Type, Section or Code
Class 6, California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Section 15306
Reasons for Exemption
Section 15306 of the CEQA Guidelines (Class 6) provides a categorical exemption for information collection projects that consists of basic data collection, research, experimental management, and resource evaluation activities which do not result in a serious or major disturbance to an environmental resource. The section goes on to note that these information collection projects may be strictly for information gathering purposes, or as part of a study leading to an action which a public agency has not yet approved, adopted, or funded.
The project is a short-term exploratory fishing study under the EFP Program to test the feasibility of capturing king and other deepwater crab species using crab pots (traps) while avoiding impacts to non-target species and habitats. Sampling with the traps, which measure 84” x 84” x 32” in size, would occur between the California/Oregon border located at 42° North latitude and Pigeon Point at 37° 11’ North latitude. Fishing activities would take place seaward of the 125-fathom depth contour along the mainland coast and offshore seamounts. No more than 40 traps would be deployed in the water at any given time. Each trap will be attached to one vertical ¾” line comprised of line with the top 198 feet (33 fathoms) consisting of sinking line to prevent floating line at the surface. Traps would be set in a “prospect string” (i.e., one trap per vertical line spaced approximately 1 mile apart) and soaked for 24 – 36 hours.
Each trap would have a web escapement panel that is 32” tall and 40” wide in a diamond configuration where each edge of the diamond measures 7”and each diamond measures 9” stretched diagonal length to allow fish and smaller crab to climb or swim out and an 18-inch opening for escapement (opens at least 11” wide) when biodegradable twine (Size No. 30) disintegrates after 30 days in the water, in case pot is lost (destruct device).
For the initial testing, a maximum of four fishing trips is expected within a 1-month period. Any proposed expansion of the fishing area or increase in fishing effort and amount of take will require additional review by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and approval by the Commission.
While the proposed project activities are currently prohibited under state fishing laws (Fish and Game Code Section 9011 and CCR, Title 14, Section 126), the purpose of the EFP is to gather information for improving fisheries management or expanding fishing opportunities in the state by allowing researchers and fishers to engage in commercial or recreational marine fishing activities that are otherwise prohibited. All activities conducted under the EFP must comply with the terms and conditions placed on the permit for research purposes and the conservation and management of marine resources and the environment. As such, the proposed EFP project is the proper subject of CEQA’s Class 6 categorical exemption.
The Commission does not believe reliance on the Class 6 categorical exemption to approve the permit under CEQA is precluded by the exceptions set forth in CEQA Guidelines Section 15300.2. The Commission’s review was guided by the California Supreme Court’s recent decision in Berkeley Hillside Preservation v. City of Berkeley. The Commission reviewed all of the available information in its possession relevant to the issue and does not believe authorizing the permit poses any unusual circumstances that would constitute an exception to the cited categorical exemption. Even if there were unusual circumstances, which the Commission does not believe is the case, no potentially significant effects on either a project-specific or cumulative basis are expected from this project.
Furthermore, all activities authorized under the EFP Program are specifically prohibited from adversely impacting any established fisheries, marine living resources, or other natural resources under the provisions of Fish and Game Code Section 1022. Therefore, the exceptions set forth in CEQA Guidelines Section 15300.2 that would preclude the use of the categorical exemption do not apply and no further review is required.
Del Norte, Humboldt, Marin, Mendocino, San Francisco, San Mateo, Sonoma