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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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and the actual language of the current version of the bill is here (what’s online is out of date).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.
Kim Selkoe- Kim@cfsb.info
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.