Friday, October 30, 2009

State lobster fishery in a pinch for help

By Ed Zieralski, San Diego Union-Tribune
October 30, 2009

If you're interested in the lobster fishery in California, the Department of Fish & Game has a deal for you.

Because of budget cutbacks and lack of funds, the DFG is looking for “resources and partners” to help develop a spiny lobster Fisheries Management Plan. The DFG considers the California spiny lobster to be a key species because it supports recreational (divers and hoop netters) and commercial fisheries in the state.

Any Fisheries Management Plan will integrate new marine-protected areas that are formed from the South Coast Region of the Marine Life Protection Act. The DFG doesn't have money to pay for that process, either, and has relied on funds from the environmental community to keep that blueprint up and running. Just like the marine protected area closures, any lobster plan would be voted on by the state's Fish and Game Commission.

The difference between the MLPA and the lobster plan is the DFG wants to maintain control and not let it get hijacked by environmentalists the way the MLPA process has.

“When it comes to the lobster Fisheries Management Plan, the DFG is into conservation, not preservation,” said Kristine Barsky, senior biologist in charge of developing the plan.

“We're interested in a sustainable resource that is available to all — recreational fishermen and commercial fishermen and to those who like to photograph it in its environment.”

Barsky said, thus far, the main organization that has stepped forward to help has been the Environmental Defense Fund. That should raise the pinchers of every lobster fisherman, be they recreational divers, hoop netters or commercial fishermen.

The California Lobster and Trap Fishermen's Association tried to get $300 added to their lobster permits to raise money for the Fisheries Management Plan, but after both houses of the state Legislature passed AB 571, the bill was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Barsky said diving groups have come forward with input and have pledged to help, but hoop netters have been missing in action.

“With hoop netters, it's not like we can go to one group and and say this is what we're doing,” Barsky said.

So, if you or your organization care to get involved with the DFG on the important matter of the lobster fishery, contact Kristine Barsky, senior biologist, 2419 Harbor Blvd., No. 149, Ventura, CA 93001 or or call her at (805) 985-3114.

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