Humboldt Currents – Fall 2017

Casey AllenAlerts, Humboldt Currents

This issues’ cover photo is of Red Rider, handling his albacore by himself. Steve Haynes is known for fishing alone and helping everyone else find and catch fish over the VHF radio. His proper speech and eloquent tone make him easily recognizable over the radio. He is a true gentleman on the water and a local fishing celebrity.


Northern California Red Abalone are starving, they are not reproducing, and their numbers are in severe decline according to California Department of Fish and Wildlife researchers. On December 7th The Fish and Game Commissioners will either reduce the sport fishery dramatically or close it altogether. If they close the fishery the loss of revenue from license sales will make it tough to fund continued research and the hope of a re-opened fishery, after recovery, is doubtful. It could take 10 years. If the Commissioners adopt a severely reduced fishery, license revenues will decrease while administrative costs and enforcement costs will increase.

The decline of red abalone is blamed on changing ocean conditions. Unusual warm water conditions have contributed to toxic algae blooms, a decline in kelp forests, and an explosion in purple urchins. The warm water caused by the “blob” and El Nino will hopefully give way to cooler conditions, but with 90% of the kelp forests gone it will take a long period of cool water for recovery to begin. The question is, will we get it? Scientists predict the ocean will continue to warm. Whether caused by humans burning fossil fuels or a natural earth cycle, it seems there is little we can do to reverse the trend.

Thanks to local diver and past National spearfishing champion Brandi Easter, here is a link to the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s initial statement of reason (ISOR) report to the Fish and Game Commission at their October 2017 meeting with summary of suggested actions for the 2018 regulation rulemaking in December.

Link for the Abalone Recovery and Management Plan (ARMP)

See Chapter 7 for why there has been regulatory reductions in total allowable catch (TAC)

Link for the Department’s report on the ‘perfect storm’

The North Coast Marine Protected Area baseline monitoring projects are complete and available at ( In the report they call ocean warming the North Pacific Marine Heatwave because it is unprecedented and (hopefully) won’t last. Many of the projects encountered unusual ocean conditions like the starfish die off due to a wasting disease, the effects of domoic acid, a decline in kelp forests and abalone, and an increase in urchins.  It should be recognized that these baseline studies came at a time of great change in our ocean, which makes continued study and monitoring most important. Many thanks to all the researchers who contributed to this report. This kind of study was a big reason many recreational fishers supported the creation of the MPA network.

The amended Marine Life Management Act will be implemented in 2018 and there will be one more opportunity for public comment before the Fish and Game Commission takes action early next year. The MLMA amendments are designed to make fisheries management more transparent and inclusive through partnerships. It will consider entire ecosystems rather than single species management.  The link explains it all. Most of the goals appear agreeable but some of the language sounds to me like it will be easier to be more restrictive, especially to commercial fishing.

Jared Huffman is working on a bill to amend and re-authorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Many of the amendments re-define or add detail to terms used in the Act. One example, the term “overfishing” will be redefined to apply only to declines due to recreational or commercial fishing. The word “overfished” will be replaced in the Act with “overfished or otherwise depleted.”  The bill will also address Fisheries Management Flexibility and Modernization, Healthy Fisheries Through Better Science, and Strengthening Fishing Communities. From what I have read in a draft document it appears Mr. Huffman and his staff are listening to the fishing community and understands what is needed to meet future management challenges.

Humboldt Bay dredging is getting back on schedule with the work at the Eureka Marina. The City of Eureka was forced to use a more expensive method of dredging because of a lack of permitting for disposal sites and the urgent need for dredging. The spoils were loaded into containers by a long reach backhoe situated on the same barge.  The spoils were then unloaded at the Humboldt Offshore Ocean Disposal Site three miles off shore. The Harbor District is working on a draft EIR for programmed dredging and disposal. When completed, dredging will be a continuous activity on Humboldt Bay which will lower volumes and the stress on approved disposal sites. The majority of people I talk to are still in favor of beach disposal because the dredged material is no different than winter runoff from our major rivers. The lack of beach access or aesthetics during disposal is really minimal. So is the cost.

It was a great year for albacore and California halibut and we once again met our

The Gerdes family tuna fishing aboard Reef Madness, Eric, Lars, Michele, and Lydia

quota of Pacific halibut early. I wonder if the same warm water that harms ocean salmon and abalone, helps albacore and California halibut. The halibut were plentiful in Humboldt Bay and, unlike last year, much larger. The albacore water was more accessible this year due to more calm periods. The fishing out of Humboldt Bay was as good or better than anywhere along the coast so the runs offshore were reasonable, and the fish were most always there.

I missed the Trinidad Pier Youth Fishing Tournament (see page  8) because it was a tuna day. Ken Jones of the United Pier and Shore Anglers of California and Ed Roberts of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife managed another successful event. Although not everyone caught fish, every kid received a prize. Attendance was down from last year and could be attributed to the tuna weather, deer season, and the fact school had started.  When the tuna are in range, it is like a national holiday. Folks drop everything, call in sick, forget sleep, and head for the horizon.