2015 to welcome new laws and rules on vessel operations, bait, halibut, tuna limits

2015 to welcome new laws and rules on vessel operations, bait, halibut, tuna limits

SACRAMENTO  — The start of 2015 means we are about half way through the second decade of the 21st century. It also means there are some new laws to pay attention to as you hit the waterways to either enjoy your vessel or reel in some fish (or both).
The new law garnering the most attention toward the end of the legislative session in Sacramento was Senate Bill 941, which would require anyone operating a boat to complete a vessel operator course.
Gov. Jerry Brown also signed into law Senate Bills 1162 (re-classifying certain boating-related violations as an infraction instead of misdemeanor) and 1424 (modifying a land grant to allow a Northern California marina to perform dredging and other pro-recreation work).
Beyond the legislative walls of the state capitol, other governmental agencies approved measures impacting recreational anglers.
According to the California Fish and Game Department, a new rule going into effect in 2015 is the licensing requirement for retailers selling live bait at freshwater venues.
Meanwhile, a regional agency altered bluefin tuna catch limitations and recommended California increase its Pacific halibut fishery allocation.
Finally, the Fish and Game Commission is expected to begin a rulemaking process for ocean salmon and a second cleanup in Marine Protected Areas. The ocean salmon rulemaking will be discussed in February 2015 and a decision will be made two months later, while the Marine Protected Areas cleanup would be vetted in July 2015.
Listed below are the specific provisions of each new law:
SB 941: Co-authored by State Senators Bill Monning (D-Carmel) and Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), SB 941 requires recreational boaters to pass a sanctioned boating education course and obtain a Vessel Operator Card in order to operate a motorized boat. Brown signed the bill into law in September.
The law becomes effective Jan. 1, 2015. Between then and Jan. 1, 2018, California’s Division of Boating and Waterways (Cal Boating) must, according to state officials, “develop a vessel operator education program” that “applies exclusively to operators of engine propelled vessels.”
Once the program is fully developed by 2018, the requirement to pass an exam and obtain a Vessel Operator Card would be phased in within eight years. In addition to developing regulations, Cal Boating would also be allowed to establish a fee for the operator card.
SB 941 also created a “Vessel Operator Certification Account” to help pay for developing and implementing a program to educate and certify boaters. The state loaned $4 million to the account from the Harbors and Watercraft Revolving Fund and must be repaid within eight years after the regulations are in effect.
Beginning April 2019, the state will be required to conduct annual reporting to determine whether ramping up boater education has a direct and substantive impact on reducing vessel accidents.
SB 1162: Introduced in the State Senate by Modesto Republican Tom Berryhill and signed into law by Brown in June, SB 1162, according to Cal Boating, “reclassifies several boating-related violations as infractions instead of misdemeanors.”
Going into effect Jan. 1, 2015, three specific violations would become an infraction instead of a misdemeanor, including:
• mooring a boat to a beacon or buoy that is not designated for mooring;
• exceeding the 5 miles-per-hour speed limit when within 200 feet of a marina;
• towing a water skier without a spotter.
SB 1424: State Senator Lois Wolk garnered enough legislative support to push forward what appeared to be a very localized issue by stating his bill would help the financially strapped Martinez Marina, as well as recreational anglers and boaters as a whole.
Martinez Marina, which is located in the northeastern outskirts of the San Francisco Bay Area and wedged between San Pablo, Grizzly and Suisun bays, needs to be dredged. The bill, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015, would allow the city of Martinez to restructure its $4.1 million marina-related debt to allow for revenue-producing upgrades to be made at the waterfront.
If such upgrades could be made, Martinez Marina would be able to sustain its local fishing industry and stimulate economic development as a regional destination for recreational boating.
In published statements to the press, Wolk said if SB 1424 is successful in stimulating Martinez Marina, it could serve as a model for other marinas across the state in contributing to economic development, education and research, public safety and smart growth.
Martinez would have to begin repaying its loan starting June 30, 2015. The state would take over ownership of Martinez Marina and collect 20 percent of its gross revenue for the life of the debt if the city defaults on payments.
Live Freshwater Bait Fish License for Retail Live Bait Outlets: According to the Fish and Game Commission, the California Code of Regulations was amended to require all live bait outlets to issue a “live freshwater bait fish license” when specifically selling live freshwater fin fish and crayfish for use in inland waters.
The license must also list the specific location of where it is issued.
Stricken from the administrative law was a requirement that a live freshwater bait fish license be issued for the sale of live waterdogs as bait in inland waters.
The amendment goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015.
Recreational Pacific Halibut Allocation Increase: When the Pacific Fishery Management Council met in Costa Mesa last month, the regional agency recommended the California Pacific halibut fishery allocation be increased in 2015. The Pacific Fishery Management Council made the recommendation based upon “greater interest in the northern California fishery” and “new information indicating a higher abundance in California than when the formal Catch Sharing Plan (CSP) was originally adopted.”
According to the council, the allocation for California’s recreational halibut fishery would increase from 1 to 4 percent of its non-tribal allocation. To counterbalance the increase along California’s coast, the states of Oregon and Washington would have to reduce their respective allocations of 1 percent, each, in the recreational and commercial sectors.
The recreational fishery will be tracked and managed to ensure California remains within its approved allocation.
The council stated the recreational season structure of the California Pacific halibut fishery “will be determined based on a catch projection method developed by California Department of Fish and Wildlife staff, and specific season dates will be developed with the input of stakeholder involvement.”
Once the Pacific halibut total allowable catch is set, the Pacific Fishery Management Council will implement the recreational season dates and structure.
Pacific Bluefin Tuna Management: Fishing for bluefin tuna in the Pacific Ocean will become more restrictive in 2015, as regulators drastically reduced the number of bluefin tuna anglers can catch in a day. Specifically, the Pacific Fishery Management Council adopted a two-fish-per-angler-per-day limit on the predatory and migratory fish species found between Japan and the western United States. The previous daily limit was 10 fish.
Kit Dahl of the Pacific Fishery Management Council said the catch limit was adopted for 2015 and 2016 in light of a diminishing bluefin tuna population. The restriction followed a preliminary decision by the council in September to reduce the recreational fishing morality of bluefin tuna across the Pacific Ocean.
Filleting of tunas at seas is still permissible, though with specified restrictions.

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