2017 Groundfish Depth Regulations Will Go Back To 2016 Regs

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 The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) on September 18 voted to bring groundfish depth restrictions for the balance of 2017 back to 2016 depths in California from Pt. Conception to the Oregon border.

The restrictions will go into effect after the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) publishes an official notice of the regulation changes. ”We expect the regulation change to be published in the Federal Register on or before October 16,” said Marci Yaremko, the CDFW Designee on the PFMC. The CDFW was expected to issue a press release as this publication was going to press.

The CDFW states on its website: “Inseason changes to recreational regulations are pending, and expected to take effect in mid-October. Please check this webpage or call the regulations hotline at (831) 649-2801 for updates before engaging in fishing for groundfish.” https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Groundfish-Summary

“NMFS will need to issue regulations and California will automatically conform its regulations,” explained Marc Gorelnik, CA sport fIsheries member of the PFMC-SAS.

“The reason is that the take of yelloweye rockfish is forecast to exceed harvest guidelines. The increased depths exposed more yelloweye and anglers have not been sufficiently careful about identifying these fish,” he said.

Gorelnik emphasized that the result could have been worse. In Oregon, rockfishing is CLOSED on September 17 because Oregon has already exceeded its yelloweye quota (and a couple of other species).  

The groundfish depth restrictions in each region will revert back to those in the 2016 regulations, according to Sherry Ingles of the Half Moon Bay Sportfishing Center. For example, the groundfish regulations in the San Francisco Management Area will go back from 40 fathoms (240 feet) to30 fathoms (180 feet) for the remainder of the season ending December 31.

According to CDFW data, California recreational anglers are in danger of exceeding their allowable take of 3.9 metric tons of yelloweye rockfish, due to the mortality of fish released or those kept by mistake.

“There was a possibility of the season being shut down completely, but the council managed to avoid this by reducing the rockfish depth restrictions to those in effect in 2016,” said Ingles. “It’s really important that anglers identify the fish properly to avoid keeping them and misindentifying to the CDFW fish counters at the docks.”

The Pacific Fishery Management Council Decision Summary Document states:

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife reported higher than anticipated yelloweye rockfish mortality in the California recreational fishery. In order to prevent a fishery closure projected for mid-October, the Council recommended that NMFS restrict the depths open to fishing for the California recreational fishery, except in the Southern Management Area which remains status quo, as follows:

Oregon, through state action, closed their recreational groundfish fishery for all species except for flatfish on September 17 to prevent overages of the state recreational harvest guidelines (HG) from reducing opportunity to the Oregon commercial nearshore fishery, and to ensure total removals do not exceed the Oregon ACLs for black rockfish and cabezon (see ODFW Report). The Oregon recreational fishery also exceeded their Federal harvest guideline of yelloweye rockfish. The Council suggested Oregon proceed with re-opening Option 1 from the ODFW Report, which would allow fishing outside of 40 fathoms from October 1 to December 31 for all bottomfish, with retention of cabezon and black rockfish prohibited, provided the state ensures total mortality for all species will not exceed their Federal ACLs.

CDFW urges anglers to avoid fishing in areas where yelloweye rockfish are known to occur (e.g., rocky outcrops and pinnacles).

‘If taken, yelloweye rockfish should be immediately returned to the water with a descending device to minimize injury and mortality. CDFW also encourages anglers who encounter them to change fishing locations to prevent catching additional yelloweye rockfish,”  the Department said in a press release.

Yelloweye rockfish are a long-lived, slow-growing shelf rockfish species that was declared overfished in 2002. They are currently managed under a strict federal rebuilding plan to allow the population to recover. For more information, visit the CDFW Marine Region Groundfish Central website at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/Groundfish.