California. Dept. of Fish and Game.

California fish and game (Volume 1954-1956) online

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.Many thousands of acres of the largest ba\s— San
Diego, San Francisco, San Pablo and large portions of
Humboldt Bay— cannot be certified b\' the Department
of Public Health for oyster production because of the
possibility of contamination by sewage discharges.

This boom in shellfish production is now limited to
areas presently in production and no further expansion
is possible under present physical conditions.

Just Like Farming

0>ster culture is much like farming. The seed oys-
ters attached to pieces of empty shells are planted on
the tidal flats. Then the growing oyster is cultivated
and fattened for harvest.

The valuable seed, most of which is shipped here
from Japan, is inspected for pests before planting.
Certain t\pes of marine snails are the oyster's worst
enemies. They drill holes in the shell, killing the oyster
and feeding upon the delicate meat inside. Department
inspections provide a protection against contamination
of our California bays with pests from incoming ship-
ments.

Native oysters, while they provide a particularly
tasty meat, are not harvested commercially principally
because labor involved in removing shells from meat
is too costly.

Pollution Hurt Industry

The oyster industry in San Francisco Bay was at
its height around the turn of the century. Even then,
the oysters described by author Jack London in his
story on raids on the oyster beds were not the native va-
riety. They were imported here from the East. The in-
dustry reached a peak of over 1.5 million pounds har-
vested annually by 1911, then faded awav because of



Otf^ten, ^tufroftU'



Season



November, 1961-ApriI, 19B2.
November, 19S2-AprU, 1953.
November, 1953-April, 1954.
November, igSl-April, 19BS.
November, 19S5-April, 19B6.



Cases*



1,530

3,530

a,234

10,800

26,681



* Cases of seed oysters imported from Japan weigh approximately 200 pounds
apiece.



, , . cuid ^OHcUtt^



Year



1951
1952
1963
1964
1956



Pounds



133,700
188,666
161,620
468,493
1,636,067




Unloading part of a day's catch of ocean shrimp of Bodega Bay.

(,Fish and Game Photo by D. \V. McFadden)



polluted conditions of much otherwise usable area.
Only in the last decade has it been revived.

OCEAN SHRIMP

The infant ocean shrimp fishery of 1952 continued
to grow this biennium. This relatively new commer-
cial fishery was established as a result of exploratory
and development work of the Marine Fisheries Branch.

Production grew from 206,000 pounds in 1952 to
300,000 in 1954. In 1955 a total of 855,000 pounds of
ocean shrimp \\ as taken in California waters, of which
501,000 pounds were landed in Crescent City. Bodega
Ba\' shrimpers brought in 330,000 pounds but only
1,446 pounds were delivered in iMorro Bay.

The shrimp yield through June 30, 1956, was 419,-
000 pounds, which represents a 22 percent increase
over the amount landed in a similar period in 1955.
The Crescent City shrimp fleet again led production
w ith 308,000 pounds, whereas Bodega Bay fishermen
caught 111,000 pounds. As a conservation measure the
Morro Bay area \\as closed in 1956 to commercial
shrimp fishing b\^ the Fish and Game Commission
until such time as the shrimp stocks in that area reach
a safe harvestable level.

Alesh Experiments

Shrimp net mesh testing experiments were con-
ducted at sea aboard the N. B. Scofield in 1956. Fur-
ther mesh size testing is scheduled in 1957 to obtain
sufficient data to establish the optimum mesh size for
commercial shrimp net regulations.

Through the cooperation of commercial fishermen,
man\' samples of the shrimp catch were taken in the
Bodega Bay and Crescent City areas for size composi-
tion anahsis.

A study of the grow th rate and sexual maturity of
the ocean shrimp has been completed under direction
of the department.



PISMO CLAMS

From the annual Pismo clam censuses conducted in
the winters of 1954 and 1955 at Pismo Beach and
Morro Bay, it has been determined that the number
of clams available to the average digger will be in
short supply within the immediate forseeable future.

From these and previous censuses it is obvious that
clam recruitment at Pismo Beach has been extremely
poor since 1947, while at Morro Bay no \\orthwhile
sets have occurred since 1944.

Because it takes from 7 to 10 years before most of
the clams from any particular year class attain the
legal size of five inches, there will be a period of sev-
eral \ears (from the time the present supply runs out
and until a new set attains legal size) when clam dig-
ging will result in an extremely poor yield.

At no time during the history of the Pismo clam
census (since 1923) has there been such a prolonged
period of poor setting.

Causes Unknown

Cause or causes of poor survival are unknown but
could be attributed to a number of factors such as
ad\erse currents, rapid temperature changes at a criti-
cal period in larval development, salinities unsuitable
for successful setting, and extreme predation during
larval stages.

PELAGIC FISHERIES

California fishermen exploiting the tuna resources of
the eastern Pacific Ocean range from British Columbia
to Peru in quest of their quarr\'. The fishermen utilize
three tvpes of gear in taking four different species of
fish.

Albacore, erratic in occurence and numbers, are
taken seasonally from June to November by small
\essels using trolling gear in the temperate waters
from central Baja California north to British Colum-
bia. Yellowfin and skipjack are fished throughout the
\-ear by long ranging bait boats and purse seiners from
Baja California south to Peru.

Bluefin tuna are sought commercially only by purse
seiners because of their dense schooling habits and
reluctance to bite at lures. Bluefin tuna are the mys-
tery fish of the group, for the least is known about
them.

TUNA PRODUCTION

Prior to 1924, the industry averaged about 25,000,-
000 pounds annually. Since that time there has been
a stead\ increase as markets developed with greater
acceptance of the product.

The problems of the tuna industry during the bien-
nium were of a complex nature, centering primarily
about the high cost of domestic production and stiff
competition from foreign producers. Readjustments
were manifest in cutbacks in the price of raw fish and
in the over-all reduction in volume. The latter was
accomplished by intricate rotation systems for vessel



54



DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME



unloading and departure times for succeeding trips,
thus effecting a reduction in the total number of trips
and the total tonnage.

Solutions to the industry's problems were sought on
all fronts, from intensified advertising campaigns to
seeking governmental aid via direct subsidy and/or
tariffs. Efforts were not without some reward, particu-
larly in the increase of consumption.

The ultimate objective of the department's tuna in-
\estigation is the same as for other fisheries under
study by the iMarine Fisheries Branch. That is to ob-
tain necessary information on which to base recom-
mendations for such management of marine life as is
necessary to allow a continued harvest at the highest
possible level. This requires determinations of the size
of the stocks, fluctuations in abundance, levels of ex-
ploitation, etc. Tuna research activities during the
biennium were directed toward the solution of these
problems.

Tagging Program

The full scale tagging program, initiated during
the preceding biennium, was actively carried forward
during this one. Eleven tagging teams sailing on as
many commercial fishing vessels, liberated over 6,200
tuna with the department's originally designed tags
of \\ hire vinyl plastic tubing.



Tuna fishing from the stem of o modern iuna clipper in the eastern

fropicat Pacific Ocean. Eleven teams from the department tagged tuna

aboard such vessels during the biennium.

(Fish and Game Photo)




Accumulated tag return data are beginning to un-
fold the patterns of movements of yellowfin tuna and
albacore. The trans-Pacific migration of albacore was
further substantiated by additional recoveries in Japan.
Yellowfin were shown to move from southern Mexico
northward to central Baja California, gross move-
ments of almost a thousand miles. These movements
hint at a link between the fish off the so-called "local"
grounds, Baja California, with those occurring off
Central America. Skipjack returns to date indicate
that additional developmental work is needed before
returns can be expected w hich will vield the necessary
data for management recommendations.

The fish market sampling program, a long term
project, undertaken by the department, is designed to
yield a maximum amount of information regarding
the populations of the various tunas. By interviewing
the fishermen, details of the catch in time and area
are obtained. By measuring the lengths of the fish in
the catch, information is obtained on their age, rate of
grow th and variation in abundance. For the yellowfin-
skipjack fishery the gathering of this data was done
on a cooperative basis with the Inter-American Tropi-
cal Tuna Commission, effecting a saving in manpower
for both organizations. Substantial progress was made
in compiling the length frequencies for analysis which
was started late in the biennium.

Log Books Help

The use of log books is an invaluable tool in the
stud\- of fishery population dynamics. During the
biennium a chart type log book was designed for the
albacore fisher\'. The promising results obtained from
the pilot trial late in the 1954 season encouraged the
planning and initiation of a full scale program in 1955.
The first season's returns, 1955, produced a response
of 55 percent of the fishermen. The data obtained
yielded one of the most complete pictures of the
albacore fishery off California shores ever compiled.

Field work at sea on survey vessels or from com-
mercial fishing boats yields types of information not
readil\' obtainable by other means. The occurrence of
tuna in time, distance and depth, in areas and seasons
not normally covered by the fishery is a case in point;
measurements of the environment is another. Because
costs are high, each cruise is designed to answer as
many questions and problems as is practical. The de-
partment's survey vessel, A^. B. Scofield, made three
exploratory fishing cruises for tuna during the bien-
nium. A fourth cruise was made by department per-
sonnel on the University of California's research ves-
sel, the Paolhia T.

Albacore

The albacore is the onl\' tuna that is taken in num-
bers north of California. The three states, Canada, and
the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service have all studied
this species. There is vital need for these studies to



FORTY-FOURTH BIENNIAL REPORT



55



be properly coordinated and the Pacific Marine Fish-
eries Commission has accepted the responsibility for
this job, and is continuing to act as the clearing house
for the exchange of albacore data among the interested
agencies.

SARDINES

Sardines, virtually absent during 1952 and 1953,
again appeared in Southern California waters. Cali-
fornia's purse seine fleet took 64,000 tons during the
1954-55 season and 75,000 tons in the 1955-56 season.
These landings, although a sizable increase over the
two previous years of complete failure, were a far cry
from even poor seasons during the "hey day" of the
fishery. Optimism expressed in some quarters that
California's sardines have once again returned home
is not justified by the available evidence.

Historically, from 1916 to the present, the Cali-
fornia sardine industry has depended upon rather pre-
dictable on-shore movements of adult fish after their
off-shore spawning. During the peak of the industry
this spawning occurred as far north as British Co-
lumbia. After spawning, the adult fish moved in-shore
and traveled south along the coast at \\ hich time they
were available to the purse seiners.

With the series of poor spawning years beginning
in the late 1940's, coupled with a continuing heavy
fishing pressure, the stock of fish north of Baja Cali-
fornia was reduced progressively each year. The pinch
was f.elt first in the north where the largest oldest fish
w ere normally taken.

The fisheries in British Columbia, Washington and
Oregon failed in the late 1940's and by 1951, Mon-
terey's once large industry was no more. By 1952 the
San Pedro fishery was almost as completely dead as
Monterey's.



A purse seine net puller, developed and patented during the biennium,

enables the fnherman to purse and pull an empty net in as little as

15 minutes, a task that formerly required as much as three hours,

(Fish and Game Photo by Anita Daugherty)



Aw€ ScUt CcUc^




Area (for 1965)


Daily
reporting
bait boats


No. pounds
of live
bait*


No. of

angler days

by area

I sport-
fishermen)**


Port Hueneme to Morro Bay . .


6

3

7
4
3


646,353
1,220,154

4,712,843
1,418,304
4,488,927


39,676
57,296


Los Angeles and Long Beach


101,601


Newport to San Clemente

Oceanside to San Diego


67,664,
91,766




22


12,485,581


367,902







* Including sardines, anchoWes and young of other fish.
** These figures include Party Boat and Charter Boat .\nglers only.



No Mexican Shift

The California fish did not travel away from Cali-
fornia waters to other geographical areas. There was
no compensating increase in Mexico's sardine popula-
tion to indicate that the sardines shifted bodily to the
south. California sardines no longer existed, except in
cans, meal and oil.

Then in 1954 and again in 1955 fish from Mexico
shifted northward and spawned as far north as Point
Conception. By the time these Mexican fish moved
inshore and south the fishing fleet was ready for them,
even before they had spawned. Boats from the idle
Monterey fleet moved south and joined the San Pedro
boats. Airplane spotters had now joined to help the
fleet and fish were taken both day and night.

As vet there is no evidence that California's sardine
population has become re-established. The young fish
spawned in California waters by Mexican fish in the
last two years do not appear yet to constitute even
average size classes for this region. There have been
no outstanding or even good spawnings of sardines
in Baja California to compensate for the loss of Cali-
fornia's fish. Actually, the sardine population for the
coast as a whole is probably now not far above its
lowest level.

Sound Conservation Needed

It becomes abundantly clear that sound conservation
practices are needed in the sardine fishery if ever these
fish are to return to their former abundance and range.
Until the catch is limited to a reasonable percentage
of what is available and until nature provides condi-
tions for good spawning survival the fishery cannot
improve substantially. The Pacific Northwest and
even Monterey can expect no great fishery until Cali-
fornia's offshore spawning population is once again
re-established.

During the biennium the California Cooperative
Fisher\ Investigation research team has greatly in-



\



creased knowledge and understanding of the sardine.
Research techniques developed by the department's
Marine Fisheries Branch as well as the other cooperat-
ing agencies have begun to pay real dividends. A com-
bination of egg and larvae surveys as well as preseason
censuses on young and adult fish along the coast have
contributed to very accurate catch predictions for the
past three years. The research methods used in the in-
vestigation of the sardine have become models for fish-
eries investigators throughout the \\orld.

Airplanes Aid Biologists

In addition to the routine young and adult fish sur-
veys along the coast the Marine Fisheries Branch has
begun to use department airplanes to aid the ship-
board biologists locate and assess fish concentrations.
As a further aid in collecting fish samples at sea, the
branch has been developing electro-fishing devices for
the attraction and capture of samples of fish. Although
this Mork is still in the developmental stage, the results
thus far have been most encouraging.

MACKEREL FISHERY

During most of the biennium landings of Pacific
mackerel and jack mackerel were almost completely
respondent to market demand. Except for the first
few months of the two-year period when there was
an actual shortage of both species in local w aters, the
supply of mackerel seems to have exceeded the con-
sistently poor market demand.

Before the opening of sardine fishing in October of
1954, and following two years of complete sardine
failure, fishermen \\ere receiving as high as 185 per
ton for Pacifies and ISO per ton for jacks. By 1955
the price had been reduced to |45 and $42.50 respec-
tively and landings were held down by lack of orders
and cannery-imposed tonnage limits for each boat.

This failing market for canned mackerel is attribu-
table to several obvious factors. In former years the
product, inexpensively processed and marketed, pro-
vided a cheap protein food for the lower economic
groups in the United States and was well received in
many countries of the Far East and South America.
Since the steady rise of the American standard of liv-
ing those families who may have bought canned mack-
erel not out of choice but rather out of necessity can
now afford meat or more expensive fish products. In
the face of this diminishing domestic market has been
the steady rise in costs for the canner and a serious
increase in foreign competition for overseas markets.

Competition Tough

South African processors can deliver canned mack-
erel to the Orient at a much more attractive price and
the product is equal to the U. S. product in every re-
spect. Until U. S. canners can make canned mackerel
more attractive to the American consumer or devise
means to meet foreign competition the industry will
continue to be in a difficult condition.




Blanket nef used by research vessels in obtaining samples of anchovies,

sardines and mackerel. Used at night, the fish are attracted to the area

by the suspended light.

(Fish and Game Photo by Robert Collyer)

In the case of Pacific mackerel, market conditions
have had a profound effect on survival of the small
one- to three-man scoop boats. This fishery which
once supported hundreds of independent fishermen
and from 1939 to 1952 supplied more fish than the
purse seine fleet, is virtually nonexistent. The market
is now casiK' supplied \\ith all the fish needed more
economically and often in better condition, from the
purse seine fleet.

Prior to the 1954-55 season there was serious con-
cern over the diminishing stocks of Pacific mackerel.
The fishery was becoming more and more dependent
upon the success of incoming year classes. The back-
log of older mature fish in the population was at a
seriously low level. Since 1947, between one-third and
one-half of the total number of fish contributed by
an\- single year class were captured before they had
reached an age of two years and sexual maturity. Only
se\en-tenths of 1 percent of the 44,800,000 fish caught
during the 1954-55 season were older than 36 months.

Market Decline

The recent decline in market demand for mackerel
may well prove to be the major factor in any future
increase in the size of the Pacific mackerel population.
The 1953 year class, which has dominated in the catch
since before they were a year old, has been a rather
successful one. These fish, since the demand on them
is now low, are expected to reproduce successfully in
numbers for future generations.

E.xpanding knowledge on the jack mackerel indi-
cates that this fishery is not now and has never been
seriously threatened by man's demands. It has long
been known that these fish which most commonly
enter coastal waters— the two, three, and four
year olds— represent only a fringe of the population.
Enough isolated catches of very large old fish were
taken annuall\- by both purse seiners and sport an-
glers to show that there is a residual stock of mature
fish be\ond the range of the fishery. Recent evi-



FORTY-FOURTH BIENNIAL REPORT



57



dence, eggs and larvae, gathered from plankton hauls
off the Pacific Coast show that jack mackerel spawn
in excess of 1,000 miles off shore.

THE ANCHOVY

Prior to \\'orld War 11 the anchovy in California
was utilized primaril\- for live or dead bait. As a
product for human consumption the demand for the
species was negligible. However, beginning in the late
1940s and stimulated b\' the failure of the sardine
fishers' the demand for a "substitute sardine" rose
sharplw

From a prewar annual average of much less than
1,000,000 pounds the conimeicial landings of an-
chovies rose to a high of over 84,000,000 pounds in
195.^. This take, coupled with live bait landings in
excess of 10,000,000 pounds led to serious concern



by sportfishing interests that the anchovy, if open to
unlimited demand, would go the way of the sardine.

Commercial Take Down

In 1954 and 1955 the commercial landings dipped
to 42,000,000 and 45,000,000 pounds respectively. This
decline was primarily due to a lessening market de-
mand for the species. In spite of considerable effort
on the part of industry to develop a low cost attrac-
ti\e product, worldwide competition had increased
to the point where inventories had piled up faster
than they could be profitably sold. In addition the
return of e\'en small numbers of sardines in 1954, and
1955 had decreased the demand for anchovies.

In view of this lessening demand for anchovies and
under a continuing pressiux for some restrictive
measures, the Legislature, in 1955, enacted the fol-



T^Cfc /^^am "T^cMt t^ ^icf^^ (^ame o^ ;4Ci



This biennium saw the rebirth
of a fascinating California whale
fishery. Once again seafarers have
put to sea to chase the elusive
leviathan of the deep.

But w hen the cry of "Whale
Ho!" sounds over the deck of
the modern whaling vessel, it is
sung not from the briny lungs of
some ancient mariner but from
the scratchy, impersonal vocal
cords of the ship's electronic in-
tercom s\'stem.

Progress, alas, is inevitable.
The sailing ship of old has been
replaced by converted World
A\'ar II navy vessels, manned by
relatively small crews of five
men. At present there are two
licensed whale catchers working
out of San Francisco Ba\'. The
Demiis Gayk\ which formerly
based at the Fields Landing sta-
tion, and the Dovna Mae began
operations in the spring of 1956.
Reports revealed good catches as
the biennium ended.

The hand harpoon has gone
the wa\' of the sailing ship. To-
day's harpoon consists of a 175-
pound shaft tipped with an ex-
plosive grenade-type head fired
by a powerful gun mounted on
the bou of the catcher boat



While the minimum size of an
ordinar\- fish is usualK' expressed
in inches, the minimum size of
the sperm whale (the whale of
.Mob\' Dick fame) allowed b\
the International Whaling Com-
mission, is 50 feet. The legal
minimum size of the more com-
mon humpback whale is 35 feet.
A humpback whale of legal size
would weigh approximately 25
tons. It is interesting to note that
w haling crews are paid for their
catch b\- the linear foot rather
than by gross weight.

After these large mammals are
towed into the whaling station
at Point San Pablo, the\" are
winched onto a flencing deck.
Each animal is measured and
stripped of its blubber (which



Harpoon cannon mounted on bow of whale
killer vessel, Dennis Gayle.
(Fish and C;amc Photo In ,1. B. Phillips)



- -#''




is approximatel\' one foot thick,
depending on the size and con-
dition of the whale). This is
done by crews of flencers armed
with large machete-like knives.
The whale is then decapitated
and "filleted." Portions of the
loin are used for animal food.

The meat of the humpback
whale is palatable and the taste
not unlike that of beef. The car-
cass is ultimately rendered dow n
into oil, fertilizer and bone meal.

The catcher boats and the
land stations expect to catch and
process from one to four whales
a day during the whaling sea-
son. The first catch, made on
iVIav 9th, was a 36-ton humpback
whale. In addition to utilizing
the whales for meal and oil, it
is believed that suitable parts of
the whale meat will be chopped
and frozen for mink or other
animal food. This venture is the
first attempt to catch and proc-
ess whales in the United States
since 1953.

For catchers attached to land
stations, the open season for ba-
leen (blue, fin, humpback, sei,
or minke) whales is May 1st -


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