Type, Section or Code
Sec. 21080(b)(4); 15269(b)(c)
Reasons for Exemption
In compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA; Public Resources Code Section 21000 et seq.), the Commission readopted the regulation relying on a statutory exemption contained in Public Resources Code Section 21080 (Actions Necessary to Prevent or Mitigate an Emergency). The exemption applies to agency actions to prevent or mitigate an emergency.
Animals listed under the federal Endangered Species Act have been observed entangled in fishing gear in increasing numbers since 2014. The animals in question are primarily humpback whale, blue whale, and Pacific leatherback sea turtle. The number of observed entanglements have since fallen from the height experienced during 2014 through 2017; however, marine life entanglement remains a persistent issue each year.
A dramatic increase in hoop net fishing effort in the Dungeness crab (Metacarcinus magister) recreational fishery during times of elevated marine life entanglement risk created the need for an emergency rulemaking to amend hoop net regulations before the start of the 2022-2023 Dungeness crab season. The Commission’s emergency rulemaking went into effect October 31, 2022 and will expire May 2, 2023 unless extended.
The increase in hoop net fishing effort was a result of crab trap prohibitions declared pursuant to changes to subsection 29.80(c), Title 14, CCR, that became effective November 1, 2021. This emergency rulemaking extends the October 2022 emergency rulemaking to amend and clarify hoop net regulations to minimize entanglement risk of federally protected humpback whales, blue whales and Pacific leatherback sea turtles.
Emergency regulations will maintain the low entanglement risk of hoop nets by ensuring the devices will be serviced every two hours and that design specifications will prevent the device from functioning as a crab trap that would otherwise incentivize longer soak periods. Other design specifications reduce the weight of the hoop net, thereby posing less harm to an entangled whale or sea turtle, should this occur. In addition, gear marking of hoop nets used north of Point Arguello, Santa Barbara County, will aid in identifying this gear type to enforce these requirements and identify hoop nets involved in entanglements. The proposed actions will help reduce entanglement risk of protected marine life throughout the recreationalDungeness crab season. As such, the proposal is an activity that is the proper subject of CEQA’s exemption for actions necessary to prevent or mitigate an emergency. The Department will work with the Commission to develop long-term solutions while the emergency rule is in effect.
In compliance with CEQA, the Commission adopted the regulation by also relying on the categorical exemption contained in the CEQA guidelines in Title 14 Section 15307 (Actions by Regulatory Agencies for Protection of Natural Resources); the exemption applies to agency actions to protect natural resources.
The adopted regulation is expected to help reduce entanglement risk for endangered whale and turtle species. As such, the proposal is an activity that is the proper subject of CEQA’s Class 7 categorical exemption.
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