The spiny lobster fishery is one of the oldest fisheries on the West Coast. The range of the California spiny lobster, Panulirus interruptus, extends from Point Conception, California to Bahia Magdelena, Mexico. The primary fishing ports for the California fleet are found from Santa Barbara to San Diego. The development of a Fishery Management Plan (FMP) is intended to provide for the long term sustainability of this species.
The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is responsible for managing the California spiny lobster in U.S. waters. The fishery consists of both a commercial and a recreational fishery in Southern California. The California spiny lobster fishery is identified as one of the highest priority candidates for an FMP due to an unknown population level and the extent of the recreational fishery harvest. The Spiny Lobster level of priority is also based in part on the state’s Marine Life Management Act (MLMA) master plan prioritization of the fishery for FMP development. While the stock seems healthy, maintaining the lobster population’s sustainability over time is a concern for DFG and the OPC. Additionally, the California Lobster and Trap Fishermen’s Association has expressed interest in FMP development to maintain the sustainability of the commercial lobster fishery.
The spiny lobster FMP will use a collaborative approach involving state agencies, the commercial and recreational fisheries, scientists, the California Wildlife Foundation (CWF), and members of the public. The fishery plan builds on a number of key actions the OPC has taken to advance the development of sustainable fisheries and fishing communities in California. Funding this FMP will implement recommendations from the Marine Life Management Act (MLMA) lessons learned project to develop new approaches to inform FMPs. It will also advance the California Sustainable Seafood Initiative (CSSI) by providing useful population data to help prepare the spiny lobster fishery for possible certification as sustainable.
Request for Qualifications
Management Strategy Evaluation (April 27, 2012)
Council Documents/Staff Reports
Staff Recommendation (May 12, 2011)
In November, 2007, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) purchased property in Moss Landing Harbor occupied by a wetfish offloader to provide a permanent home for the NSF (National Science Foundation) owned Research Vessel Point Sur. This site is also home to one of the last remaining coastal pelagic species (wetfish) fish offloading facilities in Moss Landing.
MLML saw an opportunity to partner with the local fishing industry, to create a sustainable fishery that could save local jobs and to promote a partnership that would benefit research, education and fishing interests by developing the property into a multi-use fishing operations facility, serving research and education co-located with sustainable fish offloading facilities.
In 2007, OPC provided funds to MLML to develop a feasibility study with help from the local Monterey Institute of International Studies Business School and the Naval Postgraduate School. The study examined markets for coastal pelagic species (CPS) — primarily, sardine, anchovy, mackerel and squid — that could be used to transform the existing low-value high-volume catch model to a higher-value lower volume management of the catch and identified new product and market opportunities.
Staff Recommendations/Project Documents
Moss Landing Feasibility Study
The fishing community at Fisherman’s Wharf has provided seafood to area residents for more than a century. On average, over 3 million pounds of fish per year are landed in San Francisco, making it one of the major seafood ports on the West Coast. These landings are worth over six-million dollars a year to the local fleet, which operates largely in the waters of the Gulf of the Farallones, Cordell Bank, and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries. The local fleet has traditionally harvested salmon, crab, rock cod, albacore tuna, herring and California Halibut – a mixture of state- and federally-managed fisheries with diverse rules, fishery management plans and types of fishing gear.
Ecotrust, the San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Association (CBOA) and the San Francisco Community Fishing Association (SFCFA) are partnering on an innovative venture that is designed to create incentives for conservation of ocean resources through the creation of a sustainable wholesale and retail seafood market along San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. The vision is to have San Francisco’s fishermen own and operate an integrated seafood business, from harvest to consumer that anchors the long-term viability of the fleet, create jobs for future generations of fishermen, maintain the fishing heritage of San Francisco Bay area, and create incentives for the responsible stewardship and sustainable management of the ocean.
In 2007, OPC and the Coastal Conservancy provided funds to Ecotrust to work with CBOA on a feasibility study, which included the development of a business plan, architectural design sketches and engineering studies, and construction costing for the market facility on Pier 47. In November 2010, OPC authorized additional funding for the first phase of project, creation of a pilot marketplace at Pier 45 in which fishermen can sell their fresh catch to area businesses, restaurants and local consumers, during the 2010-2011 season.
Council Documents/Staff Recommendations
Feasibility Study and Business Plan
Staff Recommendation for San Francisco Fishermen’s Wharf Seafood Market (Nov 2010)
In 2006, the commercial fishing industry in San Luis Obispo County had been hard hit economically as a result of dramatic changes in government regulations and market forces. Increased competition from abroad and new regulations at home, including no-trawl fishing zones and the creation of marine protected areas, combined to threaten the future viability of the region’s fishing industry. In response, the Morro Bay and Port San Luis harbor departments, and the commercial fishermen that rely on their waterfronts, requested funding from the Coastal Conservancy and the Ocean Protection Council to assist them to transition to a more financially and environmentally sustainable future.
OPC provided a grant of $130,000 to the City of Morro Bay to prepare a business plan, develop and implement a marketing plan, and build and conduct sea trials of innovative low impact fishing gear to support the commercial fishing industry and revitalize harbors in San Luis Obispo County.
In 2006, OPC awarded a grant to the San Diego Watermen’s Association (SDWA) to assist the sea urchin fishery in San Diego in its efforts to build long-term sustainability. The SDWA effort focused on three activities which were considered critical for developing responsible harvesting practices, collecting and distributing a high value product, and perpetuating local-level stewardship of the sea urchin fishery. They were:
1) Transforming the sea urchin fishery in the San Diego area from a data-poor status to one based on good fishery-dependent and independent scientific data and models.
2) Developing a model for high-quality collaborative research between fishery scientists and the fishing community, building on the benefits of resource stewardship and information sharing by sea urchin fishermen.
3) Shifting the local sea urchin market to a value-based system that benefits fishermen and the consumer.
The SDWA project served as a successful model for establishing leadership within a fishing community to improve data on fisheries and build collaborative relationships with fishery scientists and managers. The project also initiated efforts to develop approaches for improving urchin markets; SDWA is continuing to work on these business strategies.
Staff Recommendations/Project Documents
OPC Staff Recommendation (November 2006)
Final Report (November 2008)
Final Report Appendices (November 2008)
Collaborative Fisheries Research
Collaborative fisheries research (CFR) involves creating partnerships among fisheries stakeholders (commercial and recreational fishermen, university scientists and fisheries scientists, coastal managers, NGOs, funders, and tribes) to encourage collaboration on fisheries research design, including defining goals and research questions, and to ensure that necessary data gathered in a manner that will improve fisheries management. The clear benefit of collaborative research is fishermen participating in the collection of data. They are also able to provide an “on-the-water service” by making available their fishing vessels, equipment, etc., to CFR projects. The degree of collaboration that takes place on fisheries research projects can vary and strongly depends on the questions driving the needs and stakeholders involved.
2008 CFR Workshop
Establishing a CFR Organization
In September 2008, the OPC authorized disbursement of up to $300,000 to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC) to create a collaborative fisheries research (CFR) organization in California. The CFR organization will develop, solicit, and fund projects with the goal of creating partnerships between fishermen and scientists to develop and collect fisheries data necessary to the Department of Fish and Game, the Fish and Game Commission, the Pacific Fishery Management Council, and the Ocean Protection Council.
This establishment of the CFR program was delayed due to the state bond freeze, however, it was restarted in late 2009. The PSMFC is now making progress in establishing the CFR organization.
In November 2010, the OPC authorized disbursement of up to $1,500,000 to the PSMFC and the University of California Sea Grant Program to continue to build the organization and to fund the actual research projects. The goal is to leverage substantially greater and more stable funding sources from the federal government.
2008 CFR Workshop Summary
Staff Recommendation (September 2008)
Staff Recommendation (November 2010)
Public Resources Code (PRC) Section 30411(e) required the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) to prepare programmatic environmental impact reports (PEIRs) for both coastal and inland commercial aquaculture projects. DFG contracted for the preparation of the draft environmental documents in 2003, but subsequently concluded that these documents were inadequate. DFG lacked sufficient resources to redraft and complete these PEIRs and additional funds from the aquaculture industry were not available to improve the initial reports.
On May 26, 2006, Senate Bill 201 was signed into law which repealed the previous aquaculture PEIR requirements and created a new section in the Fish and Game Code for developing these documents. This new section established criteria for the coastal aquaculture PEIR to be completed by DFG including extensive requirements to be addressed by marine finfish aquaculture applicants.
The certified PEIR for marine aquaculture can serve as the first tier of CEQA review for proposed aquaculture operations. The PEIR can also serve as a guidance document for potential project sponsors in alerting them to the potential environmental impacts and the need to avoid or mitigate those impacts. The PEIR may also serve as an educational tool for interested parties that may have concerns about commercial marine aquaculture development.
The Department of Fish and Game lacked the necessary funds to complete the PEIR, necessitating the financial contribution from the Ocean Protection Council.
The PEIR is currently still under development.
Staff Recommendation (June 2006)
Staff Recommendation (November 2010)
California’s 2006 Budget Act appropriated $8 million to the California Ocean Protection Council for the implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) and Marine Life Management Act (MLMA). The Budget Act called for these funds to be expended “pursuant to a work plan developed jointly by the OPC and the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG).” An additional $2 million was appropriated to DFG to fulfill these same goals. To maximize the effectiveness of these associated appropriations, OPC and DFG created a joint work plan that set forth priorities for the complete $10 million.
The OPC-DFG Joint Work Plan was aimed at collecting, analyzing, and applying data essential to the implementation of the MLPA and the MLMA. Work plan projects focused on three activities: (1) improving methods and collection of fishery-dependent and fishery-independent data; (2) monitoring to inform the management of marine protected areas (MPAs); and (3) equipment improvements to ensure capacity to collect and manage data. Data and results collected as part of this effort will support MPA monitoring and evaluation, which is being led by the MPA Monitoring Enterprise in collaboration with DFG.
Work Plan Projects
- Baseline monitoring of California’s Central Coast marine protected areas (MPAs) – $2,275,000 was provided for socioeconomic and ecological baseline data collection of the MLPA Central Coast Study Region necessary for future evaluations of ecosystem and socioeconomic changes inside and outside of this region’s MPAs. Six research projects were funded to implement a program of baseline data collection following a competitive process led by OPC, DFG, and California Sea Grant. A final report is available here.
- Seafloor and marine habitat maps for the MLPA North Central Coast Study Region – The Monterey Bay Sanctuary Foundation granted $2,510,000 (of which $1,200,000 was funded by OPC and $1,000,000 from DFG, and the remainder from additional partners) to California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) and Fugro Pelagos for fieldwork, and CSUMB, Moss Landing Marine Lab and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for data interpretation and data products. Together, these efforts resulted in accurate benthic habitat maps that were critical to the selection, design, and analysis of the newly designated marine protected areas in the central coast and north central coast regions as part of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative. The success of this pilot effort led to the full implementation of the California Seafloor Mapping Program.
- SCUBA surveys of the Channel Islands Marine Reserves – $371,187 was awarded to University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) PISCO and $210, 668 was awarded to the National Park Service Kelp Forest Monitoring (KFM) program conducted collaborative fish and benthic surveys in 2007 and 2008. These surveys used methods consistent with PISCO and KFM long-term monitoring of these reserves, and recorded density and size structure of fishes, invertebrates, and algae inside and outside of numerous reserves. The data were incorporated into the existing datasets and made available through the PISCO data catalogue to support future MPA management and fisheries stock assessments.
- Trap Surveys of the Channel Islands Marine Reserves – $407,000 was awarded to UCSB to conduct lobster and finfish surveys in 2007, 2008, and 2009 as part of a collaborative effort between UCSB and local fishermen. These data recorded overall size and abundance of lobsters and finfish inside and outside of MPAs to help inform MPA management and potentially lobster stock assessments. The project was also part of the Collaborative Lobster and Fishery Research Project. The final report from this project is available here.
- Deep Water Ocean Surveys – $660,000 was awarded to Marine Applied Research and Exploration (MARE) to conduct deep-water ocean surveys at various monitoring sites within the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary in collaboration with Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSFMC) and DFG. More information on the surveys can be found here.
- Nearshore Ichthyoplankton Data Baseline – $500,000 was awarded to UC San Diego to synthesize data on California Current and nearshore ichthyoplankton populations based on historic and recent data from California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) and other ichthyoplankton monitoring programs, including expanded coastal sampling as part of the Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System (SCCOOS). The research provides a valuable baseline picture of ichythoplankton populations, and for informing stock assessments for species such as the California lobster. UCSD is also producing a web-accessible database, to inform future studies of changes in fish populations.
- Socio-economic information for the MLPA North Central Coast Study Region – $200,000 was awarded to Ecotrust to collect baseline socioeconomic data collection for the MLPA North Central Coast Study Region. Ecotrust developed and deployed an interactive computer tool to collect georeferenced information from the fishing community about the extent and relative importance of commercial and recreational fisheries in the North Central Coast Study Region. The data were used during the MLPA process to inform stakeholder discussions of MPA sites. Ecotrust also analyzed the fishery data in combination with additional DFG data to estimate maximum potential impacts of proposed MPA networks developed in the MLPA Initiative process.
- Improving management of California coastal fisheries –Many of California’s nearshore fisheries are data-poor, making it difficult to conduct stock assessments or develop management strategies for these populations. To help address this situation, Quantitative Resources Assessment, LLC (QRA) was awarded $150,000 to conduct an evaluation of alternative management strategies that can be applied to data-poor California fisheries. QRA has provided an introductory description of a management strategy approach and applied it to specific case studies (a final report is available here). As part of this project, QRA developed a stock assessment for California halibut, which was ranked as the highest priority finfish species for fishery management plan (FMP) development (stock assessment report is available here).
- Upgrades to DFG equipment, vessels, and fishery data management systems – The work plan also provided the following grant awards to upgrade DFG data management and equipment systems: $325,000 for upgrades to DFG remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), research vessels, and other DFG marine equipment; $302,571 to conduct an assessment of the informational and data needs of DFG to support the work of managing the state’s marine resources; $445,000 to PSMFC to develop a comprehensive and integrated electronic data collection and reporting system for commercial and recreational fishery-dependent data and an additional $630,000 to test new survey methods for reducing uncertainty in recreational fishing data when sampling private and rental boats that return to private-access sites as part of the California Recreational Fisheries Survey (CRFS) .
The Central Coast Groundfish Project (CCGP) is an innovative endeavor being spearheaded by The Nature Conservancy (TNC). The goal of the CCGP is to establish a community-based fishing institution that can provide for the long-term ecological and economic sustainability of the Central Coast groundfish fishery. OPC funds have been used to develop and implement aspects of the project which evaluate and demonstrate the effectiveness of different harvesting techniques and ways of organizing fishing effort to achieve the goals of ecological and economic sustainability.
Council Documents/Staff Recomendations
Staff Recommendation for the Central Coast Groundfish Project: Conserving a Working Seascape Project (September 10-11, 2008)
Staff Recommendation for the Central Coast Groundfish Project Trawl Impact and Recovery Study (November 29, 2010)
In 2005, TNC partnered with regulatory agencies and trawl fishermen in Central Coast communities to create a program aimed at developing new and sustainable approaches to the Central Coast groundfish fishery in California. Jointly, these groups petitioned the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) for 3.8 million acres of important marine habitats (Essential Fish Habitat, “EFH”) that would be off limits to bottom trawl gear. Simultaneously, to reduce bottom trawl fishing effort and to mitigate the economic impact of bottom trawl closures, TNC purchased federal permits and vessels from local fishermen interested in leaving the trawl groundfish industry.
Building on the purchase of the federal groundfish trawl permits, TNC began leasing its permits back to local fisherman. As part of these leases, TNC has been evaluating the benefits of using more selective gear (hook & line and traps) and shared harvest caps using protocols approved by federal regulators. These experiments are being conducted with local fishermen as a test for community-based fisheries management.
The prospect of the transition to an Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ or Rationalization) has raised concern among the fishing community for a potential loss of the fishing heritage of the region. Fishermen in this remote area may sell or move their permits to more viable trawl ports. This management shift offers an opportunity to design an approach to mitigate these potential impacts by transitioning its permits and associated quota share to a new fishing entity. This entity would anchor access in Central Coast Communities; convert from trawl to lower volume, higher value, and more sustainable fishing practices; promote local stewardship and co-management; and provide California consumers with access to sustainably harvested fish.
The grant from the OPC is being used to fund the following three components of the CCGP:
1. Community Based Fishing Association/Exempted Fishing Permit – The Community-Based Fishing Association (CBFA) is a demonstration project operating under regulatory approvals by the PFMC and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in which up to six TNC-owned trawl permits will be transitioned to more selective, hook-and-line and trap methods used by participating fishermen, who will also cooperatively harvest a pooled catch limit. This project will demonstrate the feasibility of transitioning local trawl effort to alternative gear types and establishing shared community goals for harvest and sale of fish. TNC is working with its fishing and community partners and experts in the Central Coast to design and eventually establish a CBFA, an institution that can hold and manage fishery assets (permits and quota) and incorporate conservation, community, and business goals into its business decision making. Important to the CCGP vision is market demand for premium quality, locally harvested, and sustainably caught seafood.
TNC has secured final approval for the Exempted Fishing Permits (EFPs) necessary to implement this demonstration project in 2009 and 2010. A harvest plan to guide fishing effort during the course of the project has been developed for the EFP.
2. Conservation Fishing Agreements – The Conservation Fishing Agreements are part of a demonstration project in which TNC-owned trawl permits are used by fishermen subject to a private trawl lease agreement that incorporates specific conservation terms into the contract. The purpose is to evaluate the feasibility of improving trawling practices to reduce bycatch and habitat damage.
3. Central Coast Trawl Impact Study – TNC worked with key partners to implement the first year of a five-year study to assess the impacts of groundfish trawling on soft-bottom habitats and the amount of time it takes for seafloor habitats to recover from trawling effort. The first year of the research project is focused on baseline data collection (pre-trawling), implementation of directed trawling treatments, and post-trawling data collection at a study site on the continental shelf off of Morro Bay, California. OPC support has been used to conduct the first year of surveys and directed trawling effort.
The partnership generated from the Central Coast Groundfish Project will help inform future management decisions and may clear the path for similar partnerships and innovations in the larger West Coast groundfish fishery and beyond.
The Nature Conservancy Contact