Best Practices for Disposing of Fish Remains

Only certain ocean fish are allowed to be filleted at sea. Check section 27.65 (c) in the Ocean Fishing Regulations booklet

While returning fish carcasses after filleting back into the waters where taken can be appropriate for recycling nutrients, you should first check to be sure there are no regulations prohibiting the practice at your location. Doing so from a party boat at sea, like this one, is perfectly legal to do. (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: Is it a good practice to dispose of fish or crab carcasses/guts back into the waters they came from? It would seem that returning the fish remains would be a better ecological practice than sending it to the landfill. What is the best sustainable practice? (Ben M.)

Answer: Returning fish carcasses after filleting back into the waters where taken is sometimes, but not always, appropriate for recycling nutrients. Open ocean environments are more appropriate for this practice but be advised of fillet restrictions. And while it differs from port to port, many harbor masters will not allow carcasses to be dumped inside of harbors because too many decomposing fish carcasses may deplete the oxygen supply in the water. This has been a severe issue in many areas in recent years when concentrated fish oil from too many carcasses in bays or harbors caused seabirds to get sick and die. This occurred when excessive amounts of fish oil contaminated their feathers and they become flightless.

Returning fish carcasses back into freshwater environments may or may not be appropriate, and sometimes it’s outright prohibited. Be aware of the rules in the areas where you plan to do this. In shallow waters and along shorelines, especially in high elevation mountain lakes, there may be local or municipal regulations prohibiting this practice.

Public parks and lakes may also have no-dumping policies within a certain distance from shore due to health concerns and the smell and image of discarded fish carcasses in waters where people are swimming and recreating.

Bottom line … while returning fish carcasses after filleting back into the waters where taken can be appropriate for recycling nutrients, you should first check to be sure there are no state, city or municipal regulations prohibiting the practice at your location.


Is a junior hunter allowed to hunt wildlife refuges by themselves?
Question: I purchased a hunting license at 17 years old and it’s a junior hunting license. Now that I am 18 years old (and still have a junior hunting license) can I hunt wildlife refuges by myself or do I need to be accompanied by a person with an adult hunting license. (Andrew C.)

Answer: Yes. Now that you are 18, you may hunt wildlife refuges independently even though you have a junior hunting license.


Spearfishing in San Francisco Bay?
Question: Is spearfishing for halibut and striped bass allowed in San Francisco Bay? I believe the law changed when it became legal several years ago to spear striped bass. I know that people now spearfish for stripers lawfully in the Sacramento River. Can they do so in the bay as well? And what about for halibut? (Alistair B.)

Answer: Yes, spearfishing is now allowed for striped bass and continues to be allowed for halibut. You may not possess a spear within 100 yards of the mouth of any stream (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 28.90(a)), and there may be local laws due to safety considerations that do not allow SCUBA diving in parts of the San Francisco Bay.


How many rounds are allowed in a hunting firearm?
Question: How many rounds are legal in a hunting firearm while hunting? I think it’s 10 but somebody else says it is five. Can you please shine some light on the subject for us? (Juan M., California hunter)

Answer: Most rifles hold three to five rounds, but the Penal Code allows for up to 10 rounds. There are no Fish and Game Code sections that restrict the number of rounds a rifle may hold. It would be unlawful to purchase or use a rifle purchased after the enactment of the 10-round restriction found in the Penal Code. There are ammunition restrictions depending upon where you are in the state and what species you are hunting. It is unlawful to use or possess a shotgun capable of holding more than six cartridges at one time to take any mammal or bird (Fish and Game Code, section 2010). Shotguns capable of holding more than three rounds when taking game birds and game mammals is prohibited (CCR Title 14, sections 311, 353 and 507). Beginning in 2019, all ammunition used while hunting must be certified as nonlead ammunition.

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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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