DFG Launches New Ocean Fishing Monitoring Program

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Posted by Chris on March 18, 2004 at 09:43:05:

A major role of the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is to gain a better understanding of how many fish are caught in the ocean during the fishing season. As a result, the DFG has begun implementing the California Recreational Fisheries Survey (CRFS), a new program designed to monitor the number of sport fish being caught by saltwater anglers in the waters off California's 1,100-mile coast.
"This survey is expected to significantly contribute to our understanding of the health of the state's ocean fishing stocks," said Patricia Wolf, DFG's Marine Region manager. "We aim to use the best available data for our management decisions. This new program will help in that effort as well as in our overall efforts to ensure our fisheries remain sustainable."

DFG will now rely on its own data collection program as opposed to previously utilizing federal data concerning the state's recreational catches. Surveying anglers through interviews and onboard observations is the only means currently available to track the state's recreational landings. Commercial fishermen are required to complete logs, and landing receipts, which are used to determine the state's commercial catches.

"With more than a million saltwater sport anglers and divers, their catches cannot be considered insignificant, and managers have to have some improved way to estimate their catch," said Wolf.

The CRFS is being implemented in cooperation with the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC), the West Coast agency dedicated to addressing fishery issues by supporting policies and actions directed at the conservation, development and management of fishery resources.

Designed to specifically focus on California's recreational anglers, the data generated will be analyzed by experts and used to help assess stocks, develop seasonal management measures, determine if annual harvest limits are close to being met, and, if necessary, prompt fishery managers to make in-season management adjustments to ensure annual allocations last throughout the entire fishing season. With the objective to avoid in-season fishery closures, obtaining timely catch and fishing effort data is key to DFG's management of California's marine fisheries, such as the rockfish fishery.

Prior to this new program, DFG's marine managers relied on federal observer data generated by the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS). Constituents, including the Fish and Game Commission, Pacific Fishery Management Council, and DFG, were in agreement that a separate and more comprehensive program was needed.

"We recreational anglers have been screaming about bad data for years. This new program will allow us to do something about it, and I encourage every angler contacted to fully cooperate so that the DFG can accurately assess the status of our fisheries," said Tom Raftican, President of United Anglers of Southern California.

The CRFS coordinated program employs biologists to sample recreational anglers in both boat (private boats, rental boats and party/charter boats) and shore (pier, jetty, beach and bank) fishing activities. Samplers ask anglers and divers questions regarding what species they are targeting, their county of residence, the location of catches, and what was thrown back. The sampler will also identify measure and weigh any available fish caught by the angler.

"The new CRFS program is probably the most important program on the Marine Region's plate this year," said Bob Fletcher, President of the Sportfishing Association of California. "Good science and good data equals good management. I urge all CPFV skippers and all recreational anglers to support the DFG in its effort to collect the most accurate catch data possible because our future access to the fishing grounds is at stake."

The CRFS program incorporates many changes and improvements over the existing MRFSS program, such as increased sampling, better estimates of private skiff efforts, the grouping of trips by targeted species, better defined geographic sampling regions, and the utilization of an angler license database for fishing effort estimates.

"This new survey program will provide more accurate and timely information," said Wolf. "But we need the support of anglers for this program to be successful."

As a result of the increased sampling efforts, recreational anglers and divers throughout the state are more likely to encounter a DFG/PSFMC representative conducting the survey. Some avid anglers may be approached several times during the year. Angler cooperation is critical to the success of the survey, and DFG is asking anglers who are contacted to please take the time to participate in this important survey.

The DFG is also asking for angler participation in establishing the angler license database, which will involve telephone interviews for obtaining survey information. When purchasing a fishing license, one in 20 people will be asked to provide a name and telephone number in order to be contacted about fishing activities from previous months.

With the new CRFS program, the data generated by boat and dockside interviews, together with the phone survey, collectively will play a major part in managing California's sustainable ocean fisheries.

Contacts: Steve Crooke, Senior Marine Biologist, (562) 342-7195; Carrie Wilson, Marine Region, (831) 238-2044; Ed Roberts, Marine Region, (562) 342-7199

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