Re: Lobster advisory committee - Opening time

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Posted by Ken Kurtis on November 29, 2013 at 19:29:09:

In Reply to: Lobster advisory committee posted by Jim Lyle on November 26, 2013 at 17:53:37:

I just sent the follwoing to Chris and ther memebers of the LAC, as well as the DF&W staff associated with this:

Hi Claudette, Chris, Sarah, & Lia (and the others),

First of all, thanks for your work on the LAC. As a longtime member of all the iterations of the SIG for the MLPA, I know what kind of a commitment this can be.

I just read through the document posted on DF&W website concerning the recommendations. (And congrats on reaching consensus on so many issues.) I'm not sure how set in stone these are so, at the risk of being the guy who's trying to close the door after the horse has left the barn, I wanted to make a suggestion concerning the timing of the recreational season opening, especially given the LAC acknowledgment of potential economic impacts on recreational dive charters. During the MLPA process, economic impact - especially unintended ones - were a main concern and I think there might be a relatively simple fix here.

You're definitely right in addressing a safety issue with the "rush" of the opener. As both Chris & Claudette know, I do some work with the Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber as well as am the forensic consultant to the L.A. County Coroner for scuba fatalities. We routinely see a couple of diving-related injuries requiring chamber treatment &/or fatalities each year during the opener. And many times, the trigger for the accident can be attributed to people being more excited about snagging a lobster than living to tell about it, as well as many times these accidents occur at 3AM or 4AM, on the second or third dive when divers are getting tired. So I think a move away from a 12:01AM opener is a good idea.

But I don't think 6AM is the solution.

One of the issues and likely pushback from the recreational dive boats (who appear to have been without a designated voice on the LAC) is that lobsters are generally taken at night when they're out and about. By delaying the start time to 6AM, that's already close to sunrise that time of the year which means the lobsters will have gone back into their holes and will be more difficult to find.

The economic impact may be twofold. Since many of these dive boat trips are 2-day or 3-day trips, the groups chartering them may lop off the first day since they won't be able to start until 6AM. That's going to cost the dive boats money. And for boats that run single-day overnight trips leaving at 9PM to start diving at midnight (and many times returning by 9AM), they may lose that day altogether since people will figure their chances of catching a lobster are significantly diminished.

However, moving the opening ahead by six hours to 6PM Friday would change all of that. (The regulatory wording could be "Recreational lobster season runs from 6PM on the Friday preceding the first Wednesday in October through 6PM the first Wednesday after the 15th of March.") Granted, it would start the season 6 hours earlier, but that could be compensated by having the close at 6PM instead of midnight in March so what you gain at the front end (which economically is more significant to the dive boats), you lose on the back end, leaving the total available hunting hours for the season unchanged.

In 2013, sunset on the Friday leading into the opening day was 6:43PM. Divers can hit the water at 6PM while they're still awake and alert and easily get in two (or perhaps even three) dives by midnight. Boats would have an opportunity to come back shortly after midnight which also increases crew safety as they have a chance to rest during the day before going out again (if they're running single-day lobster trips). And by starting this on Friday night essentially at sundown, there should be no economic impact on the boats. Any charter vessels that still wanted to do it as a midnight run could still do so as they'd now be fully into the season.

I'm not sure if this specific idea or something similar was discussed but I think it merits some thought. By moving the opener to 6AM, you effectively cut off a day of the season for the recreational dive boats. While it may not have much of an impact, if any, on the fishery, it will definitely have an economic impact on the dive boats, many of whom struggle to get by and for whom the season opener financially is as important to them as Black Friday is to many retailers.

Thanks for listening. If you have any questions, let me know. If there are any more public comment opportunities, either for your group or for the full Commission, I'd be happy to come and speak.

- Ken
Ken Kurtis
Owner, Reef Seekers Dive Co.
Beverly Hills, CA 90213
(310) 652-4990

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