Craig Shuman and Julia Coates from the CA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife joined us 3-5pm on Wednesday January 30th in the Harbor Classroom to hear questions and concerns from our community.
Underlined text represents comments by Craig or Julia.
Shuman began by laying out the rationale for creating the Box Crab experimental gear permit:
They saw rapid increase in landings of a non target species, Box Crab. This was a ripe opportunity to learn more about the species and develop a fishery.
He recognizes that access to fisheries is the big problem. Some want to limit it, others want in.
The Dept’s approach is to leverage their existing authority to develop a new fishery.
Its an opportunity to advance at-sea technology for data collection.
Also to determine how might the permits structure work if this becomes its own fishery.
The Dept is focused on continually working out ways to be adaptive and responsive and flexible.
Question from audience: Why did they go with a random draw and not history of landings?
Shuman: It came down to constraints and mandates. They had no ability to proscribe criteria about who gets the permits. AB1517 eliminated 8606 code for the authority to issue box crab permits. Now they would need new regs to be developed to create usable criteria. CDFW will try to develop them over the next year. Under these circumstances, the Department decided to push forward to get the permits out in December before AB1517 hindered their ability to move forward without a lengthy new process.
The Random draw was an unbiased way to do it. The criterion for inclusion in the invitation to the draw was being a licensed permittee for the 3 specialty trap permits (Lobster, Rock Crab or Dungeness).
Julia: The Dept. mailed a gard copy letter to every trap permit holder about 1 year ago announcing this process. It went out to 800 individuals that have permits for lobster, rock crab, or Dungeness. Then they invited those folks to several public meetings.
The random drawing was in order by region. The participants in the draw would need to decide whether they really wanted in if they won a spot. The cost of participation includes: $4500 annual fee, monitoring costs. There were 15 applicants to be in the random draw, 8 permits were issued.
One of the challenges with giving preference by landings history, is that box crab isn’t legal to be targeted. If you give preference to the box crab landings holders, it is rewarding those who were not following the regs.
Using historic landings in the past has caused problems as to what the cut off is for how many landings gets you in the running. The department gets served with appeals to their decisions.
Permit issuance is yet to be decided. Craig and Julia want our input. How do we keep people on the water? A lot of folks sit on permits because they are worth a lot. They do not want to enable permit speculators.
Audience comment: It’s a dangerous precedent to have to compete amongst ourselves for the right to go fishing.
Response: How are fishermen ever not competing? Craig doesn’t see this as substantially different.
Audience Comment: Fish and Game Commission has no awareness of their role in how resource allocation is done. If the dept starts to embrace alternative approaches to allocating fishing opportunities, away from emphasizing historic take, there will be no real oversight.
Using box crab as a potential experiment. This is short term. Want to ensure it doesn’t set a precedent.
Comment from audience: MLMA requires bringing in stakeholders in a working group. The managers must understand the larger ramifications of trying a new approach that disregards history.
Response: Pink shrimp is an example where barrier to issuing more permits is that nobody in it wants more permits issued even though there is capacity.
Comment: Transferability and owner operator approaches can work.
Response: Another example is the petition to open more spot prawn permits. The 17 left in the fishery now scream at the possibility.
Comment: There’s a constant reduction of area, permits.
Question: Will you potentially keep the number of permits at 8 after the first 3 years?
Response: There is no guarantee there will be a fishery. It depends on whether the resource sustain the pressure. If so, where can it sustain the pressure? If you participate in the experiment, that doesn’t guarantee you will get a permit.
Question: How do you determine whether to go with a fishery?
Response: CPUE, response of the stock with tagging study, depletion study. In the experimental box crab fishery, there is a trap limit and monitoring, size limit, and trip requirement (50 trips).
Comment: There was a local fisheries impact program 20 years ago that tried an exp. Box fishery. Columny participated.
Comment: What happens when they catch cowcod because they don’t have the expertise to avoid it?
Response: We were fortunate that the random draw gave a mix of guys with and without landings. Don’t want to bias the experiment to only using those with landings and then open to novice and get a lot of bigger damage than estimate. We weren’t happy that some of the guys who we worked with didn’t get permits.
Comment: Spider crab is an example where you can get a total annual quota. Could there be a similar status quo level of box crab landings?
Response: All of it is on the table – historical, open access via trip limits, TAC, etc.
Restricted Access programs have created a bunch of haves and have nots. The mandate is that the resource is sustainably fished. Need to have a discussion with stakeholders.
Deepset buoy example – everyone who applied got an experimental fishing permit. Whose going to own the data?
Pacific States holds the data. Fishermen own it and can give you a limited license to review it. Need to unpack data ownership and confidentiality. CA has some of the strictest rules on confidentiality.
Comment: Please move away from using observers. Can’t do it with our small boats.
Question: How will the box crab experimental fishery relate to a possible future trend toward more observer coverage in all State managed fisheries?
Response: It will allow us to examine what are the opportunities for at sea monitoring. For instance, with more Electronic Monitoring, we can have better accounting of where trap gear is and where the whales are, to avoid cutting the season down when whales are present. They are either concentrating offshore for krill, or nearshore for anchovies and sardines. National fishermen article by Ray Hilborn a few months back make the case for fishermen to embrace more monitoring.
Another example: CDPH could require that we have monitoring of all vessels so that a vessel can transit through Domoic Acid closure area. Currently, you can have no possession in a closed area because possession = take. Cameras would allow that transit.
Question: how has the box crab experiment gotten funded?
Response: Julia’s gotten $300 k to support the experiment to offset the fees of the experiment, electronic monitoring and research. She is not paid directly from that money. Her salary is covered as always by the State.
Question: How will regulators decide how much catch can this resource sustain?
Response: It depends on trap design. Trap design in the box crab experiment will be varied. They will use statistics to see the impact of trap design on catch. Also using tagging and experiments to see how much fishing it takes to get declines in catch for a given area.
Fishing in the experiment will start April 1 for 1 year. Renew the program and maybe open up new opportunity in a new EFP the following year.
Shuman gave more updates on what the Department is up to:
Working on their bycatch working group results, and implementing the updated MLMA. The Dept is very focused on a more “scaled” approach to fisheries management. Moving away from requirement to do a FMP because the State can’t manage to do it under 5 years and under $5 million. Instead, they are developing “enhanced status reports” (ESR) – snapshots of a fishery – research and management gaps and opportunities. They will be released later this year on an online ‘fisheries portal.’ That is searchable. ESRS will be living documents- no formal public comment. Can revise and update if there is a need.
They will use a prioritization exercise to inform what to work on next. Priorites will be informed by ESR. This will help to guide NGOs into the topics we want to focus on.
Another new development: They are working on systems for “data review.” Created a new position for data management. Someone who will assess all data: What is it, why, do we trust it, do we use it?
Also, July 1 Etix becomes mandatory. No more paper landing receipts. 3 day turn around on landings data. There will still be a paper ‘dock ticket’ that is given to the fisherman. Can be any format – napkin is fine. Department will issue a form you can use.
In mlma implementation, there was emphasis on unmonitored bycatch. Example of a fishery that needs work on data resources: Set net gillnets have very little knowledge on bycatch at state level despite heavy federal monitoring with observers .
There will be an effort by the Department to straighten out: What data is available? What tools are available?
Who determines if the information is acceptable? The Commission, informed by the department.
Salmon and Sardine disaster funding were approved. Sardine is appropriated. Urchin: currently working on a re-request that is back out to Governors office, moving forward soon. Dept recommendation was to approve it. For the north county.
Kelp on the north coast: Department not supporting rec removals, but are supporting 40 gallon total bag limit.
Dept also working on Emerging ocean uses – artificial reefs, offshore energy, aquaculture.
Dep wants your input on ORHEP review of white sea bass hatchery. It has cost $20mill+ over the past 20 years. Statutory mandate run by advisory panel. Review results show that the program hasn’t been contributing to the population of white sea bass. Need to hear more from constituents on what to do.
Drift Gillnet: Working on regulations to implement buy out program. The way it works you can put your name in for it. NGOs and OPC are funding it. Will it be 20 or 36 individuals who qualify? If they don’t find the money ,the clock doesn’t start. Will the list of NGOs be made available? There’s a 4 year clock.
Comment: As of march 1st the permits aren’t transferable. How can the OPC give money to put a sustainable fishery out of business?
The money isn’t going to the department. Pac States may manage the accounts with very small overhead.
We have proven that time and energy removing urchins continually will allow kelp to regrow.
Notes on Post-meeting discussions by a couple CFSB boardmembers:
The Commission has been misled to think that latent capacity is a bad thing but it creates flexibity - it can be beneficial to have effort sitting on the sidelines. Fishermen have to have a portfolio. If the rest of the mgnt structure ensures sustainability, latent capacity is ok. Just need a system to deal with the uncertainty of a possible large sudden influx of activity from latent permits due to changes in availability or value of the resource.
Could there be a system wherein fishermen declare you aren’t planning on prioritizing permit use, some way to formalize the latency. Have a tiered price of maintaining the permit and different transferability rules for latent permits.
We need an analysis by economists to describe the management approaches and access policies that can drive sustainable fisheries mngmt toward good long term SOCIAL outcomes. Understand ways of allowing smart permit transferability.
The analysis could look at factors related to environmental change and dynamic fish populations interacting with the economics of permit transferability to inform CDFW as to how to allocate box crab opportunity. Case study of geoduck fishery in Puget sound - an auction of access. How do you avoid corporate interests taking over? Owner operator needs protection and prioritization.
The goal should be to give maximal numbers of fishermen opportunity within the confines of what the resource can support for both biological and economic sustainability.