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Posted by on November 06, 2005 at 10:31:23:

On 7 October, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 749, legislation that would have extended California’s Dungeness crab limited entry program, put in place a two-year trial 250-trap per vessel limit for the state’s central coast fishery (Point Arena south) and provided the state’s Fish & Game Commission regulatory authority over the fishery. The bill was carried by State Assemblyman Mark Leno, whose district includes San Francisco’s historic Fisherman’s Wharf (whose symbol is the Dungeness crab), at the request of fishermen’s associations in the central coast area concerned with the glut of crab hitting the market shortly after the season opens 15 November. The production of crab in this area has overwhelmed processors and markets in the first two weeks of the season due to a five-fold increase in the number of traps being used in that fishery.

In addition to the fishermen’s associations in ports from Bodega Bay to Monterey, the legislation was co-sponsored by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and supported by every major conservation group in the state, recreational anglers, local governments, including the City and County of San Francisco, Sonoma County and the San Mateo County Harbor District, seafood chefs and restaurants and even many of the local fish processors. The bill was intended to: prevent waste (when too much crab hits the market at once); promote safer fishing conditions (avoiding the race for crab); create a stable labor force and keep crab processing in California; assure a supply of fresh, local crab over the course of the season; and protect the marine environment from lost crab traps on the ocean bottom. This year’s bill, addressed concerns raised by the Governor in a veto of similar legislation in 2004 and extended the state’s Dungeness crab limited entry program (similar to those in place in Oregon and Washington). With the veto, the limited entry program ends in April 2006, opening the fishery to any vessel.

At the 33rd Annual Fisheries Forum held in Arcata this year on 19 October, Crab Boat Owners Association Vice-President Larry Collins, who worked for passage of AB 749, requested Assemblywoman Patty Berg, who chairs the forum’s sponsoring Joint Committee on Fisheries & Aquaculture to introduce urgency legislation to extend the limited entry program. Mike Cunningham of the Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association, who sits on the Tri-State Crab Committee, in his testimony supported Collins’ request. For more information on the crab situation, see the article “Crab – What a Mess!” in the November issue of the Fishermen’s News, available on the web at: www.pcffa.org/fn-nov05.htm.

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