SACRAMENTO — California Gov. Jerry Brown approved a bill allowing the state’s Fish and Game Commission and Department of Fish and Wildlife to grant experimental fishing permits. The permits would authorize commercial or recreational fishing in areas where such activities are currently prohibited.
Assembly Bill 1573 (AB 1573) is officially on the books and would update existing law to allow for experimental permits to be issued for fishing type and gear type. California law, prior to AB 1573, only granted experimental fishing permits for gear type.
“This bill would establish a new experimental fishing permit program in order to facilitate the integration of new science and fishery management tools,” a State Senate Appropriations Committee analysis of AB 1573 stated.
California law, prior to the legislative enactment and gubernatorial endorsement of AB 1573, had authorized the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) to issue permits for the take or possession of fish and other habitats for educational, propagation or scientific purposes.
State officials, according to a recent legislative analysis, were also encouraged to develop “new types of commercial fishing gear and new methods of using existing commercial fishing gear” through the experimental gear permitting process.
AB 1573, which was introduced by Assembly member Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), essentially updated state law to allow DFW to use of new tools as it issues experimental gear permits.
“This bill would establish the California Fisheries Innovation Act of 2018 and provide for an experimental fishing permit program that is much more expansive than the commission’s current authority in order to facilitate improvements in state fishery management,” a State Senate analysis of AB 1573 stated.
The Fish and Game Commission is now authorized to issue experimental fishing permits for commercial or recreational fishing activities previously prohibited by state law. The commission would also be able to establish regulations for an expeditious process for [DFW] review, public notice and comment, commission approval, and prompt department issuance of [experimental fishing permits].”
Two or fewer experimental gear permits were issued annually under California’s previous regime. The previous program, according to a State Senate analysis of AB 1573, was “limited to exploring emerging fisheries and evaluating new gear for existing fisheries.”
“Well-supervised, strategic experimentation that tests hypotheses or new management approaches, or both, and that is aligned with overarching state management goals and research priorities, would likely accelerate the development of innovative scientific and technology tools for improving state fisheries management,” language of the new law stated.
“A streamlined state Experimental Fishing Permit program would represent a significant step toward ensuring that California’s ocean management can meet the challenges of rapidly changing and unpredictable ocean conditions, and would deliver effective outcomes that protect the state’s natural resources, port communities, and coastal economies,” the law’s new language continued.
Implementation of the new experimental fishing permit policy is expected to cost $869,000 during the 2018-19 fiscal year, plus an ongoing $1.126 million expenditure afterwards. Portions of the Fish and Game Preservation Fund, DFW budget and revenues from fees would be used to cover the funds.