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

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Date Published: 04/19/2021 09:00 PM
AB534:v98#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Assembly  April 19, 2021

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2021–2022 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 534


Introduced by Assembly Member Bonta

February 10, 2021


An act to amend Sections 9005 and 9006 of, and to add Section 5524 to, the Fish and Game Code, relating to fishing.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 534, as amended, Bonta. Fishing: ropeless fishing gear.
Existing law vests the Department of Fish and Wildlife Wildlife, which is administered by the Director of Fish and Wildlife, with the authority to adopt regulations necessary to carry out the provisions of the Fish and Game Code. Existing law creates the Fish and Game Commission and delegates to the commission the power to regulate the taking or possession of birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, and reptiles. Under existing law, a violation of the Fish and Game Code is a crime.
This bill would require, by no later than on or before November 1, 2025, ropeless fishing gear, as determined by the department, to be used when fishing in a national marine sanctuary and taking any species of fish for commercial or recreational purposes in any trap fishery. fishery, upon implementation of this requirement by the department and commission. The bill would require the department and the commission to promulgate regulations to implement the above requirement, including establishing a public process to certify fishing gear as ropeless and defining ropeless fishing gear as including only gear in which there is no static vertical buoy line. The bill would authorize the director to extend the November 1, 2025, implementation deadline for the above requirement by up to 2 years, by making findings that suitable ropeless fishing gear is not yet commercially available, as specified. The bill would specify when ropeless fishing gear is not required to be used, including for 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. Because a violation of these provisions would be a crime, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
The bill would require the department to work with the fishing industry, ropeless fishing gear manufacturers, and other relevant stakeholders to promote the expeditious testing, refinement, manufacture, and adoption of ropeless fishing gear for trap fisheries. The bill would require the department to carry out testing and demonstration of ropeless fishing gear for certain fisheries. The bill would require, on or before July 1, 2022, and annually thereafter until the above requirement is implemented, the department to issue a publicly available report on the commercial availability of suitable ropeless fishing gear and the department’s efforts to test and promote its use, and to provide copies to the appropriate legislative committees.
The bill would make various conforming changes. The bill would make findings and declarations related to the necessity of ropeless fishing gear.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: YES  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 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 fishing 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. In the meantime, this act would establish a pilot program to require the use of ropeless fishing gear when fishing in a national marine sanctuary.
(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 a pilot program to require ropeless fishing gear would spur such innovation and overcome obstacles to its adoption.
(k) National marine sanctuaries off the coast of California are biological treasures of exceptional natural beauty that help support healthy ocean ecosystems. These sanctuaries are hot spots for a wide variety of wildlife, from tiny shrimp to giant blue whales. Yet they can also be hot spots for whale entanglements. Endangered whales have been entangled in trap fishing gear set in national marine sanctuaries off the coast of California. Endangered whales, sea turtles, and other marine animals are at ongoing risk of entanglement in trap fisheries operating in these sanctuaries.

(k)

(l) California is a national and global leader in technological innovation, including green technology. By requiring establishing a pilot program for the use of ropeless gear, fishing gear in our national marine sanctuaries, 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:

5524.
 (a) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code or regulations adopted pursuant to this code, by no later than on or before November 1, 2025, ropeless fishing gear, as determined by the department, shall be required required, upon implementation of this requirement pursuant to subdivision (b), when fishing in a national marine sanctuary and taking any species of fish fish, including, but not limited to, Dungeness crab, spiny lobster, and spot prawn, for commercial or recreational purposes in any trap fishery, including, but not limited to, Dungeness crab, spiny lobster, and spot prawn. fishery.
(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 fishing 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 fishing 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.
(d) The director may extend the November 1, 2025, implementation deadline for the ropeless fishing gear requirement in subdivision (a) by one year upon making a finding on or after July 1, 2025, and after notice and opportunity for public comment, that suitable ropeless fishing gear is not yet commercially available. To subsequently extend the deadline beyond November 1, 2026, the director shall make a new finding on or after July 1, 2026, and after notice and opportunity for public comment, that suitable ropeless fishing gear is not yet commercially available. This subdivision shall not be used to extend the deadline beyond November 1, 2027.
(e) (1) The department shall work with the fishing industry, ropeless fishing gear manufacturers, and other relevant stakeholders to promote the expeditious testing, refinement, manufacture, and adoption of ropeless fishing gear for trap fisheries.
(2) The department shall, on its own or in conjunction with universities, fishers, fisheries organizations, fishing gear manufacturers, and other interested entities, and subject to the availability of funding, carry out testing and demonstration of fishing ropeless gear for the commercial Dungeness crab fishery and other state-managed trap fisheries.
(3) On or before July 1, 2022, and annually thereafter until the ropeless fishing gear requirement in subdivision (a) is implemented, the department shall issue a publicly available report on the commercial availability of suitable ropeless fishing gear and the department’s efforts to test and promote the use of ropeless fishing gear. The report shall also include, but not be limited to, information regarding the feasibility of the ropeless fishing gear for widespread adoption, information on catch per unit effort, cost, safety and enforcement considerations, and any necessary modifications or requirements of the ropeless fishing gear to allow for successful implementation of a transition to ropeless fishing. Notwithstanding Section 10231.5 of the Government Code, the department shall provide copies of the report to the appropriate legislative committees.
(f) Before the ropeless fishing gear requirement in subdivision (a) is implemented, ropeless fishing gear authorized by the department pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 132.8 of Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations may be used at any time the commercial Dungeness crab fishery or other state-managed trap fisheries are open to fishing. This authorized ropeless fishing gear may also be used for the taking of Dungeness crab at any time during the commercial Dungeness crab fishing season, irrespective of any management action that delays the start of the season, closes the season early, or closes a fishing zone or multiple fishing zones because of marine life concentrations, confirmed entanglements, or other elevated entanglement risk, pursuant to Section 132.8 of Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations.

SEC. 3.

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

9005.
 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:

9006.
 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.