A Glowing Phenomenon

(DFG Marine Biologist Ken Oda fishing at sunset. Credit: Amanda Menefee)

Question: I have been trying for years now to find out what time of year a person can walk the beach and turn around to find their footprints glowing in the sand. My grandfather took me to the beach when I was very young to experience this phenomenon, and now that I am older and have told the story to my children, I want to take them to the beach to experience the same excitement I did. Could you please explain why, where and when this happens? (Terri P.)

Answer: According to Associate Marine Biologist Ed Roberts, the phenomenon you’re referring to is the result of a “bloom” of microscopic algae known as “dinoflagellates.”

Some species of dinoflagellates are bioluminescent – they can create their own light. These bioluminescent cells flash when disturbed.

Thus, when a bloom of bioluminescent dinoflagellates occurs, hundreds of millions of these cells are washed up on the beach, and they light up when you cause a disturbance by stepping on them. When you see this phenomenon, look at the waves breaking on the beach – they will be glowing as well.

This type of bloom is often associated with the phenomenon known as “red tide.”  So the next time you hear that a red tide is occurring, you might want to take an evening stroll on the beach to see if your footprints remain illuminated as you walk along.


Game freezer limits
Question: Near the end of this past duck season, DFG wardens visited two of my friends’ homes requesting to see the contents of their freezers. They said when they cooperated and showed the contents of their freezers, they were cited for violating the Fish and Game Code for exceeding the waterfowl “in-possession limit” regulation. Like thousands of other hunters statewide, they each had dozens of legally harvested waterfowl from the three-month waterfowl season stored in their freezers for future consumption.

What is the law regarding the number of waterfowl one can legally keep in their possession in their freezer during and after the waterfowl season? It would seem that any interpretation that limits persons to “no more than double the daily bag limit” in one’s possession at any time will result in wanton waste of game that is discarded in the field and from hundreds of freezers statewide – directly in violation of another Fish and Game Code provision which prohibits wanton waste of game.

How can DFG rectify these two provisions when they cite people for their freezer contents like this? Because it is such a widespread practice among thousands of hunters in California to save and consume their game after the season, nearly every hunter faces the potential of this citation.

Answer: Though this may be a common practice, it does not make it legal. According to Northern California Enforcement Chief Mike Carion, some states limit the possession limit to the field; however, in California the possession limit per person is two daily bag limits.

The law does not allow a hunter to possess more than one possession limit (two daily bag limits) at their house or at any time. A possession limit can be donated to others who live in the household too even if they are not hunters. There is no minimum age for a person to retain a possession limit of waterfowl. For example, a person who has a spouse and two children all living in one house may possess one possession limit for each of the four people (eight daily bag limits). A single person living alone is limited to one possession limit and in order to legally continue to hunt, he or she must gift the birds to someone else or consume them.

Waterfowl bag and possession limits are federally regulated. States may only adopt the same or stricter regulations than those authorized by federal law. In California the possession of two daily bag limits – regardless of whether a hunter has hunted for two straight weeks during a trip, or has hunted daily and taken the birds home – applies in the field as well as the home. The possession limit is the maximum allowed to be possessed by one individual. Keep in mind, the intent to give birds away does not justify possessing more than the daily bag limit.


White seabass in possession
Question: The bag limit for white seabass is one fish per person from March 15 to June 15, but some people I’ve seen are catching a fish in the morning, taking it home and then catching another the same day. That way they never have more than one in possession. Is this legal? (Marty H., La Jolla)

Answer: No. Anglers fishing south of Point Conception are allowed only one fish per day and in possession between March 15 and June 15, period. “Possession” includes at home in the freezer (see Q&A above). This regulation helps protect these fish while they are spawning. Keep in mind that this population appears to be on the rebound due to good management practices and so it’s up to sport fishermen to abide by the regulations to ensure this continues.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

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