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Department of Fish and Game

September 5, 2003

Contacts:
Carrie Wilson, Marine Region Communications, (831) 649-7191
Robert Treanor, Executive Director Fish and Game Commission
(916) 653-4899


Southern California Rockfish Anglers Can Now Fish in Deeper Waters

NOAA Fisheries approved the recommendation made in June by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) to move the maximum depth fishing line from 20 fathoms (120 feet) out to 30 fathoms (180 feet) in waters south of Pt. Conception. State and federal regulations allowing sport anglers to fish in deeper waters in southern California took effect Sept. 1 and Sept. 2, respectively, and will last until Dec. 31.

Because groundfish species are managed by the PFMC but occur in both state and federal waters, the California Fish and Game Commission also needed to conform the state's fishing regulations to the federal regulation changes made for the current sport-fishing season.

The Commission approved the conformance regulation at its Aug. 1 meeting in Long Beach. Federal and state fishery managers recommended easing fishing restrictions for rockfish mid-season in response to new science showing an increase in the overfished bocaccio rockfish, which occupies the same ocean waters as healthy stocks targeted by saltwater anglers.

"The Commission took this action to provide some relief to fishermen and there will be further refinements and additional relief in 2004," said Robert Treanor, executive director of the Commission.

As a result, southern California (south of Point Conception) sport anglers may now take many species of groundfish in waters out to 30 fathoms (180 feet) deep.

Ocean sport fisheries for groundfish - including rockfishes, cabezon, greenlings, scorpionfish (sculpin), ocean whitefish and lingcod - opened July 1 in nearshore waters south of Cape Mendocino. Sport fishing opportunities in northern California (north of Cape Mendocino to the Oregon border) remain open year-round.

The total six-month season will last until Dec. 31, or until annual harvest limits have been reached. For geographical regulation details, log on to DFG's clickable map at www.dfg.ca.gov/mrd/fishing_map.html.

The additional sport fishing opportunities in southern California are the result of a recent stock assessment suggesting that bocaccio, a federally managed rockfish species that has been declared "overfished," is healthier than what last year's science revealed. Bocaccio occur from Alaska to Baja California, Mexico. In California, they are most frequently found off the central and southern portions of the state.

This year's population estimate of the species included fish born in 1999 that were too small to include in previous assessments. Despite the new estimates and the opening of deeper waters to fishermen, bocaccio populations remain at a fraction of their "pre-fished" levels, and still may not be targeted or retained by fishermen through Dec. 31. Concerns for canary rockfish, another overfished species, found in northern and central California, prevented the opening of deeper waters north of Point Conception.

The new available science prompted fishery managers to ease the rockfish depth-restriction "in-season." The PFMC and California Fish and Game Commission are also considering additional fishing opportunities for California's sport and commercial fisheries come 2004. For a list of those options, log on to www.dfg.ca.gov/mrd/groundfish_options2004.html.

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