- 1. Chamber of Commerce membership
- 2. Discussion with Jono Wilson of The Nature Conservancy
- 3. Ventura Shellfish Enterprise update.
Chris Voss call to order 5:10. In attendance, Gary Burke, John Colgate, Miles Wallace, Steve Escobar, Mike McCorkle, Bernard Friedman
1. Chamber of commerce.
Ken Oplinger and Todd Wilson from the Chamber came to explain chamber membership options. One of the biggest assets for CFSB is their lobbyist, who can be sent to legislative hearings in Sacramento anytime. He has already helped represent our interests several times for the DGN fight, the lobster commission and the proposed landings tax last year. Ken is also available to be an advocate for us at local, state and federal level. Already the Chamber has sent in many letters of support to our causes over the past 2 years. They will continue to cover our liability for the fillet station. They promote the Saturday market in many print and online outlets. The Chamber board is a huge resource and 3 board members have donated over a thousand to CFSB during our fundraisers. Ken offered to create a membership option for our first year that meets our needs.
After Ken and Todd left, the board discussed Chamber membership options. CFSB can join at a high level and that will enable a discount or subsidy for our fishermen members to also join individually. Expect that we can make a deal for those individual memberships to be ~$200.
Bernard made a motion for CFSB to join the Chamber at the $700 level (second tier from highest). Seconded by Chris. 5 in favor 1 abstain.
2. Jono Wilson from The Nature Conservancy came to discuss TNC’s and his own interest in working with CFSB.
Jono’s work with SB fishermen started with rockfish research, tagging inside and outside reserves to inform better management.
Morro Bay was the first fisheries project that TNC took on. 8 years ago TNC changed their mission beyond buying and conserving land, to include goals on fisheries. Goal number 1 is working with industry to develop solutions for their industry. Instead of the top down govt. approach, they want to promote a healthy balance between bottom up and top down. Want to get fishermen armed with tools and technology ,to sit at the management table with more clout, and achieve better outcomes. TNC’s answer to ‘How do we empower fishing communities?’ is: Help develop leaders, cooperatives and other structures to better engage in management. Also want to develop an experimentation approach – to demonstrate that there are multiple ways of doing things and to help find the best option. TNC has a team of 8 staff currently working on the Oceans Program in CA. This program has a coastal resilience aspect, as well as fisheries. The team includes scientists, policy experts, and community organizers that came out of fishing communities. In sum, they aim to build better collaborative organizations and tools for information and empowerment.
TNC has been working on getting an EFP (Experimental Fishing Permit) created at the state level, modeled after an EFP program that exists at the fed level. The State currently only has an Experimental Gear Permit, and this is limiting when there is potential to develop or innovate a fishery that doesn’t require new gear. Case in point: Box Crab. TNC wants to see the State explore creating a fishery for Box Crab and thinks an EFP program would help make that happen.
Quota history: Feds rationalized in 2003. Feds did a federal buyout in 2004-06. TNC did a buyout separate from that. TNC bought permits and vessels – 13 of them. Sat on them for several years. Then worked with a group of fishermen to do an EFP to test some ideas- switch from trawling to traps. Leased permits at a reduced rate within the EFP with premise of sharing info, etc. Other groups calling for a complete closure, other groups looking to transitioning to a catch share program. TNC was not a part of that. But when the catch share program was implemented by the feds, TNC was the second largest quota holder due to its holdings of permits at the time. Permits were turned into quota. There was then a declaration by the Feds that you couldn’t own more than 4.7% of quota, so put together a 2 year plan to divest the quota. TNC saw that big boats were taking up a lot of the quota in OR and WA. TNC wanted to see it anchored in the local communities. They started a community quota fund in Morro Bay and granted the fund some of their quota and developed leasing guidelines to first try to lease it locally before leasing it to outsiders. The goal was to build up community access and keep boats on the water. TNC never had the intention of keeping the quota unfished. As of this year TNC will no longer own any quota. Also gave some quota to private individuals.
QU from CFSB members: Was it the intent to let the permits stay shelved? No, that was never the intent. TNC arranged to have the permits leased for fishing early on and are fully divesting now.
QU from CFSB members: What happened to the halibut trawl permits that TNC got? Did they never get renewed? Not sure.
QU from CFSB members: Who were the donors who provided funds to buy the permits in 2006? Don’t know. Have to ask Chuck Cook. Don’t think the donors had any say in the actions taken. All the permits that the Feds bought up dissolved.
The Feds are still assessing trawl quota for the loan interest. 5% tax plus 4% NMFS monitoring fee. TNC right now trying to appeal to the Feds to reduce those assessments.
The idea is that we will join with the other quota funds and work with TNC and other allies to reduce these fees and make our assets fishable.
From CFSB member: NMFS thinks below the 36 line resource is doing great but it is not. Often a discrepancy between what managers think and fishermen see and know from their experience. Can go both ways in terms of who wants more or less limits.
Jono:TNC’s ultimate goal is to see fishermen become data collectors and come to the table armed with equal footing. So far, TNC is starting to test data collection approaches with the N. Coast Rec Ab fishery. There has been really poor data collection and a lag in when it gets used. TNC heard from fishermen that Dept. has a really skewed view of the resource. TNC gave the fishermen some tools – calipers and digital upload of data. Got 18 fishermen volunteers , and this resulted in amassing 5 times the data that the state takes. Brought that data to the managers to talk with state on how things could be changed.
What if every fishermen had to put in size data along with their record of date and time of landings. First off, the Dept’s data recording is ancient. Can we also update that with a software app? This led TNC to develop software called AbRuler based on photos of abs. They demonstrated that you can take size, user, date and location from the photo. The fishermen loved it because it is huge ammunition to fight back on the closure that just happened that is just based on a small number of transects. The new data gives clear evidence that there is way more spatial patchiness to the health of the resource and shouldn’t have been a blanket closure. Despite the fact that abs are starving from lack of kelp the State closed it because ‘not enough information.’
TNC's goal is to have fisheries managed at maximum sustainable yield, not less than that. More info is the way to get there. So now, coming back to CFSB and the lobster sizing project: TNC is wanting to see in what other fisheries could the softward be useful? They are working with a UCSB software development lab to see if the computer can recognize the carapace and size the lobster accurately. Will the image recognition software be able to take a measurement? Can use machine learning algorithms to train the software using a bunch of validated images. The second objective for this project is that size data is one of the indicators for management specified in the FMP. So the managers are supposed to use size data, but now they are using just average weight as a proxy for size data. With size, they can get an estimate of reproductive potential of the overall population, which feeds into getting the maximum sustainable yield. The mean weight that they get off landing tickets is flawed. Want to paint a better picture of the status of the resource. Carrie Culver operated a 3 year program and had 15 guys using calipers to build a database of size data, but that program dried up. We see this an opportunity to advance that. However, they don’t even know yet if the software can handle lobster carapace sizing.
Jono doesn’t anticipate the Dept using this to measure every lobster and count number of lobsters. We do know that the dept will be making management decisions based on the data available, and we want to see them using higher quality data.
Qu from CFSB: When the lobster come from anywhere, why would they use SPR? Response: The managers are required to use all the indicator metrics designated in the FMP. They will use bad data if they have it. Need to shift the whole paradigm for data collection towards allowing fishermen to collect data. With the way data is being used badly now, the fishery could collapse or they could close the fishery for bad reasons. Managers become too precautionary when they don’t have good data.
QU from CFSB: Who will own the information? CFSB can. TNC just need to use the images.
QU from CFSB: How can we influence the project to do what is best for us? Take the Box Crab example. The Dept. wants to limit incidental take to some amount. Can’t target them. Then wants to do an experimental gear permit with a small number of fishermen doing size and tagging to collect baseline data. Last commission meetings there were 3 of 4 petitions to land box crab. Denied.
TNC not in advocacy business, want to do problemsolving.
Board voted to proceed with this short term project to build an image library of lobster to aid software development that can digitally size carapace length. Motion from Burke to accept the grant contract . Second by Mike McCorkle. Unanimous vote 6/0.
3. Ventura Shellfish Enterprise.
Background: VSE held stakeholder meetings to get feedback on placement of plots within State waters. They then decided to move to federal waters but considered themselves done with stakeholder input on placement. They said their primary reason to move to fed waters was because they thought it would result in less conflict with commercial fisheries. Also we’ve heard that they were concerned the State would move slower than the Feds to approve their lease. They've told us that NMFS has final say on where it is placed and the siting could change several more times as the project advances. Mike McCorkle has heard that NOAA will be sympathetic to any concern by commercial fishing industry when considering whether to approve.
Issue at hand. When VSE released ‘Alternative 8’, a plan to place the lease in part of the Ventura Flats, they have been unresponsive to Mike McCorkles requests to discuss this alternative siting. Should CFSB send a letter of opposition to this project?
Today Kim was able to reach two members of VSE to discuss our concerns. Oscar Pena said they are willing to make a presentation and have a discussion with the CFSB in the near future. They expressed interest in getting more guidance on placement. Kim also reached out to 3 other fishermen about their concerns and ideas.
Some of these are:
- How about moving it to Santa Monica Bay or another no fishing zone?
- Some enviro groups are already planning to strongly oppose the VSE and VSE reps feel that placing in a reserve will be a non starter for both the state and the enviros.
- Outside the edge of the oil rigs?
- VSE concerned that consumers don't want the mussels to be grown near oil due to fears of contamination.
- State trawl grounds have a seasonal closure which pushes everyone out to federal waters in spring. This makes move to fed waters really problematic.
- The place they chose- swell is twice the size right there, current is very strong. The stuff will get wiped out. What is the accountability for retrieving the gear before it gets caught up in fishing nets?
- We must recognize that mariculture operation is another ocean user and there is always conflict, whether its between guys in the same fishery competing, or between two different fisheries.
- From VSE: Many divers in particular have expressed interest in potentially subleasing a site.
- The way they’ve configured Alternative 8 will make it difficult to set nets and trawl properly. If they could move it over, that might be less problematic.
Miles made a motion to have VSE make a presentation to CFSB so we can voice all concerns. Seconded by John. Vote: 5 in favor, 1 abstain.
Meeting adjourned at 7pm.
These minutes were compiled by Kim Selkoe to the best of her recollection.