By a 3 to 1 margin, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to allow bottom trawlers to continue scraping the sea floor in the Santa Barbara Channel, a move that United Anglers of Southern California (UASC) President Tom Raftican said will set the fishery back 10 years.
“But more importantly, it shifts the burden of proof of efficacy of trawl gear from the trawlers back to fishery managers,” said Raftican. “What we saw was the commission, based on anecdotal and contrived information and in the face of virtually every piece of documented scientific data, certify that bottom trawling minimizes bycatch, is likely not damaging seafloor habitat, is not adversely affecting ecosystem health, and is not impeding reasonable restoration of kelp, coral and other biogenic habitats,” he added.
UASC has consistently supported clean commercial fisheries, but has long objected to the destruction of bottom habitat and the extraordinary levels of bycatch created by bottom trawlers fishing California’s prime halibut grounds, all evidenced by the California Department of Fish and Game’s own studies. The commission’s latest ruling could pave the way to reopen the soft bottom areas of Monterey Bay to bottom trawling.