DFW answers questions about diving through MPAs, boat limits

SACRAMENTO — Imagine you legally dive into the ocean in search of spiny lobster. While diving you find and catch a lobster – and the catch was made in a legal area. Now imagine after the catch but before coming up to the surface, you end up in a Marina Protected Area (MPA). You may not be able to emerge from the water surface safely without staying in the MPA. Can you exit from the water while in the MPA and still keep your catch?

The state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife says yes.

“The diver can swim through but should make sure they are clearly not actively hunting for lobsters,” DFW Marine Environment Scientist Carrie Wilson said on the state’s official outdoors blog.

California’s Code of Regulations, Title 14, Section 632(a)(8) states: “Spear fishermen with or without catch shall be allowed to transit through MPAs and MMAs. While transiting MPAs and MMAs that prohibit spearfishing or while in possession of species not identified as allowed for take in the MPA or MMA being transited, spearfishing gear shall be in an unloaded condition, not carried in hand, and the diver shall remain at the surface.”

Wilson also answered a question about personal limits versus boat limits.

“When on a boat with a group of fishermen, does the bag limit apply to the boat (as I believe I’ve read in the statutes and have seen on party boats) or does it mean that anyone catching their limit must stop fishing altogether,” someone asked DFW staff. “I ask because we were ordered off the water when some wardens told us one of our friends could no longer be out there with us since his gear was still in the boat and he was considered to still be fishing. He was the only one with a limit.”

Wilson said state law applies boat limits to “anyone fishing aboard a boat in ocean waters off California or in the San Francisco Bay.”

“Boat limits allow fishing by all licensed persons aboard until boat limits of finfish are taken and possessed aboard the vessel. Boat limits do not apply to sturgeon, shellfish or when fishing in inland waters,” Wilson stated. “When fishing in inland waters, bag limits apply to each individual angler and not to the boat as a whole.”

(Derek Stein photo)

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