Subject: Abalone Wars - Round 2

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Posted by Steve Campi on October 15, 2005 at 12:23:19:

It appears that we have been too complacent during the past seven years. The commercial abalone harvesters have not given up on their attempts to make big bucks at the expense of the health of our abalone resource. They have been quietly working behind the scenes and are very close to the opening of a commercial harvest again.

A little history.

Nine years ago we saw chaos in the management of abalone. The abalone were almost gone from southern California. The central coast was cleaned out first by the commercial harvesters and then by the expansion of the sea otter range. San Mateo County was stripped by commercials because there was no depth restriction on commercial abalone harvesting. Commercial boats would venture above the Golden Gate and report their landings as coming from the Farallones. The legislature regulated commercial fishing at that time and would not rein in the commercials because of an effective lobby and not wanting to "put small businessmen out of work." The Fish and Game Commission only regulated the recreational fishery so could not put a halt to the people who were destroying the fishery. The Commission did have the power to close all harvest in an area if they closed it to BOTH commercial AND recreational. We were so aware of the danger to the resource that we pressed the Commission to take away our harvest rights south of the Golden Gate in order to stop the rape of the resource by the commercials. The legislature then realized the severity of the issue and passed SB 463 (chaptered 10/8/97) which:

  • closed commercial abalone harvesting for ten years,
  • established the Recreational Abalone Advisory Committee (RAAC),
  • mandated an Abalone Recovery and Management Plan,
  • established the abalone punch card,
  • effectively gave the Commission authority over the commercial harvest, and other poaching and reimbursement rules.

We thought that we had protected the resource and it would continue through the development and adoption of the Abalone Recovery and Management Plan (ARMP). We were wrong.

The commercials have some backing among the Fish and Game Commission to re-open commercial abalone harvesting. The Commission has instructed the Department of Fish and Game to include in the ARMP an option to allow commercial fishing before abalone have recovered. See the ARMP Chapter 7.3.1 Alternative 1: Limited Fishing Without Full Achievement of Criterion 3 at: www.dfg.ca.gov/mrd/armp/chapter7.html

A sop is included to allow some recreational harvesting also.

The arguments listed in favor of this re-opening are completely lacking in scientific merit.

The commercial intent is to harvest the last remaining healthy abalone population in southern California - San Miguel Island. This area should be uses as seed corn to repopulate the southern California abalone resource in other areas. A harvest there will take away our options for future translocation programs.

The plan after San Miguel is opened is to use the same arguments to re-open the Farallones. You know the can of worms that would then be opened. There would now be a legal port to land poached abalone from the north and San Mateo County coasts.

The Abalone Wars are not over. It is now Round 2.

The RAAC is meeting on Oct. 22 in Oakland (The Health Education Center of Samuel Merritt College, 400 Hawthorne Ave., Oakland, CA 94609 at 9:00am) and will entertain an item to denounce the commercial fishing alternative and recommend that it be deleted from the ARMP.

The Fish and Game Commission meets Nov. 3-4 in Santa Barbara. I am not sure but they may consider the adoption of the ARMP at this meeting. If not, there will be time for public comment on this issue. I urge you to attend and testify. I will be there.

More information will follow.

Steve Campi
Cen Cal

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