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Hope remains for crab pot limits

Similar attempts were vetoed by Schwarzenegger

Trap limits for crab fishermen could be on the horizon after the new state Legislature convenes in January.

A bill would need to be created and pass through legislation in order for the limits to take effect and it would likely resemble a couple of bills in the past that have been vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said Peter Kalvass, a senior marine biologist  for the California Department of Fish and Game.

“They would typically put a limit on the total amount of traps in the fishery,” said Kalvass.

If the bill did take on characteristics of past pot limit regulation plans, then it would be a tiered structure based on an individual fisherman’s landings history, Kalvass said.

The cap would likely be at 500 pots per vessel for those fishermen that caught the most crab in a certain time frame, then it would decrease on an incremental basis, Kalvass said.

“The top boats would lose the most proportionately,” said Kalvass.

Dungeness Crab Task Force members from Crescent City worked on a bill that lost funding in its last hour, which resembled the structure Kalvass suggested,  said Gerry Hemmingsen, Dungeness Crab Task Force member.

“We just wanted to try and get  rid of the congestion and limit traps to no more than what we have now,” said Hemmingsen. “I’m pretty disappointed having put all that work into it and then having the Department of Fish and Game at the table with us until the last meeting.”

Every port was represented from Crescent City to south of Half Moon Bay on the Dungeness Crab Task Force, Hemmingsen said.

“I think it would be really disappointing if they were to pick a trap limit that comes out of one port,” said Hemmingsen.

The trap limit plan, for the most part, had garnered a lot of support from local fishermen, he said.

Some fishermen wanted the cap higher or lower, so the task force went for a middle ground and a minority wanted no changes, Hemmingsen said.

Harbormaster Richard Young lauded the performance of the task force in generating a plan for pot limits that was generally accepted in such a divergent industry.

“I think they did a remarkable job,” said Young. “I think what came out of that is there’s a consensus that things need to slow down.”

Without a crab pot limit, fishermen have to keep up with the amount of traps their competitors are building and it not only takes a toll on the fishery, but the fishermen, Young said.

“Everyone is working harder than they need to,” said Young. “If you find a way to reduce pots in an equitable way then you’ve accomplished something.”

Trap limits in Oregon and Washington haven’t seemed to negatively impact the crab fishery, Hemmingsen said.

“The tests they run in Oregon or Washington show it doesn’t slow anything down,” said Hemmingsen. “It doesn’t slow the amount of crab being unloaded or harvested, but it does open up areas for some boats.”

The trap limits would create space for smaller boats in key areas that were otherwise crowded out by larger vessels, he said.



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