Collecting and Returning Tidepool Animals

Sea Stars of the California Coast (CDFW photo)

Sea Stars of the California Coast (CDFW photo)

Question: I have two small daughters that are very much into marine life. I thought it would be exciting for them to catch small critters, fish, etc. and put them into an aquarium at home. I figured they could then return the marine life back to the ocean every few weeks. I looked into this online and it appears that you need to obtain a permit to collect marine life in this fashion. Do you think it is possible for me to obtain the proper permits in order to do this with my kids? If so, do you have any idea how I would go about applying and the general costs? (Charles K.)

Answer: Unfortunately, as nice as this sounds, it is not legal for your daughters to do. Here are three reasons why:

  1. First of all, they cannot transport any finfish from the ocean, period. Moving live finfish from freshwater or ocean waters is illegal.
  1. Second, anything that is not legal to take with a California sport fishing license requires a scientific collecting permit and they wouldn’t qualify for one of these because they are issued only to scientists doing bona fide research or to schools or aquariums where the animals taken will be on display for the public to view.
  1. Third, they can remove invertebrates that are legal to take with a sport fishing license (although if under 16 years old they do not need a license), but nothing can be returned alive to the ocean. If they take them, they need to keep them. This is because there’s always a possibility that fish or invertebrates may have picked up parasites or diseases when kept in private aquariums. We don’t want anything being introduced to fish and invertebrates in the wild.

For the time being, it would be best for your girls to stick with fish and invertebrates that they buy from licensed aquarists or stores that sell aquarium species legally. They can, however, visit most tidepools and enjoy the fish and invertebrates in their natural environments … just don’t take them away from their homes.

Driving on a private road with a loaded gun in the vehicle?
Question:
I know that it is not legal to have a loaded gun in a vehicle when on public roads and in public accessible areas, but what about when on privately owned property where all access is controlled via locked gates? (Scott H.)

Answer: You are correct that it is against the law to carry loaded guns in a vehicle when upon or along a public way (Fish and Game Code, section 2006 and Penal Code 25850). When behind locked gates, however, there are no laws preventing this, although common sense and safety should preclude doing so. Many of the hunting accidents we investigate are caused by people getting into or out of a vehicle with a loaded firearm. Despite this allowance, it is still unlawful to shoot at any game bird or mammal from a motor vehicle, even when on private property (FGC section 3002.)


Cherry picking for the biggest crabs?
Question: I often see Dungeness crab fisherman holding onto crabs in excess of their limit while they continue crabbing. Then after pulling all their pots, they cherry pick the best ones and throw back the extras. Is this legal? Say for example I’m fishing alone and drop three pots. When I retrieve the pots, the first one contains 10 crabs, and I put them all in my fish box. The second pot also has 10 crabs and I also put them all in the box. I pull the last pot, then sort through all the crab and throw back all but the biggest 10 before heading into the harbor. This is how I would prefer to fish but don’t think it would be illegal. Am I correct? (Jesse)

Answer: What you describe is high-grading and is absolutely illegal. Recreational fishermen are limited to 10 Dungeness crabs onboard or in possession. Every crab over the limit that is in the fisherman’s possession, even if just for a short time, could get them cited for possession of an overlimit. Once a limit is in possession, all other crabs must be immediately returned to the water. If the fisherman keeps 10 legal-sized crabs from his first pot, all other crabs in any subsequent pots must be released.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week in this column. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

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