Freelance sportfishing boat takes from Casino Park

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Posted by Max Bottomtime on May 08, 2005 at 19:33:07:

HELP: Catalina's Casino Pt. Dive Park and Charter Fishing Boats


Today was the last straw for me. I hope that many of you who dive Catalina Island's Casino Point Dive Park will be equally outraged and suggest courses of action we in the dive community may take to stop the intrusion of charter fishing boats from the mainland on the park's fish life.

For over a decade I have watched mainland charter boats like the Freelance, Sport King and Fury pull up to the lines bordering the Dive Park and begin fishing there. We're talking dozens of fishers (with a full boat on the Freelance being 90 fishers at a time!) plopping their hooks and lines at the edge of (or even inside as I have witnessed) the dive park.

These are the same people who say marine reserves don't work. Yet with 54 miles of Catalina coastline to fish, and only a portion of it protected by sanctioned marine reserves, they choose to fish right off the Dive Park. Hmmm... can you say something fishy about this?? I think you can (even if you are a legitimate fisher as I have been).

The dive park currently is not a CDF&G sanctioned marine reserve. However, it has been a defacto one since I've been on the island (35+ years). Technically it is legal for these boats to fish outside the park. However, it is posted as illegal to anchor a vessel within 300 feet of the dive park lines for safety reasons.

This afternoon the Freelance cruised past the lines at a distance of about 15-20 feet, turned around and set anchor within 25 feet of the park. It was positioned right between the two large mooring buoys which both have signs specifically stating it is illegal to anchor within 300 feet of the Park.

The fishers on board began casting their lines right over the position of the wrecks of the Pisces and the sailboats. Fortunately there were few divers in the Park because it was Mother's Day. Then the crew started throwing chum in the water. Some of the chum was intentionally thrown into the Park, presumably to lure fish out of it towards the lines and hooks.

I began filming this with my video camera to document it. I have other footage showing the Freelance working the edge of the Dive Park and the marine reserve at Toyon Bay as well. I couldn't tell through the viewfinder whether any fishers had their lines inside the park, but the hooks were along the side of the Pisces wreck underwater for sure.

I'm certain many of you divers have observed this vessel (the primary culprit) and others doing similar things. The Freelance was warned by a harbor patrolman this time and moved away (towards the Lover's Cove marine reserve which IS a CDF&G sanctioned reserve). The glassbottom boat captains have seen the Freelance and other vessels either anchor in Lover's Cove and let their anchor line scope carry them outside or vice versa! It is therefore obvious to me that this practice is intentional and not accidental.

As I mentioned, I took video of this event to document it (along with other intrusions I have witnessed over the years). After my dives I went to the Harbor Master's office and reported what I saw. They had written up the warning already, and added my comments as well. I was told the vessel will be cited if it does this again.

I hope others in the soCal dive community will help me find legal (no Claymore mines although it is tempting) ways to stop this behavior. Please feel free to post or PM me with your thoughts and I will compile them.

I intend to:

(1) document all future incidents, on videotape if possible;

(2) write one of my newspaper columns about this specific incident, perhaps posting the Freelance's telephone number in Newport Beach, 949-673-1434 (if you call, don't harrass the poor folks answering the phone, just state your opposition to this practice courteously since the phone is for Davey Jones' Locker and involves other vessels and crews not at fault here);

(3) Write the Newport Beach Conference and Visitor's Bureau about this problem (if you write, please be courteous as they are not the offending party).

Newport Beach Conference & Visitors Bureau
110 Newport Center Drive, Suite 120
Newport Beach, CA 92660
Phone: (949) 719-6100
Fax: (949) 719-6101

(4) Work with other divers and dive operators using the Park to embarrass the Freelance crew whenever it comes within 300 feet of the Dive Park. I plan to do this by courteously stating that I thought fishers did not believe marine reserves worked, and if the Freelance crew doesn't believe that, why are they trying to fish so close to our defacto reserve? No foul language or other tactics, just embarrass them in front of their customers. They'll move.

(5) Write soCal and other dive clubs who use the Dive Park to see if they will do what they can to discourage the owner of the Freelance (Don Brockman) from allowing such practices by his crews, and to help keep the vessel offshore from the Dive Park.

When I write my letter to the N.B. Vis & Conv Bureau, it would help to have co-signers. If there are others here who would be willing to add their names, please PM or e-mail me.

This has got to stop. We've already lost one Oscar-sized sheephead and probably a large number of lesser known stars of our park to people like them. This vessel seems to think it is entitled to 100% of the ocean and Catalina's 54-mile coastline. Let's at least exclude the 150-200 yard frontage of the Dive Park (and all other reserves in the waters it travels).

Dr. Bill
Angry in Avalon

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