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Fish and Game commissioners gather for meeting

At its February meeting, the California Fish and Game Commission acted on several issues affecting California’s natural resources. The following are just a few items of interest from this month’s meeting held in Sacramento, with an option for the public to join via Zoom.

The Commission elected Commissioner Samantha Murray as president and re-elected Commissioner Erika Zavaleta as vice president, marking the second time in its history that Commission leadership is two women; the first time was in 2022 when Murray and Zavaleta served in the same roles.

Commissioners accepted Committee assignments. Commissioners Eric Sklar and Murray will co-chair the Marine Resources Committee. Commissioners Zavaleta and Darius Anderson will co-chair the Wildlife Resources Committee. Commissioners Jacque Hostler-Carmesin and Anderson will co-chair the Tribal Committee.

Also, commissioners unanimously voted to reduce the bag and possession limit for California halibut to two fish north of Point Sur. The Commission unanimously voted to extend the unlimited recreational take of purple sea urchins at Caspar Cove, Mendocino County to continue to gather data and assess the efficacy of community-led kelp restoration efforts at this location.

Approved unanimously by commissioners was an experimental fishing permit (EFP) to test alternative gear in the commercial Dungeness crab fishery and approved several modifications to an existing EFP to test alternative fishing gear in the California commercial Dungeness crab and hagfish fisheries.

The Commission unanimously voted to notify interested parties of its intent to amend Klamath River Basin sport fishing regulations related to fall-run Chinook salmon. They unanimously voted to adopt amendments to regulations for lands owned or managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). The numerous new site-specific regulations improve public safety, increase recreational opportunities, and provide resource protection. Additionally, two properties were designated (one as a wildlife area and the other as an ecological reserve) and a new regulation was created to prohibit the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on CDFW lands.

The Commission received one-year status review reports on the petitions to list Mohave desert tortoise and southern California steelhead under the California Endangered Species Act. The Commission will consider whether to list each species at its April meeting.

Commission Vice President Erika Zavaleta and commissioners Eric Sklar and Darius Anderson were present for the full meeting. This was Anderson’s first meeting. Commission President Samantha Murray was present on the first day and part of the second day. Commissioner Jacque Hostler-Carmesin was present on the second day.

The full Commission has a teleconference scheduled for March 26, 2024. The next meeting is scheduled for April 17 and 18, 2024, in San Jose.

The California Fish and Game Commission was one of the first wildlife conservation agencies in the United States, predating even the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries. There is often confusion about the distinction between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Commission. In the most basic terms, CDFW implements and enforces the regulations set by the Commission, as well as provides biological data and expertise to inform the Commission’s decision-making process.