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California fish and game (Volume 1952-1954) online

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plants have been trucked from Southern California due
to the lack of the once abundant stocks nearby.







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The Poiier seine, a new type of net used in daytime airplane fishing, is
highly efFicient for catching anchovies, sardines and /acfc mocfcere/. Wings
of the net are liieing hauled over the stern with vertical power gurdies.

For years the anchovy has been of importance in the
commercial and bait fisheries of California. From 1916
to 1946 most of the catch was used for bait purposes—
for live bait in the Southern California sport fishery,
for salted dead bait in both the sport fishery and in the
albacore fishery, and for use as ground chum by the
Pacific mackerel scoop fishermen.

During the period from 1916 to 1946 only small
amounts of anchovies were used for food and for re-
duction. In 1921 teeth were put into a law prohibiting
the use of anchovies for reduction purposes. It was felt
that such protection was needed to safeguard the
stocks of this species, both because of its importance
commercially and because of its importance as a forage
fish for sport and commercially important predatory
species.

Experimental Packs Made

From 1946 on, with the advent of the drastic de-
crease in sizes of the sardine and Pacific mackerel
stocks along the Pacific Coast, there arose the immedi-
ate need for packs of other species to supply domestic
and foreign markets. Inasmuch as anchovy stocks ap-
peared large enough and could be taken with current
sardine fishing methods many experimental packs were
made. They met with serious domestic sales resistance
but the anchovy "sardine style" pack in tomato sauce
met with favorable response in several Asiatic and
South American countries. The industry then centered
its activities in processing styles that would sell readily
on the export market.

Coincident with the development of anchovy can-
ning, the use of fishery products for pet foods ex-
panded rapidly. Jack mackerel was the main constitu-



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Pacific mackerel being bailed from scoop boat to conveyor belt at a
Newport Beach cannery. Note barrels of chum at the stern.

ent of these packs but in 1953 a ready supply of this
species \\ as not available. This resulted in the increased
use of anchovies for pet food. Thus, the anchovy to-
day is the primary species used in the bait and chum
fisheries of the State, in the export market of "sardine
style" packs, and supplies an important part of the
fishes used in pet food.

Rapid development of the anchovy fishery is shown
clearly in the catch figures. Since 1945, the year before
canning of anchovies was started, the catch has in-
creased from about two million pounds to about 100
million (including both commercial and live bait) in
195.3. Total catch figures prior to 1948 do not include
estimates of the poundage of anchovies taken for live
bait purposes. Since 1948 in some years the take of
anchovies for live bait has been more than the take for
commercial purposes.

Efficient Methods

With the development of the anchovy fishery there
has developed revolutionary and highly eflicient meth-
ods of capture and processing. The anchovy is a deli-
cate!>- textured fish and care must be taken to make the
pack presentable and to meet the stiff case pack re-
quirements put into effect in 1948 by the then Division
of Fish and Game.

A new stj'le lampara net called the Porter seine
(named after one of the principal inventors of the net)
was developed in order to more efficiently work in the
daytime in cooperation with aerial observers ^\■ho di-
rect the actions of the boat in catching the fish. This
method of "airplane fishing" has been developed to its
highest efficiency in the Port Hueneme-Santa Barbara
area of Southern California, where the bulk of the high
catch of 1953 was made. The now limited amount of
anchovy fishing in Central California .still is being con-
ducted by the boats using purse seines and Monterey-
style lampara nets. Fishing in this area still is carried
on at night, for daytime airplane fishing is impractical
in the Central California area due to frequent periods
of foggy weather.



Possibility of a future stable market for anchovy
products is good if the stocks of anchovies hold up
under the present fishing pressure.

Investigations of the department are aimed at ob-
taining facts on which management of the species can
be based, and to inform the people of conditions in this
important fishery. These investigations already have
shown that the anchovy, a valuable forage fish, should
be kept at high levels of abundance to provide feed
for larger fish and bait for commercial and sports fish-
ing.

PACIFIC MACKEREL

While the attention of the Pacific Coast fishing in-
dustry focused on the spectacular failure of the Cali-
fornia sardine, a similar decline in the Pacific mackerel
fishery, although not unnoticed, failed to cause any
great alarm.

In spite of increased fishing intensity, the catch of
Pacific mackerel in the 1952-53 season dropped to the
lowest total in 20 seasons. Continued heavy fishing
pressure during the 1953-54 season resulted in only
one-third of the poor catch of the previous season and
a new record low during 26 seasons. Not since 1928,
when the Pacific mackerel first became prominent as a
cannery species, had the yield from California waters
been less than 10,000,000 pounds.

A successful fishing season becomes more and more
dependent upon incoming year classes. This is vividly
illustrated by the fact that for five seasons, 1948-49
through 1952-53, two year classes (1947 and 1948)
alone contributed more than 75 percent of the fish
caught. During two of these seasons these two year
classes made up more than 90 percent and during two
others over 85 percent of the total catch. By the 1953-
54 season these year classes had been almost completely
exhausted (contributing but 5 percent). They were
replaced in importance by the mackerel hatched in
1953, which before they were one year of age had
yielded over 80 percent of the season's catch.

Shift Is Reflected

This shift in percentage from old to young fish is
especially reflected in the poundage yield. During both
the 1952-53 and 1953-54 seasons nearly an identical
number of fish were taken (14,200,000 and 14,800,-
000). However, in 1952-53 the fish five and six years
of age (85 percent in numbers) made up 89 percent of
the total poundage. On the other hand the 1953 year
class which made up 82 percent of the 14,800,000
Pacific mackerel caught during 1953-54 actually com-
prised but 57 percent of the 7.6 million pounds.

Routine sampling of the commercial catch con-
tinued whenever fish were available, and from this
sampling much of the basic information for the
numerous biological studies is acquired.

The department recommended a management plan
for mackerel along with sardines to the 1953 Legis-
lature, but it did not receive favorable consideration.



FORTY-THIRD BIENNIAL REPORT



67



NEW CLAM FISHERY

Possibility of a new clam fishery in Morro Bay has
developed as a result of the 1953 transplanting of
Japanese littleneck clams from San Francisco Bay to
Southern California waters. Because of harbor dredg-
ing as well as clam digging, the various species of
littleneck clams became quite scarce in Southern Cali-
fornia bays, and the department planted 6,000 of the
Japanese littlenecks, 4,000 at Morro Bay and the re-
mainder at Newport Harbor.

At least half of those planted at Morro Bay lived
and showed remarkable growth during their first year.
From all appearances these should spawn during 1954,
and if successful there may soon be a new fisher\'
where none existed before. Clams planted in Newport
Harbor were placed in deeper water and no observa-
tions on their progress have been possible.

Pismo clam censuses conducted at Pismo Beach and
Morro Bay during 1951 and 1952 indicated a continu-
ing shortage of young clams at both locations, appar-
ently the result of very poor sets during the past
several seasons. However, the number of legal clams
in closed areas or clam sanctuaries has increased con-
siderably each year, showing that short-term closures
do assist materially in building up a supply of legal-
sized clams. Information of the 1952 and 1953 cen-
suses was published in April of 1953.

Clam Mortality Investigated

Department biologists investigated reports of an
alleged set of Pismo clams in Morro Bay, the young
of which were supposedly dying. People of the area
were considering transplanting them to a more favor-
able habitat, a project involving tremendous expense.
Department biologists determined that the "baby
Pismo" clams were not Pismo clams at all, but a
variety having no common name, and which never
attains a size greater than a quarter of an inch, and
which never lives more than one year.

During the fall and winter of 1953-1954 the labora-
tory was asked to identify a species of clams which
was blocking irrigation pipelines in the Imperial and
Coachella Valleys, and was incurring considerable ex-
pense to farmers. This was found to be the same
species of fresh water clam, Corbicida flmnhiea, which
had become established in the Sacramento-San Joaquin
drainage within the past decade. An oriental species,
its introduction into California can only be surmised.
Its spread is best attributable to the army of small
boat-owning fishermen and hunters traveling from one
river system to another with bait buckets and bailing
cans unknowingly filled with the microscopic larvae
of this prolific clam.

THE ABALONE FISHERY

Although the commercial abalone catch dropped
slightly from the previous biennium it still remained
above 4.7 million pounds. Among the highlights of the



period was the emergence of developments in the div-
ing field, both with conventional gear and with the
aqua-lung. These developments played an important
part both in the commercial catch and in investigations
being conducted by the Branch of Marine Fisheries.

In Southern California, where the industry is con-
centrated in the Channel Islands, some of the commer-
cial divers were forced to descend well over 100 feet
to reach abalones of sufficient size and abundance. An
interesting development as a result of this deep diving
has been the appearance of a new species of abalone in
the catches. So uncommon is this abalone that it has
not been definitely classified.

The abalone investigation has continued operations
during the biennium with the major area of effort con-
centrated along the north coast. Since the greatest
single problem is to determine how the population of
abalones in the intertidal zone is replenished, principal
efforts have been directed along this line. The tagging
program, which was an attempt to approach this prob-
lem, is being continued.

Survey North Coast

A setback suffered by the investigation was the loss
of the mother ship, Broadhlll. This vessel sank during a
storm while tied to the dock. She was refloated but
had suffered considerable damage, and will be replaced
with a larger and more seaworthy vessel. The depart-
ment has purchased the Nmitihis, a former 50-foot
northern drag fishing boat which is being modified
for adaption to the needs of marine research. When



The diving boat Mollusk, used in the department's abalone investiga-
lioni. Bottles in foreground are used to re-KII aqua-lung tanks.





A young market crab, H of on mch in width. At this stage the young
crabs are an important segment of the crab investigations.



this vessel is placed in commission, it \\ill then be pos-
sible to continue the survey of the north coast in an
effort to evaluate the potential abalone resources of
the area.

In an attempt to assess the take of abalones by
sportsmen, a check system was set up whereby an
actual count is made of the number of sportsmen fish-
ing for abalones at a representative locality during
periods of low tides.

Since abalones inhabit the rocky shores from the
zone of high tide out to well over 200 feet, it is neces-
sary that the research team be qualified to dive. In
addition to the regular commercial type diving gear,
members qualified for the first time during the bien-
nium in use of the aqua-lung, having attended the
U. S. Navy's Diving School at the San Francisco
Naval shipyard where they received instruction in the
use of equipment used by the Navy's "Frogmen." The
frog-man type of equipment is especially valuable in
making exploratory- dives and underwater surveys.
Since the diver does not have to clamber up and over
rugged terrain, he can swim above such obstructions
and observe a wider field than the diver using con-
ventional gear. However, for tagging and several other
phases of the work, the use of commercial suit and
equipment has been found to be more desirable.

Although sufficient evidence for conclusive proof
was una\ailable at the close of the biennium, several
general statements can be made concerning the find-
ings of the investigation.

Along the north coast where activities have been
conducted, the total population of abalones has been
found to be less than was at first suspected. In addi-
tion, the greater number of these abalones are of small
size (i.e., less than 7% inches). There are locations in
which the general size appears to be larger than this,
but these are not common. Preliminary investigations
on the quality of the meat have been made and it has
been found that the majority of abalones obtained by
diving have a dark meat. The ocean bottom along this
area presents a rough and rugged terrain, dominated
by huge boulders, chasms, and rugged, rocky cliffs.
Especially disconcerting has been the scarcity of



weather suitable for diving. An average of perhaps
three to four diving days per month during spring
and summer was typical.

MARKET CRABS

Landings of market crabs, while subjected to a con-
siderable increase in fishing pressure for the past sev-
eral years, showed an abrupt drop from the high of
13,000,000 pounds in 1952, but still well above the 30-
year average ending in 1945.

In the San Francisco area the market crab fishery
showed annual landings of 4,000,000 pounds for the
past five years while the Eureka area brought in
double the poundage of the Central California fishery.
The drop from the 1952 high to. about 8,000,000
pounds in 1953 was due to a decrease in the north
coast landings as shown in the graph (Table 51, Ap-
pendix). Since a rather complete harvesting of avail-
able legal size crabs occurs each year, the drop may
be due t' a poor year class. It is also possible that this
mav be an indication that the fishery of Northern
California will level off at considerably lower annual
landings than the high peaks of recent years.

Intensive fishing with crab traps is accomplishing an
intensive harvesting of the available marketable crabs
during the first few months of the crabbing season.
At San Francisco 83 percent of the crabs landed in the
1952-53 nine-month season were brought in during the
first three months of the season. The trend is the same
in Eureka where from 50 to 60 percent of a total
season's landings is accomplished in the first third of
the season, compared to about 35 percent as recently
as during the 1948-49 season.

Specially designed crab traps with circular escape
openings are being demonstrated by the department
to show the value of improved gear in allowing rapid
escapement of undersized crabs while the trap is ac-
tively fishing on the ocean floor.

Study of the early life history of the market crabs
in California waters was carried on to obtain data on
the populations of crabs less than one year of age,
since this supply of young will eventually replace the
size groups thoroughly harvested by the crab fishing
fleet. It is anticipated that the modem research vessel,
the Nautilus, using specially designed gear, will make
possible investigations of the crab fishery long desired
but not heretofore possible.

OYSTER PROGRAM

Unique in its outlook, the department's California
oyster program is not confronted with over-exploita-
tion of a resource, but in fostering establishment and
growth of a valuable fishery in areas formerly non-
productive. With a firm oyster policy and with new
regulations adopted in 1954 by the Fish and Game
Commission to encourage full utilization of natural



conditions, indications point to greater production
and possible re-establishment of oyster culture in Cali-
fornia waters.

California oyster industry' is aimed primarily toward
production of the Pacific giant oyster, which has
yielded far less during the postwar years than before
hostilities. Importation of seed from japan was cut ofT
and the landings decreased accordingly. Expected in-
crease in oystering activity after the war failed to
materialize, because large acreages of oyster land \\ ere
being held and not planted, although sefed was then
available. During the past biennium the more progres-
sive oystermen have become active, augmented b\-
new additions to the field.

Since 1952 the importation of larger shipments of
oyster seed from Japan has resulted in the enlargement
of oystering areas within California bays. Morro Bay
operators have taken the lead in progressive ovster cul-
ture by the introduction of methods \ielding greater
landings per unit of area. The most modern and effi-
cient oyster handling plant in California now is located
there.

Many Young Oysters

Oystering activity in Marin County has recently led
to the construction of several small oyster houses to
handle harvests from increased plantings. In Humboldt
County test plantings by oy.stermen have shown such
rapid growth that very complete allocation of available
oyster lands has resulted. There are now young oys-
ters in California waters in sufficient abundance to
bring Pacific o\ster production \\ ell toward the degree
of opulence enjoyed during 1938-1941.

Consumer demand for oysters in San Francisco and
Los Angeles represents the greatest in the West. These
demands are far from being met and a still greater
market is appearing for canned oyster meats and oyster
stew, leading to production attempts on all potential
oyster lands.

Experimental plantings have yielded Pacific oysters
of marketable size within 1 1 months, a size normally
attained in three to four years in Japan. A variety of
oysters from Southern Japan was planted in several
Central California bays and the Salton Sea. This par-
ticular oyster, which produces a small meat suitable for
the cocktail market, grew very well and produced
marketable oysters 18 months after planting in the
marine waters of bays and the Imperial Valley as well.

Increased importations of Pacific oyster seed from
Japan and of full-grown eastern oysters from New
York have increased the possibility of infestations of
oyster drilling snails. Loss of oysters attributed to oys-
ter drills in other states amounts to millions of dollars
each year. California law requires the inspection of all
shellfish destined for planting in waters of the State.
It was necessary to condemn 500 cases of Pacific oys-
ter seed imported during the 1952-1953 season because
of the presence of drills in the shipment.



BOTTOM FISHERIES
Trawl

The otter trawl fishery, leading producing unit in
Northern California, has registered new highs in bot-
tom fish production during the last biennium. Trawl
landings have risen to over 30,000,000 pounds of fish
per \'ear in spite of stiff competition from low-priced
foreign imports of fresh and frozen fillets. This in-
creased trawl production, Hearing the ultimate poten-
tial of the fishery, makes imperative adoption of addi-
tional constructive conservation measures to insure its
future existence.

In the Northern California area 40 to 60 trawlers
have fished each month, and in the Central California
area the number fishing each month has increased from
about 8 to 18. In the Central California area bottom
fishing is undergoing a change from the historic long-
line type of fishing gear to the use of the more efficient
otter trawl.

Dover sole again leads in total poundage landed,
with English sole and petrale sole following in im-
portance. ^

For many years several species of rockfish, hake,
skates, and rays were little utilized due to low market
demand. This nonutilization has long been a problem
in the trawl fishery, but it is being partially solved by
the use of several of these species in mink food, cat
and dog food, and the use of skates, rays, ratfish, and
fillet offal in a new liquid fertilizer product. Several
species of rockfish are now being used in a new fried,
frozen fishstick product that has received nation-wide
acceptance. With the development of these new mar-
kets and products, the practice of selective utilization
is being reduced in this important segment of our
State's marine resource.

Conservation Method

One of the most practical methods of conservation
in the trawl fisheries is to allow the escape of under-
sized and immature flatfish from the otter trawl net



An oyster bed recently established in Morro Bay.





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70



DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME



while it is operating on the bottom. Various mesh
sizes were checked for escapement of small flatfish
during extensive mesh-testing experiments aboard the
survey vessel, .V. B. Scoficld, in the fall of 1952, off
the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington. As
a result of these experiments the Pacific Marine Fish-
eries Commission recommended that a 4/4 -inch mini-
mum mesh regulation for otter trawl nets be adopted
by the three Pacific Coast states.

The recommendation presented problems when ap-
plied to certain types of specialized trawl netting, such
as "hog ring cod-ends" and "double cod-ends."

The practice of stapling together strips of manila
line with metal hog ring clips to form webbing is a
recent innovation in California. The webbing is used
in the making of the cod-end or rear portion of the
trawl net— therefore the term "hog ring cod-end."
Double cod-ends are composed of two walls of web-
bing, making it essentially a cod-end within a cod-end,
instead of the usual one wall of mesh webbing cod-
end. Both types gf webbing give greater strength and
wear resistance, but due to their additional bulk and
reduced flexibility, the size of the fish retained by the
gear is smaller than that retained by the conventional
single mesh cotton web cod-end.

These additional problems warranted joint action by
the States of California, Oregon, and Washington
through the auspices of the Pacific Marine Fisheries
Commission, and steps were undertaken to solve them.

Net Mesh Experiments

The survey vessel, N. B. Scofield, completed exten-
sive mesh-testing experiments during the spring of
1954 during which time a comparison was made in size
of fish retained between conventional single cotton
web cod-end and the hog ring and double cod-end.
Results of these tests are being analyzed and will be



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used as the basis for future regulations to protect im-
mature fish.

Extensive experimental commercial fishing gear de-
velopment work has been conducted by the bottom
fisheries staff during 1953. Development was begun on
a new mid-water trawl and preliminary tests on this
gear were made in 1953. This gear, which is similar to
an otter trawl, opens fishing in the mid-depths of the
ocean, an area heretofore not extensively fished.

The study of trawler boat logs was continued to en-
able the bottom fishery staff to follow the changing
trends in species caught, location of fishing areas, and
the poundages landed. This information will aid in the
adoption of constructive trawl fishery legislation.

NEW SHRIMP FISHERY

A new commercial shrimp fishery for California has
been established since the 1950-1952 biennium. This
new fishery is the result of exploratory work by the
survey vessel, N. B. Scofield, in 1950, 1951, and 1953,
during which time the quantity and extent of the
shrimp beds off the California Coast were mapped.
Shrimp beds were found off Pt. Buchon, Bodega Bay^
Shelter Cove, and Pt. St. George in 1950 and 1951. In
1953 additional exploratory work revealed a southern
extension of the Pt. Buchon bed, and small beds of
shrimp were located off Gaviota and Santa Monica.

The first year of commercial ocean shrimp fishing
(1952) saw 206,000 pounds landed in California, of
which 198,000 pounds were caught off Pt. Buchon and


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