On Sunday, March 17, a California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) patrol boat — the Swordfish — cited four boats for violating fishing regulations in the marine protected areas (MPAs) off the coasts of the Channel Islands. The boats — three of which were private vessels and the other a commercial passenger fishing vessel — were cited for violations such as fishing inside MPAs, fishing without proper licensing, and the taking of illegal amounts of particular fish, noted a press release by Fish and Wildlife. Attempts to contact agency representatives with questions and clarifications were unsuccessful.
The MPAs — which include 36 different regions that extend between Point Conception and Mexico — were established at the beginning of 2012. As a result, stricter regulations were put into place outlawing certain types of fishing activities in numerous areas along the California coastline, including many areas throughout Santa Barbara County and the Channel Islands.
According to the press release, the CDFW patrol boat — based out of Ventura Harbor — caught all four of the boats fishing well below the maximum 120 foot depth permitted, with the commercial passenger fishing vessel — the Ranger 85 — “fishing at a depth of at least 170 feet.” The private boats were also cited for “taking rockfish in closed waters.”
The Ranger 85, which “was stopped and inspected at the Osborne Bank, 5 miles south of Santa Barbara Island,” had on board 611 fish, said the CDFW press release, 371 of which were ocean whitefish. Fish and Game regulations limit the take of ocean whitefish to “10 per day per angler.” The illegally taken fish were confiscated by authorities and are in the process of being donated to local food banks and charities.
Already this year, the Swordfish crew has issued 39 citations. According to captain Lt. Wes Boyle, “The marine protected areas were established to help fish species recover and thrive. … Every fisherman and boat captain needs to be 100 percent aware of the MPA areas and boundaries.”