Fish and Game To Continue Commercial Gill Net Prohibition to

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DFG News Release:  For Immediate Release

April 15, 2002

Fish and Game To Continue Commercial Gill Net Prohibition to Protect Marine Life

Contact: Chamois Andersen, Information Officer, (916) 657-4132 David Bunn, Legislative Affairs, (916) 651-6719

SACRAMENTO — California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Director Robert C. Hight on April 2 signed a final emergency order to prevent the drowning of threatened southern sea otters, common murres (a seabird), and other marine life due to entanglement in gill and trammel nets in waters off California's central coast. The prohibition is from Point Reyes (Marin County) to Point Arguello (Santa Barbara County).

The order is a continuation of a process that began in September of 2000 when the commercial fishery was first closed from Point Reyes to Yankee Point, and from Point Sal to Point Arguello. The action prohibits the use of gill and trammel nets in waters less than 60 fathoms (360 feet) deep from Point Reyes southward to Point Arguello. Emergency regulations to implement the gill net fishing ban will take effect April 26, and includes the area between Yankee Point (Monterey County) south to Point Sal (Santa Barbara).

The inclusion of this middle area will close the gap between Yankee Point and Point Sal where since the original ban in 2000, fishermen were able to fish with gill and trammel nets in waters deeper than 30 fathoms. The continued use of gill nets in this area poses a threat to the recovery of the southern sea otter, which is a state protected species and also listed as threatened on the federal Endangered Species List, and to the state's recovering common murre population.

"Restricting the use of gill and trammel nets is the best tool we have to promote the continued recovery of common murres and other marine life," Hight said. "Commercial landings of California halibut by hook and line will not be affected by the emergency order," he added.

Many California breeding seabirds, particularly common murres, are concentrated on offshore rocks along the central coast. Common murres rely heavily on the availability of suitable nesting habitat, as well as the ocean's strong upwelling systems that provide for many prey species in the same general area of their nests. Common murres are known to dive to depths of up to 98 fathoms (588 feet) to seek prey, and thus are highly vulnerable to gill nets. "The central California population is estimated to be a fraction of its historic level, and although it is subject to various restoration and management actions, set gill net entanglements continue to exacerbate the serious impediments to recovery faced by this species," said Paul Kelly, a DFG senior seabird biologist.

An onboard observer program conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Service in 1999 and 2000, revealed a high number of common murre mortalities due to gill nets, particularly off the coast of Monterey.

In addition to protecting common murres and sea otters, this action will benefit other marine life such as harbor porpoises, sea lions, elephant seals, and cormorants that inhabit California's nearshore ocean environment, and are also subject to entanglement by gill and trammel nets.

The emergency regulation will last for 120 days beginning April 26. DFG will also initiate a rulemaking to permanently prohibit the use of gill and trammel nets along California's central coast, in waters less than 60 fathoms (360 feet) deep.

Set gill nets (both gill and trammel nets) are used to fish for halibut, white seabass, white croaker, and rockfish. A gill net is a single curtain-like net made of nylon that is suspended in the water without slack. It has mesh openings large enough to permit only the head of the fish to pass through, ensnaring them around the gills when they attempt to escape. A trammel net is a single panel net that is suspended in the water with slack, or is constructed with more than one wall of webbing. This type of net is used to entangle species. Fish are rolled up in the net rather than ensnaring them by the gills.

For additional information on the gill net fishery closure or to obtain a copy of the order, logon to DFG's Web site at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mrd/gillnet/emergency.html.
 


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