Today's Law As Amended

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AB-534 Fishing: ropeless fishing gear.(2021-2022)

As Amends the Law Today

 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) California’s beautiful coasts and marine wildlife are natural resources of inestimable value, vitally important both ecologically and economically, that attract millions of visitors and support local economies.
(b) To maintain the people’s common heritage of fish and wildlife, California has a duty to conserve, protect, and manage fish, wildlife, and habitat as needed for biologically sustainable populations.
(c) The California Endangered Species Act (Chapter 1.5 (commencing with Section 2050) of Division 3 of the Fish and Game Code), the Marine Life Management Act (Part 1.7 (commencing with Section 7050) of Division 6 of the Fish and Game Code), and other Fish and Game Code provisions afford protection to California’s fish and wildlife resources.
(d) Due to changing ocean conditions and other factors, entanglements in commercial and recreational trap fishing gear are harming California’s marine life, including threatened and endangered whales and sea turtles. When a whale gets tangled up in fishing gear, it can drown because it cannot reach the surface to breathe. Entanglements also cause whales to suffer painful injuries or die lingering deaths when ropes wrap through their mouths or around their tails and flippers, cutting into their flesh and bones, and impairing their ability to feed or swim. The stress suffered from an entanglement can prevent a whale from reproducing. Sea turtles and other animals can also suffer similar fates.
(e) Reports of whales entangled in buoys and lines used in California fisheries dramatically increased starting in 2014. The federal government documented 71 reported entanglements off the West Coast of the United States in 2016, the highest annual total for the region since the federal government started keeping records in 1982. Reported entanglements continue to occur, including in California’s commercial and recreational Dungeness crab trap fisheries, commercial and recreational spot prawn trap fisheries, spiny lobster fisheries, and other fisheries. The actual number of entanglements is likely much higher than what is reported as many entanglements are unobserved.
(f) Following several years of record-breaking numbers of entanglements reported off California, the Department of Fish and Wildlife enacted regulations to reduce the number of threatened and endangered blue whales, humpback whales, and leatherback sea turtles getting entangled in commercial Dungeness crab gear. However, those regulations do not fully eliminate entanglement risk; rely on nearly constant data collection and analyses to inform the implementation of potential risk-reduction measures; may only trigger management actions after entanglements occur; rely on closures, including delaying the start of the season or ending it early, as the primary way to reduce risk; and create uncertainty for fishers about where and when they will be able to fish.
(g) Trap and pot fisheries in California and around the world still utilize 19th Century fishing technologies when 21st Century solutions such as ropeless gear are available. Ropeless gear, also known as “on-demand” or “buoyless” gear, is the only way to eliminate entanglement risk while permitting fishing to continue. The gear allows traps on the seafloor to be remotely called to the surface and removes the static vertical lines in the water column that entangle whales, sea turtles, and other animals.
(h) Given the harmful impacts of entanglements on a variety of marine species and the economic harm closures can cause on commercial fishers, requiring the use of ropeless fishing in all trap and pot fisheries managed by California should be required as soon as practicable.
(i) Varieties of ropeless fishing gear are available and being tested off the West and East Coasts of the United States and in Canada. Some fishers already fish without the use of static vertical buoy lines. However, logistical, technical, cost, and regulatory obstacles have hampered the widespread adoption of such gear in California fisheries.
(j) Numerous state and federal regulatory schemes, such as those relating to vehicle fuel economy and energy efficiency, use implementation deadlines to spur innovation and drive market forces towards better, less expensive, and more effective and efficient technologies. A date-certain requirement for the implementation of ropeless gear would spur such innovation and overcome obstacles to its adoption.
(k) California is a national and global leader in technological innovation, including green technology. By requiring the use of ropeless gear, California can be a leader in helping to develop and promote sustainable fishing gear that could be used to save whales, sea turtles, and other animals here and around the world.

SEC. 2.

 Section 5524 is added to the Fish and Game Code, immediately after Section 5523, to read:

 (a) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code or regulations adopted pursuant to this code, by no later than November 1, 2025, ropeless fishing gear, as determined by the department, shall be required when taking any species of fish for commercial or recreational purposes in any trap fishery, including, but not limited to, Dungeness crab, spiny lobster, and spot prawn.
(b) The department and commission shall promulgate regulations to implement the requirements of this section. The department shall establish a public process to certify fishing gear as ropeless, and shall define, by regulation, ropeless gear as including only gear in which there is no static vertical buoy line. Gear that includes vertical buoy line only during active deployment or retrieval of the gear may be allowed. The department shall establish and periodically update a list of certified ropeless gear.
(c) This section does not apply to traps used for scientific or management purposes, traps set in freshwater, traps set from piers or from shore, or traps used to take minnow in tidewaters.

SEC. 3.

 Section 9005 of the Fish and Game Code is amended to read:

 Every  Except as provided in Section 5524, every  trap or string of traps shall be marked with a buoy. The department shall implement regulations by January 1, 2020, requiring standardized gear marking for those fisheries in which the department determines it is appropriate. As part of the regulations, the department shall establish a fee for each fishery requiring standardized gear marking pursuant to this section and shall set and adjust each fee in an amount to fully recover, but not exceed, all reasonable administrative and implementation costs of the department relating to the standardized gear marking requirement.

SEC. 4.

 Section 9006 of the Fish and Game Code is amended to read:

 Every  Except as provided in Section 5524, every  trap used to take finfish or crustaceans shall be marked with a buoy. Each buoy shall be marked to identify the operator as follows:
(a) For a trap used to take lobster the commercial fishing license identification number followed by the letter “P.”
(b) For a trap used to take Dungeness crab or hagfish, the commercial fishing license identification number only.
(c) For a trap used to take finfish other than sablefish or hagfish, the commercial fishing license identification number followed by the letter “Z.”
(d) For a trap used to take sablefish, the commercial fishing license identification number followed by the letter “B.”
SEC. 5.
 No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution.