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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Law Change About Lobster Fishing

Fish and Game Q&A: Will I be in violation if I clean lobsters once the boat is docked?

Traditional-hoopnet In support of the California Department of Fish and Game and its effort to keep hunters and anglers informed, Outposts, on Thursday or Friday, posts marine biologist Carrie Wilson's weekly Q&A column:
Question: I run a six-pack charter boat business and we often hoop net for crab and lobster. My deckhands and I make money by cleaning our passengers' catch. This includes both rock crab and lobster. We always wait until we make landfall before we tail the bugs. This year the new regulations say: "(e) Spiny lobsters shall be kept in a whole, measurable condition until being prepared for immediate consumption." What is the definition of immediate consumption? Will I be in violation if I clean the lobsters for my passengers after hitting the dock? (Captain David Y.)
Answer: Yes, prior to this law, there was a big enforcement problem with people who were already on the shore tailing undersize lobsters before the Department of Fish and Game could contact them to measure their catch. Because lobsters must be measured across the back of their carapace rather than the tail region, this was allowing them to get away with possessing short lobsters when the carapace and tails were separated. This is one of the reasons why this section was changed.
According to DFG Lt. Eric Kord, captain of the San Diego-based patrol vessel Thresher, by the letter of the law, "prepared for immediate consumption" means cooked and on a plate ready to be eaten immediately. Or in the case of sushi, it means ready to be eaten immediately raw on a dinner plate. He advises not cleaning or tailing the lobsters for your passengers as doing so would be a violation. If they are stopped by a game warden on the way to their car, they would be cited for illegal possession of tails under this section.
Lt. Kord suggests the following: "You may want to consider 'preparing' them a different way, like perhaps putting the lobster in a container with some ice where the melting ice water can drain out of the container and not drown the lobster, or maybe keep them loosely wrapped/covered in a moist, saltwater towel. By doing this, your customers can enjoy fresh lobsters when they get home or they can just freeze them. If the folks have a long way to drive, I would consider putting them in a wood box with wood shavings. Lobsters are imported from Mexico in this way and survive a surprisingly long time. I personally use ice packs in a cooler when I transport my lobsters a long way. I have left them overnight like that with the cooler lid cracked and they are still quite alive in the morning. "You could also de-vein the lobsters, bleed them and then freeze them on the boat in a whole condition [carapace still attached to the tail]. At the end of your trip, you can hand the passengers their frozen bugs for their rides home and they are already somewhat cleaned. Then they just snap the tails off of the rest of the body when they get ready to eat them at home."

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