Tag Archives: Marine Protected Areas

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.

Shotgun for Protection When Fishing?

(USFWS photo)

(USFWS photo)

Question: I would like to know if I can carry my 12-gauge shotgun for protection when I’m fishing from the shore. I have a fishing license and the chamber would be empty. Would it be legal? (Aaron A.)

Answer: In many locations along California’s coastline it would be unlawful to have a firearm with you. There are rules specific to state and national parks, wildlife refuges (Fish and Game Code, section 10500(b)) and marine sanctuaries, as well as local and county laws that would make it unlawful to carry a firearm while fishing along the coastline. In order to answer your question, we would need to know where you intend to carry the shotgun. In addition to the locations above, it is unlawful to carry a loaded gun in a public place in an incorporated city (Penal Code, section 25850), e.g. the entire shoreline of San Francisco. Simply having the live ammunition attached to the firearm in any manner constitutes “loaded” for purposes of this section.


Photography in marine protected areas
Question: It is my understanding that on land, CDFW takes care of things in Marine Protected Areas, and in the water, it is the responsibility of NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries. Can one take pictures within the marine protected areas on land or sea and sell them for commercial purposes or does one need a permit? (Lisa W.)

Answer: MPAs are managed by several different agencies, so the answer will vary depending upon the MPA. If the MPA is part of the state park system, you may be required to obtain a permit for commercial photography from the California Film Commission (CCR Title 14, section 4316.) If the MPA is part of a county park, a permit may be required depending on the county. For example, San Mateo and San Francisco counties both require permits for commercial photography in their county parks.


One pig tag for each feral pig taken?
Question: Am I correct in assuming that, similar to deer tags, one must have one pig tag for each feral pig taken, or does the purchase of one pig tag legally allow for taking multiple feral pigs? I saw your comment on a recent feral pig question where you said there is no daily bag limit on feral pigs, but I am assuming that this would mean one would still have to have multiple tags for multiple feral pigs taken over a given time frame. (W.B.)

Answer: Yes, you are correct. Although there is no daily limit for wild pigs, you must possess a tag prior to pig hunting for each pig you intend to take.


Pistachio farmers shooting ravens on my property?
Question: I live about 50 acres away from a pistachio orchard. The owners of that orchard drive around and shoot at the ravens out of their truck. They park in front of my property and shoot at the ravens. I called the sheriff and he said to call Fish and Wildlife since the farmers have a depredation permit and so it’s out of their hands. The farmers also told the sheriff that they are shooting blanks. Since this has started happening, I have found three dead ravens on my property. One was right next to my horses’ watering trough and the other two were out our back door near our barbecue grill.

The orchard owners can see when we are home or away by our vehicles. We live on 10 acres and our house is in the middle of the property. I feel unsafe and creeped out. I came home today to find the third dead raven. Are they allowed to do this? How can I keep them away from my property? Do I have any rights or does their permit supersede my rights? I’ve been taking pictures of the dead ravens. One is even in my freezer. What is my next step? Is there a season they kill the ravens or do they have free rein to do what they want? I have a child and animals and I’m afraid for their safety. (Cindy P.)

Answer: The first place to start is to contact your local wildlife officer to report this. If you don’t have their direct number, contact your local CDFW office. A list can be found on our website at http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/regions. The wildlife officers should be able to look up the conditions of the owners’ permits and make sure they are acting within the parameters allowed by the permit. At a minimum, it is illegal to shoot within 150 yards of any occupied dwelling without the permission of the occupant. There is no open hunting season for ravens.

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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 Anglers and Divers Help Fill Another’s Bag Limits?

Divers cannot help one another to fill their bag limits. Only anglers fishing from boats on the ocean can help others fill their limits (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Divers cannot help other divers fill their bag limits. Only ocean anglers fishing from boats can keep fishing until all anglers aboard have limits (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Question: We do a lot of ocean fishing and spear fishing and have a question: Does an angler or spear fisher have to stop fishing once they reach their bag limit even if they are with another licensed angler or spearfisher without their limit? For example, if I am on my boat fishing for rockfish with a friend and I catch my limit but my licensed friend is having a slow day, can I legally gift him some of my limit and continue fishing? The same with spearfishing. I know in years past I have been on boats where fishing was not stopped until the boat had limits for everyone fishing. This seems like a gray area to me and I just want to make sure I am following legal and ethical methods while diving and fishing. Thank you. (Charlie C.)

Answer: You can help your friends who are having a slow fishing day only if you are fishing from a boat on the ocean. “Boat limits” are allowed only for ocean anglers fishing for finfish while aboard a boat. This does not apply for divers or for people fishing for invertebrates (e.g. lobsters and crab) or for anglers fishing in freshwater lakes and streams. Boat limits mean that all licensed anglers (and anglers under 16) may keep fishing until enough fish have been caught to fill all the anglers’ collective bag limits. It doesn’t matter who caught the fish as long as nobody is over-limit when they depart the boat. This provision is allowed only in this situation for saltwater anglers fishing with hook and line. It does not extend to divers or to shore fishermen or to people fishing in inland waters (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 27.60[c]).


GPS collars for training hunting dogs?
Question: I am training hunting dogs for raccoon and pig hunting and need to buy new tracking collars that I can also hunt with. I’ve always used these old radio frequency collars but want to replace them with some good global positioning system (GPS) collars. One of my hunting buddies says he thinks these GPS collars are going to be illegal to hunt with though. Is that true? (Bart H., Merced)

Answer: Yes, it’s true. GPS collars and collars with treeing switches are prohibited when using dogs for the pursuit/take of mammals (CCR Title 14, section 265(d)). GPS retrieval collars employ electronics that utilize satellite transmissions. Collars with treeing switches utilize a mercury switch mechanism that changes the collars’ signal transmission when the dog raises its head toward a treed animal.


How is the high tide line within MPAs determined and enforced?
Question: In MPA zone mapping, who and how determines what is the “mean high tide” boundary? How is this enforceable to determine if you are in the MPA zone or not? (Anonymous)

Answer: The shoreline shown on nautical charts represents the line of contact between the land and water at a selected vertical datum. In areas affected by tidal fluctuations, this is usually the mean high-water line. In confined coastal waters of diminished tidal influence, a mean water level line may be used. The shoreline of interior waters (rivers, lakes) is usually a line representing a specified elevation above a selected datum. A shoreline is symbolized by a heavy line.


Throw nets to catch baitfish in private lakes?
Question: Can I use a throw net to catch baitfish (threadfin shad) in a private lake? I am assuming that since it is a private lake, it should be fine, right? (Daniel B.)

Answer: California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) fishing regulations generally do not apply in any water that is self-contained without any hydrological connection to state waters, or to any fish that are planted by the owner or person in control of the property. In these waters fishing methods are not governed by CDFW regulations. However, it would be a violation of the law to transport fish alive from the water where they were taken (CCR Title 14, section 1.63).


Can I mount a camera to my rifle scope to record my hunt?
Question: Is there any law against mounting a camera to the scope of a rifle to record my hunting experience? (Anonymous)

Answer: No, there is no law against this as long as there is no light emitted from the camera.

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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.

Hunting wild pigs over bait on a licensed game ranch?

Photo: ©Carrie Wilson

Question: Can you hunt feral pigs (a.k.a. wild hogs) from a stand over bait, if it is on a completely enclosed, high fence, licensed game ranch? I was offered such a hunt and the landowner said I wouldn’t even need pig tags. Although it’s allowed in other states, I didn’t think it was legal to do in California and so I didn’t pursue it. Would it be legal if the rancher had released his own domestically bred pigs to run wild, as he is doing legally with other exotic game animals? (Anonymous)

Answer: No, it is not legal to hunt feral hogs over bait. However, if domestic swine are released into an area enclosed by escape-proof fencing, the pigs retain their status as domestic livestock and are neither feral nor game mammals protected by Fish and Game laws. Based upon your description, this would not be hunting but instead killing domestic animals owned by the rancher. If this is being advertised as “wild hog hunting” and sold as a hunt, there may be issues regarding violations of California Business and Professions Code. (182 words)


Fishing in the aqueduct?
Question: Is it legal to fish in the California Aqueduct system? (Thomas T.)

Answer: Yes, it is legal to fish in certain areas but not legal to trespass. Some of these areas are fenced or posted to keep folks out. Many people fish for stripers in the aqueduct. Check the regulations for where you may fish.


What’s the fine for fishing in an MPA?
Question: I was recently cited for fishing in a Marine Protected Area (MPA). I wasn’t familiar with the area and went into the MPA unintentionally and fished. I am not denying that I did but am wondering what the penalty can be for that? (Mike G.)

Answer: You can look up the bail and penalty schedule for the code section you were cited for at www.courtinfo.ca.gov/reference/documents/2009_jcbail.pdf to see the penalties listed, but it is entirely up to the court what fines are imposed. Keep in mind too that with the additional court fees and other processing costs that come with each ticket, your total may be double what the bail schedule calls for.


Retrieving confiscated property after a violation
Question: When a person is caught in the act of a violation, given a citation to appear in court, and then has his equipment (firearms, rods, reels, camping gear, vehicles, etc.) confiscated, can the property taken by the game wardens ever be retrieved? What if charges are then dismissed by the Superior Court judge? If the citation lists the model number and brand name as evidence, can the equipment taken by the officers then be retrieved?

Do the DFG officers have the ability to take equipment home for themselves if the person that committed crime never tries or gets the chance to get their property released back to them?

Otherwise, after a certain amount of time, is all confiscated property sold in public auction? If so, when and where does this take place and is there a website? Is there an itemized list of what’s available and/or the prices if not sold by auction? (DMB, West Sacramento)

Answer: Once the case is adjudicated, the judge decides to have the gear either returned to the defendants or forfeited to DFG. If the judge forfeits the gear to DFG, then there are two options: If the gear is in poor condition and not safe to use, it is destroyed; if it is in good condition, it may be distributed to our scientists or game wardens in need of equipment for use in the field, and for work-related use only.

For all other gear confiscated and not returned to defendants as ordered by judges, DFG basically has three options: 1) put the gear into work-related use, 2) destroy it, or 3) sell it at a public auction.

Confiscated fishing gear is usually donated to DFG’s “Fishing in the City” or “California Fishing Passport” programs for use by the public during promotional fishing events. All confiscated firearms not returned by the courts are ordered by law to be destroyed unless they have collector value, in which case they may be donated to a museum or educational facility for display. Public auctions for confiscated gear are not frequently held, but when they are, DFG is required to provide public notice through local newspapers.

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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.