By: Parimal M. Rohit
It is no secret lobster hunting in California is heavily regulated. Rules and laws are in place governing where you can hunt for lobster, what equipment is required or prohibited, how large your catch can be, and the paperwork required allowing you in or on the water.
One major element of lobster hunting is where you are allowed to actually hunt. All lobster hunters must be aware and well-versed of No Take Zones and Marine Conservation Areas (or Marine Reserves). Each area, reserve or zone either severely restricts or explicitly prohibits the marine life you can extract from protected waters.
Between Point Conception in southwestern Santa Barbara County and Tijuana near the California-Mexico border, there are 27 regulated areas on the mainland and 25 controlled zones attached to the Channel Islands, including nine Marine Conservation Areas and Reserves at Catalina Island.
“Be sure to verify that you are not lobster hunting in a marine preserve,” said Jeff Barnicki, a diver who has caught lobster in Southern California. “Half of Palos Verdes and many spots in Catalina are no take zones.”
Over at the Palos Verdes Peninsula, there are two protected areas: Point Vicente State Marine Conservation Area and Abalone Cove State Marine Conservation Area.
These adjacent zones essentially cover most of the southeastern coastal area along the Palos Verdes Peninsula, reaching from the western edge of Point Vicente to the western tip of Portuguese Bend.
In this area and other reserves like it, the No Take Zone severely restricts what you are allowed to take from the waters protected in the state-mandated sections of water.
With the exception of certain types of fish, state law prohibits the taking of “all living marine resources” from a No Take Zone, Marine Reserve, or Conservation Area.
Examples of what types of fish are allowed to be captured include pelagic finfish (such as the Pacific bonito), white seabass, and swordfish.
Commercial fisheries have a separate set of regulations governing what fishermen can take from the protected waters.
According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, there are 19 Marine Reserves, 21 Marine Conservation Areas, 10 No Take Zones, and two special closures.
The No Take Zones are found in the 10 Marine Conservation Areas where, according to state law, recreational lobster hunters or other fishers are generally prohibited to take “living, geological, and cultural marine resources.”
Also restrictive are the 19 Marine Reserves, where state law “prohibits damage or take of all marine resources (living, geologic, or cultural) including recreational and commercial take.”
Though restrictions may vary, the two Special Closure areas designated by the Fish and Game Commission specifically prohibits access and restricts boating activities “in waters adjacent to sea bird rookeries or marine mammal haul-out sites.”
Finally, the Department of Fish and Wildlife permits some combination of recreational and commercial take of marine resources at the 21 Marine Conservation Areas, though each division has its own specific regulations in place.
For a complete list of the 27 mainland and 25 island Marine Reserves or Conservation Areas can be found at the Department of Fish and Wildlife website. Each reserve, conservation area, No Take Zone, and special closure is individually listed. Click on the specific area or zone to find out the specific restrictions attached and the exact coordinates defining the boundaries of protected water.
General rules applying to all reserves, conservation areas, and zones are also found on the above-referenced webpage, including the regulations governing access, feeding of fish and wildlife, anchoring, drifting, water quality monitoring, public safety, tribal take, and shore fishing.