Fisheries Alliance Bashes Calif. Fishing Limits Bill AB 2220

The Alliance of Communities for Sustainable Fisheries, a Northern and Central California nonprofit dedicated to fisheries issues, has come out against proposed legislation that would restrict certain types of fishing in state waters.

In a letter dated March 22 and addressed to Assemblymember Diane Papan, chair of the California State Assembly Committee of Water, Parks and Wildlife, the Alliance calls AB2220 “profoundly misinformed” proposed legislation that “sets bad state policies” and should be opposed.

The proposed legislation, which was drafted by Assemblyman Steve Bennett (D-Ventura) in February would do three things: completely ban commercial fishing for sea bass, eliminating current exceptions; ban the use of gill nets, also eliminating current exceptions, and mandate that commercial fishing vessels operating with a state permit carry an independent third-party observer onboard while operating within state fisheries.

If passed and signed into law, the proposed legislation could have a sizable impact—financially and in other ways—on the state’s commercial fishing industry.

“Proponents of AB2220 claim that the legislation will solve the ‘bycatch problem’ by forcing a switch to hook and line fishing. Bycatch, in fact, is limited, as most non-target species caught have market value and are not wasted,” the 23-year-old Monterey, Calif.-based Alliance states in its letter.

“Switching to hooks rather than the selective nets currently used will lead to the catching and killing of a great number of undersized halibut,” the four-page letter continues.

Other specific concerns detailed in the letter include how the bill would give the California Department of Fish and Wildlife authority to require third-party observers on state fisheries to count and record everything that’s caught, filling in perceived information gaps.

This, according to the legislation’s author, would enable California to better manage set gillnets and other state commercial fisheries, benefiting its ability to ensure resilient fisheries.

The Alliance, however, states that it has “deep concerns” about the proposal.

“Independent observers cost $600-$700 per day, yet the bill is silent about who bears this cost,” the Alliance wrote. “The language of AB2220 is so broad that every California-managed fishery could be subject to the observer requirement, which is an affront to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.”

Regarding existing California that law bans gill nets and trammel nets from being used in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), the bill would, starting Jan. 1, 2025, apply the above prohibition to all ocean waters of the state, another component that the Alliance has an issue with.

“This provision…is aimed at removing fishing opportunity from the waters around the Channel Islands,” the Alliance’s letter states. “There is no need from removing these productive waters for sea bass and halibut, the populations of which are healthy and growing, from fishing opportunity.”

As of mid-April, AB 2220 has not received any backing or opposition by any other lawmakers, and some elected officials have said that before taking a stance, they’d like to see estimates regarding costs and the effect it would have on the fishing industry.

The Alliance of Communities for Sustainable Fisheries, a regional organization comprised of commercial fishermen representing the California communities of Monterey, Moss Landing, Santa Cruz, Morro Bay, Pillar Point, Port San Luis and Santa Barbara, sent its letter as a way of putting pressure on elected officials.

“AB2220’s many restrictions, which seem aimed at putting small commercial fishing businesses out of business, will reduce the licensing and landing fees to the Department of Fish and Wildlife,” the letter, which is signed by Alliance Co-Chairs Alan Alward and Frank Emerson states. “We find it misinformed and creates bad policy and precedent on many levels.”