The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is limiting fishing depths in the Southern Groundfish Management Area to reduce interactions with cowcod. DFG’s action follows a recommendation made by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) at its September meeting.
DFG has determined that cowcod take is projected to exceed the federal limit established for the non-trawl sector, which includes the recreational and commercial fixed gear fisheries, in 2012, unless in-season action is taken. Therefore pursuant to Section 27.20 of Title 14, DFG is limiting recreational groundfish fishing depths to 50 fathoms (300 feet) in the Southern Groundfish Management Area (34°27′ north latitude to the Mexico Border) effective on Nov. 1, 2012.
Cowcod are one of the largest rockfish species reaching a length of 37 inches and weight of 29 pounds; they range in color from orange to pale pink/white.
Cowcod cannot be taken or possessed by sport anglers in California. Possession was prohibited to facilitate rebuilding the stock when it was declared overfished in 1999. However, they are incidentally taken on occasion when anglers are targeting other species. By limiting bottom fishing activity for target species to only shallower depths it is anticipated that incidental take of cowcod will be reduced.
“Allowable take limits for cowcod are the lowest of all the West Coast groundfish managed by PFMC and these low limits pose the greatest constraint to Southern California anglers and a significant challenge to fishery managers,” said Paul Hamdorf, Acting DFG Marine Region Manager. “Implementing a 50-fathom depth constraint is expected to keep cowcod impacts within allowable limits and maintain conservation goals, while still providing anglers with fishing opportunities through the end of the year.”
Since being declared overfished, DFG and the Fish and Game Commission have worked closely with PFMC and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to implement protective measures for cowcod, including closing critical habitat (i.e., Cowcod Conservation Area) and prohibiting retention in most fisheries. Cowcod primarily occur in depths greater than 50 fathoms in Southern California, and are slow-growing and long-lived.
For more information regarding recreational groundfish regulations and to stay informed of in-season regulation changes, please call the Recreational Groundfish Fishing Regulation Hotline at (831) 649-2801, or visit the DFG Marine Region website at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine.
Image courtesy California DFG