Tag Archives: marine mammals

Scuba Diving through MPAs with Lobsters in Possession

California spiny lobster (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

California spiny lobster (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Question: If a scuba diver legally enters an area for lobster, proceeds to catch lobster in that area but then is unable to exit the water safely, could they surface swim through a Marine Protected Area (MPA) zone with their catch and exit legally? (Tom)

Answer: Yes, the diver can swim through but should make sure they are clearly not actively hunting for lobsters. For example, if when kicking in on the surface and are right in close to the rocks, they then stop and shine their lights into holes or reach into holes, they may appear to be hunting for lobsters. If they have lobsters in their possession and a warden determines they are attempting to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill any lobster, they may be issued a citation for fishing in an MPA.

“Spear fishermen with or without catch shall be allowed to transit through MPAs and MMAs. While transiting MPAs and MMAs that prohibit spearfishing or while in possession of species not identified as allowed for take in the MPA or MMA being transited, spearfishing gear shall be in an unloaded condition, not carried in hand, and the diver shall remain at the surface” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 632(a)(8)).


Hunting with an Atlatl (spear thrower)?
Question: Is it legal to use an Atlatl, or spear thrower, to hunt game animals in California? If it is legal, what are the regulations for their use? (Charlie)

Answer: No, a spear thrower is not legal to use. Only methods defined in the 2016-2017 California Mammal Hunting Regulations booklet for the take of small game (CCR Title 14, section 311, on page 26) and for big game (CCR Title 14, section 353, beginning on page 27) may be used.


Personal limits vs boat limits?
Question: When on a boat with a group of fishermen, does the bag limit apply to the boat (as I believe I’ve read in the statutes and have seen on party boats) or does it mean that anyone catching their limit must stop fishing altogether?

I ask because we were ordered off the water when some wardens told us one of our friends could no longer be out there with us since his gear was still in the boat and he was considered to still be fishing. He was the only one with a limit.

Also, since fresh and saltwater regulations are slightly different, where in your regs are the lines of demarcation for San Francisco Bay? (Jerry Z.)

Answer: Boat limits apply to anyone fishing aboard a boat in ocean waters off California or in the San Francisco Bay (CCR Title 14, section 27.60(c)). Boat limits allow fishing by all licensed persons aboard until boat limits of finfish are taken and possessed aboard the vessel. Boat limits do not apply to sturgeon, shellfish or when fishing in inland waters.

“The San Francisco Bay is the waters of San Francisco and San Pablo bays, plus all their tidal bays, sloughs, estuaries and tidal portions of their rivers and streams between the Golden Gate Bridge and the west Carquinez Bridge. For purposes of this section, waters downstream of the Trancas Bridge on the Napa River, downstream of Highway 121 Bridge on Sonoma Creek and downstream of the Payran Street Bridge on the Petaluma River are tidal portions of the Napa River, Sonoma Creek and Petaluma River, respectively” (CCR Title 14, section 27.00).

“Inland waters are all the fresh, brackish and inland saline waters of the state, including lagoons and tidewaters upstream from the mouths of coastal rivers and streams. Inland waters exclude the waters of San Francisco Bay and the waters of Elkhorn Slough, west of Elkhorn Road between Castroville and Watsonville” (CCR Title 14, section 1.53).

When fishing in inland waters, bag limits apply to each individual angler and not to the boat as a whole.


Bear skin rug and Alaskan whale bone carving for sale
Question: I have a bear skin rug, along with the head, that was the property of my mother-in-law. We also have a whale bone carving from an Alaskan artist. These are not things we wish to hold on to. Is there any way to sell these items in another state (outside of California) even though we live in California? What are the other options? (Kathy S.)

Answer: Regarding your bear skin rug, it is “unlawful to sell or purchase, or possess for sale, the meat, skin, hide, teeth, claws or other parts of any bear in this state (Fish and Game Code, section 4758). And as far as the whale bone carving, “it is unlawful to sell or purchase a bird or mammal found in the wild in California” (FGC, section 3039). So, if your carving comes from a whale that occurs in California waters, it may not be sold in the state. While neither of these laws apply to transactions taking place entirely outside of California, you are encouraged to consult the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine if any federal laws may apply.

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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.

Can wild turkeys be planted on private property?

Domestically raised turkeys cannot be released as wild turkeys (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: Is it possible (and legal) to purchase live wild turkeys to turn loose on my property to see how they do? Is there any law against buying live wild turkeys inside California or outside the state and having them shipped here? (Jarrod D., Sanger)

Answer: There is nothing illegal about selling or purchasing domestic poultry sold as wild turkeys. However, it is not legal to release into the wild turkeys that have been domestically reared for propagation or hunting purposes. Only wild turkeys trapped from the wild by the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) may be released into the wild (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 671.6).

In addition, no person having possession or control over any wild animal legally imported under the provisions of this chapter shall intentionally free, or knowingly permit the escape, or release of such animals, except in accordance with the regulations of the commission (Fish and Game Code, section 2121).

According to DFG upland game bird and turkey expert Scott Gardner, aside from the fact that you cannot legally release domestically reared turkeys onto your property, biologically, no matter what the turkeys look like, if they were domestically hatched, they are domestic birds. Upland game birds imprint immediately on their hen, and without her they will not learn the skills to be wild. Domestically reared birds will not survive and don’t even know to take cover.

Bottom line … domestically reared birds released on a landowners’ property will not result in the wild turkeys that they are trying to establish.


How to transport a rifle on a motorcycle?
Question: What is the correct and legal way to transport a rifle on a motorcycle? Can you clarify? (Frank L.)

Answer: A motorcycle is a vehicle and the laws governing possession of loaded shotguns or rifles in a vehicle apply the same as if you are in a car or truck. According to Lt. Todd Tognazzini, if you are in a legal hunting area on a way open to the public or other public roadway, Fish and Game Code Section 2006 prohibits an unexpended (live) round in the firing chamber. If you are on a public highway (whether paved or not), then Penal Code Section 12031 applies which prevents ammunition from being attached to the firearm such as in the magazine. For more complete information on the requirements for transporting firearms with vehicles, please review page 47 of the 2009-2010 Mammal Hunting Regulations Booklet and the California Firearms Laws Summary booklet put out by the Office of the Attorney General at http://ag.ca.gov/firearms/forms/pdf/Cfl2007.pdf


Hazing nuisance seals and sea lions with paint balls?
Question:If I am fishing and am continually harassed by seals and sea lions, is it lawful to shoot them with a non-lethal paint ball? (T. Jay D.)

Answer: DFG does not manage or regulate interactions with marine mammals. California sea lions and Pacific harbor seals have been federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act since 1972, and thus harassing, capturing, killing or attempting to do so is prohibited and carries a hefty fine. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in recent years the populations of these animals have increased dramatically and are now considered healthy and robust.

Unfortunately, with the good often comes the bad – the increased abundance of animals has also resulted in a growing number of negative interactions with humans and incidents of property damage. People seeking legal methods for deterring marine mammals in order to protect their property, fishing gear and catch from damage by sea lions and seals can find recommendations and approved methods on NOAA’s Web site at http://www.nwr.noaa.gov/Marine-Mammals/Seals-and-Sea-Lions/Deterring-Pinnipeds.cfm. And yes, paint balls are an approved method that may be used under certain conditions, but please read the NOAA information before doing so.


Are hunting licenses needed for nongame animals?
Question:I have out-of-state friends who would like to shoot Belding’s ground squirrels on a private ranch. Since Belding’s squirrels are a rodent and a nongame animal, do they need non-resident hunting licenses? (Don S.)

Answer: The recreational take of any wildlife including nongame mammals such as ground squirrels would require your friends to obtain a non-resident hunting license. They could purchase a two-day license valid for everything except big game for $41.20, or annual non-resident license. Nongame mammals may be taken without a license if the animals are injuring growing crops or other property (Fish and Game Code, section 4152). The authority to take nongame mammals without a license under these conditions applies only to the owner or tenant of the premises or employees and agents in immediate possession of written permission from the owner or tenant.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. She cannot personally answer everyone’s questions but will select a few to answer in this column each week. Contact her at CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.