By: Parimal M. Rohit
SANTA ROSA — California’s Fish and Game Commission briefly heard an update on the proposed Spiny Lobster Fishery Management Plan (FMP) during the first day of its two-day meeting held April 8 and 9 in Santa Rosa. Most of the discussion focused on commercial lobster divers and gear use; however, the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) indicated the Spiny Lobster FMP is on track to be adopted by December.
A peer review of the FMP is scheduled to be completed in late May and be made available to the public.
“The only reason we would not meet the schedule is because the FMP is currently undergoing peer review. If something comes back in that peer review that identifies some major scientific flaws with the underlying science, we would request that we don’t move forward with something that’s flawed,” Craig Shuman, a DFW regional manager, told commissioners.
According to state law, the FMP should be based upon existing data sources and readily available science.
Shuman added the first public workshops to scope the Lobster FMP took place April 2012 and was later followed by extensive Lobster Advisory Committee process. The committee provided input of how the FMP should fairly apply to commercial and recreational lobster hunters.
According to Shuman, the process already yielded positive results.
“One of the first recommendations to come out of those workshops and the advisory committee process was an almost unanimous request for the commission to implement a non-reporting fee for Lobster Report Cards,” Shuman said.
The fee has been in effect for about one year.
Also addressing commissioners were Tom Barnes, an environmental program manager (marine region) with DFW and Capt. Robert Puccinelli of the department’s law enforcement division.
Sonke Mastrup, executive director of the Fish and Game Commission, told his colleagues while the FMP is on pace to be adopted later this year, there is still time to ensure it is fair and inclusive.
“The good news is you have quite a few meetings, as outlined by the department, for input and refinement, if you find it necessary,” Mastrup told commissioners.
One recreational lobster diver did address the commission, stating he was in favor of the recommended FMP.
If adopted, the Spiny Lobster FMP could be implemented by the 2017-2018 season.
Some proposals included in the FMP include requiring lobster tails be clipped to prevent them from being sold commercially, limiting the use of mechanized pullers to disabled people, changing the start time of the season opener to 6 a.m. on a Saturday, marking hoop net floats for accountability and safety purposes and clarifying the definition of a “hooked device” to prevent spear fisherman from being cited or harassed.