. Process is broken.

Comment: Shellfish farming is a sustainable harvest and that gives it a solid future. Be grateful to the bureaucrats for dealing with all the red tape of the permitting process.

Comment: VSE will get corporate interests want to lease plots, not fishermen.  Response: they can consider multi-farmer partnerships to break up a few of the single 100 acre plot. A plot can be phased intp use with 1 grow line at a time.  The group permiting process allows that scaling up carefully.

Note from Mike Conroy by email: “In the case of Catalina Sea Ranch, we were able to get the CA Coastal Commission to include a requirement that before construction, CSR prepare “a Lost/Damaged Fishing Gear Compensation Plan” that outlines the steps that would be taken by KZO to address any adverse impacts to commercial or recreational fishing operations that may result from the loss and/or damage of fishing gear or catch due to contact or entanglement with the shellfish cultivation facility or associated infrastructure.  The Coastal Commission Report may be helpful -

Note from Jonathan Gonzalez by email: “Senator Wicker’s AQUAA Act was introduced a week ago:   In the language of the bill I count 4 references to minimizing effects to existing fishing operations. Depending on the timing of VSE and the potential passage of this bill in the future, perhaps there could be a precedent/preemption.”

Context and Agenda for a meeting with the Ventura Shellfish Enterprise

Meeting will be held July 9th 4pm Harbor Classroom

Prepared by Kim Selkoe

1.     Overview of the Context

CFSB submitted a letter in support of the Ventura Shellfish Enterprise in April 2017, authored by board member Bernard Friedman. In it, we expressed our request that “representatives of CFSB and other fishery reps consult with VSE to properly place these farms in areas where they would minimize conflicts with other fisheries.”

VSE received funds from Sea Grant that enabled stakeholder engagement on siting in State Waters. Based on that feedback, VSE moved the siting to Federal waters where they believed fewer fishermen and fisheries are impacted, and a smaller percentage of territory would be taken. However, the current siting map shows the plots interfering with valuable fishing ground access on the Ventura Flats, in Block 665.  

The siting process for the federal permit application has not yet begun. VSE is still putting together the application materials.  We wish to know what the time line and process will be for continuing to engage fishermen on submitting a proposed siting in Federal waters that minimizes conflicts with fisheries. Currently, VSE doesn't have a grant, as it had last year from Sea Grant, to put into extensive stakeholder engagement.  However, we hope we can discuss this problem, and come up with a mutually acceptable stakeholder engagement process that will result in a siting we can support.

Importantly, VSE’s permit application will be blazing a pathway on how siting of aquaculture in Federal waters is done.  The VSE process will set the stage for how conflicts are dealt with and how commercial fishing is treated in all future aquaculture siting along our coast.  CFSB can play a role in designing effective stakeholder engagement in this process. It is an advantage that this trailblazing is being done by a public agency (Ventura Port District) with better transparency and accountability than a private firm, and it is beneficial that the VSE includes members of the Santa Barbara fishing community.

We need to find out what the long-term opportunities and risks are with this project, such as: would VSE some day incorporate or encourage finfish aquaculture? What opportunities and advantages might the VSE might bring to our fishing community?

2.     Meeting Goals

  • Learn from VSE reps about their intentions and perspective on overcoming conflicts with commercial fishing grounds.
  • Answer their questions about which fisheries may be most impacted and how.
  • Convey out concerns:
    • We are not supportive of taking away fishing grounds in Federal Waters.
    • We want to play a role in the siting and the use of data to estimate the losses to commercial fisheries.
  • Discuss, or make plans to discuss, whether there is a location and configuration that is palatable to commercial fishermen and meets the needs of VSE.

3.     Go over meeting etiquette:

  • Do not interrupt- raise your hand to speak
  • Avoid side conversations
  • Be polite
  • Be open minded and constructive
  • Do not dominate the air time

4.     Introductions

5.     Presentation on background of the VSE project and process by VSE reps.

6.     Questions from CFSB, including:

a.    The VSE model:

  i.     What is the realistic viability of VSE’s financial model?

ii.     What capital is needed and what percentage has been secured?

  iii.     What is the scope of the opportunity for subleasing a plot?

  iv.     Will VSE infrastructure possibly lead to expansion into finfish culture?

b.    The siting process:

  i.     What is the role of the map we have seen that shows the plots on ventura flats? Will that be submitted as is in the application? Can we work to modify its placement before it is submitted?

ii.     What is the timeline of the submitting the application?

  • Which agencies are taking the lead?
  • Who are the point people at agencies to connect with?

Santa Barbara will join Morro Bay, Monterey, Fort Bragg and Half Moon Bay in establishing California's 5th Community Groundfish Quota Bank

Background: Since 2016, CFSB has been in discussion with The Nature Conservancy about transferring groundfish quota from TNC to CFSB.  TNC acquired fishing rights in 2006 in a private buyout. Although there are some strong opinions in our community about TNC’s motives and past behavior, we feel this is a good opportunity for CFSB and aligns us with other small ports in California, who collectively have a stronger voice together.  TNC's stated motivation for this agreement is to “transfer quota in the Santa Barbara region to support community organization and leadership development, resource stewardship, collaborative research, and education and outreach.” Because this quota must be fished in our local waters and they support local control of fishing rights, TNC would like our community to be in control of it.

Our Motivation: CFSB’s mission in partnering on this quota transfer is the shared belief that local control, local stewardship and local access to fishing is good for both coastal communities and healthy oceans. For CFSB, owning quota provides assurance that the quota won’t transfer out of the area and can be used to provide fishing opportunities to our port. Owning quota also gives our port a voice in solving problems with the current management of groundfish resources, including issues with onerous observer coverage, the 36° management boundary, and hurdles to market access. Further, this valuable set of assets has the potential to financially strengthen our port association by leasing quota annually. We are optimistic that the value of the quota will increase in the future and we will look into ways to maximize returns to our port community in terms of fishery jobs and infrastructure.  In sum, there are multiple compelling reasons for CFSB to accept this quota.

The Assets: CFSB will now own 10% of the annual Sablefish South annual total allowable catch and 6% (actually 5.679%) of the Shortspine thornyheads South catch in the federal Limited Entry Individual Fishing Quota program, to be fished with any allowable gear type, trawl or fixed. These are the maximum ownership percentages allowable. 10% of the Sablefish South quota is equivalent to ~175,000 lbs annually; 6% for Shortspine works out to 3,000 lbs per two month reporting and 6,000 lbs per year total. There are no trip limits or landing caps. The Sablefish must be fished south of the 36° line and the Shortspine must be fished south of 34.27° (Point Conception). We also now own one Limited Entry Permit for a smaller vessel (<43 ft.) and can lease a second permit from TNC. We also have leads on leasing more Shortspine quota at good rates, since additional Shortspine quota may be necessary use this quota with longline gear. The transfer of these assets comes with $25,600 in grant funding from TNC to CFSB to support the necessary staff time and workshops needed in 2018/2019 to set up a Quota Leasing program that benefits the port.

Limits of TNC’s involvement: Once the quota is transferred to us in early 2018, TNC has no further ownership of the quota and cannot influence the leasing terms or leasee options chosen by CFSB. TNC staff will not be involved in the formation of CFSB’s leasing program for this quota, the selection of advisory board for this program, or protocols used for decision-making about the quota. We are under no obligation from TNC to actively lease the quota, and they will have no role in influencing to whom or how we lease the quota.

The Agreement: Below are the key passages of the contractual agreement that explain the shared objectives and the commitments of the two parties.

CFSB is acquiring quota share for the purposes of:

a.       Securing community ownership of access rights to manage and harvest certain IFQ groundfish species in the Santa Barbara region and maintain local, small boat access to the IFQ groundfish fishery.

b.       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.

c.       Administering and managing fishing privileges for social, economic, and environmental benefits by developing and participating in network of community fishing trusts that strives to meet needs of communities while maintaining or improving resource and ocean health.

d.       Improving knowledge of and information on regional fish stocks and marine resources in order to support cooperative and adaptive management of fisheries in the Santa Barbara region. 


What exactly is CFSB on the hook for?

The following are our deliverables to TNC that will demonstrate that CFSB is managing this quota on behalf of the fishing community, as listed in the agreement:

  • Federal permits and other paperwork completed for CFSB to own and maintain quota share
  • Press release on the quota transfer and CFSB’s plans
  • Documented CFSB plan including: ‘decision tree’ for when and how to lease quota; priorities and guidelines for allocating quota to leases and setting lease prices; and use of revenue generated from quota leases.
  • An interim report and final report that includes updates on activities over 2017-2019 concerning CFSB outreach and stewardship missions. These activities were chosen because they intersect with the mission of TNC, and are specified in the next section below. These objectives have been tailored to CFSB’s accomplishments in 2017 and plans for 2018, so will not be any hardship to follow through on.  A final report is due within 24 months from time of transfer. After that time, there is no further reporting required.

List of objectives and activities for inclusion in reporting

1. Organizational Capacity

CFSB will develop organizational capacity and expertise within the organization to manage fishing quota and permits that provide local access to the IFQ groundfish fishery. Preparations made during 2016 and 2017 are to be included in evaluating this point.

a)       CFSB will secure and/or provide appropriate training for staff and/or Board members who will develop understanding of the IFQ program and relevant regulations required for managing fishing rights through e.g. targeted trainings and exchanges with other fisheries trusts, government managers, fishermen and other relevant parties.

b)      CFSB will designate staff and/or Board members who will develop understanding of operational best practices for managing and leasing fishing rights in line with federal regulations and for the environmental, economic and social benefit to the community through, e.g., targeted trainings, and exchanges with other fisheries trusts, government managers, fishermen, and other relevant parties.

c)       CFSB will work to identify and reduce barriers faced by local vessels seeking to participate in the IFQ groundfish fishery, such as high costs of obtaining monitoring coverage for accountability or navigating complex regulations.


2. Coordination with Fisheries Trusts

CFSB will collaborate with network of community fisheries trusts in California and other fisheries organizations to identify opportunities for increased effectiveness and coordination across organizations and communities, which may involve engaging in advocacy for shared priorities at relevant public forums such as the California Fish and Game Commission or Pacific Fishery Management Council

3. Collaborative Research, Cooperative Management, and Data Collection

CFSB will act as a contributor to develop and participate in collaborative fisheries research that advances the understanding of marine resources, test the use of new technologies for data collection, and/or demonstrate cooperative management practices (not specific to just groundfish). Could include participating in a pilot program focused on new efforts to promote fishermen-collected data and other information that can inform management or operational decisions

4. Sustainable Seafood/Fishing Education

CFSB will participate in educational sustainable seafood events and other seafood education programs that increase knowledge and awareness of sustainable fishing practices and seafood in the local area. CFSB will support activities and programs that strengthen local, sustainable seafood marketing.

5. Marine Debris Education and Clean Up

CFSB will conduct marine debris clean-up events and educational efforts.


Questions? Please do not hesitate to reach out with questions and concerns. You can reach Chris Voss, President of CFSB at 805-698-8353.



Our Santa Barbara News Press Editorial: Marketing Commission Will Bolster Local Fisheries. Printed October 1, 2017

What would Santa Barbara be without our vibrant harbor? An authentic, working waterfront is a rarity for California coastal towns these days, not to mention one that seamlessly integrates with the heavy recreation and tourism uses of our harbor. Achieving this dynamic balance of uses in a tight space against a gorgeous mountain backdrop has incalculable value for the quality of life and tourist draw it creates. Keeping our commercial fisheries in business is key to preserving this unique slice of Santa Barbara. 

Our local fishing fleet is small but mighty, having survived a long string of economic challenges over the past decades as seafood trade went global, aquaculture exploded, key fishing grounds were closed for conservation, and most seafood processing left town. Our fisheries today are entirely small owner-operated vessels, 140-180 boats in all, and strictly managed for environmental sustainability. In addition to supplying our own community with a staggering diversity of healthy and high quality local seafood, what keeps our fishing port going is access to global markets. In particular, 3 Santa Barbara fisheries, spiny lobster, sea urchin and sea cucumber are renowned across Asia as the finest source for these delicacies. The high prices commanded by these products keep all of the fisheries operating out of our port, supporting dockside infrastructure and creating a critical mass of fishing operations.

Spiny lobster harvest represents a third of the economic value of Santa Barbara’s local catch. Across 20 ports in Southern California, the Spiny Lobster fishery employs ~160 owner-operated fishing vessels and their crew. All of these boats are small, family run businesses. With a 6-month open season, many lobster fishermen also hold jobs in a diverse array of sectors, including health care, construction, real estate and food service. The lobster fishery generated $13.7 million in ‘dockside’ value in 2016 for California, and supports several large processing and transshipment businesses targeting growing domestic and export markets.

The Spiny Lobster fishery is strong and healthy overall, but has critical challenges facing its future related to climate change and global market competition, with possible ripple effects throughout our coastal economy. To prepare for these challenges, our local port association, Commercial Fishermen of Santa Barbara, partnered with Assemblywoman Monique Limón on AB944, authorizing the formation of a Spiny Lobster Marketing Commission. Sea urchin, another critical export fishery, formed a Marketing Commission by the same process several years ago.

These Marketing Commissions enable producers to form a board and enact a self-assessed fee to support personnel tasked with keeping strong lines of communication, both within the distributed fleet and with regulators and buyers. The organizational capacity allows the fishery to more rapidly adapt to changing markets, regulations and environmental dynamics. A Commission can proactively explore ways to improve fishery resilience, pursue strategies to diversify market access, and fund research. For example, the Spiny Lobster Commission can be a hub for outreach on best practices to avoid gear loss, which is on the rise as winter storm intensities increase, and collaboration with environmental NGO’s on smart phone-based on-the-water fishery monitoring systems.

Due to the many benefits that a Spiny Lobster Commission will bring, AB944 has broad support from groups like The Nature Conservancy, the City of Santa Barbara, and our Chamber of Commerce. AB944 garnered consistent bi-partisan support as it made its way through committees and the Senate, and Governor Brown is slated to sign it into law shortly. There is much positive work to do to keep our flagship fisheries like Spiny Lobster strong and resilient in the face of future challenges. Providing resources for bottom-up organizational capacity of a Marketing Commission is a key tool for success.

Kim Selkoe and Chris Voss

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!!! (

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 ( 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:, 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.


Kim Selkoe-



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

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 ( You can also email me at 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:

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


Data Basin:


Letter to Coast Guard


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.


Michael Harrington

Executive Committee

Commercial Fishermen of Santa Barbara, Inc.

6 Harbor Way

Santa Barbara, CA 93109

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

·      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.



[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.