BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                AB 165
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        AB 165 (Beth Gaines)
        As Introduced  January 23, 2013
        Majority vote 

         WATER, PARKS & WILDLIFE        15-0                 APPROPRIATIONS  
        |Ayes:|Rendon, Bigelow, Allen,   |Ayes:|Gatto, Harkey, Bigelow,   |
        |     |Blumenfield, Bocanegra,   |     |Bocanegra, Bradford, Ian  |
        |     |Dahle, Fong, Frazier,     |     |Calderon, Campos,         |
        |     |Beth Gaines, Gatto,       |     |Donnelly, Eggman, Gomez,  |
        |     |Gomez, Gray, Patterson,   |     |Hall, Holden, Linder,     |
        |     |Yamada, Williams          |     |Pan, Quirk, Wagner, Weber |
        |     |                          |     |                          |
         SUMMARY  :  Lifts the ban on sale and purchase of crayfish taken from  
        Lake Tahoe or the Lake Tahoe Basin and includes both legislative  
        findings and guidelines for any prospective regulations authorizing  
        commercial crayfish harvesting in Lake Tahoe or the Lake Tahoe  
        Basin.  Specifically,  this bill  :
        1)Deletes the Fish and Game Code Section barring the sale or  
          purchase of crayfish taken from Lake Tahoe or the Lake Tahoe  

        2)States legislative intent that any commercial taking of crayfish  
          from Lake Tahoe or the Lake Tahoe Basin be for the primary purpose  
          of reducing and controlling the crayfish population.  States  
          legislative intent that commercial taking of crayfish be allowed  
          only as is consistent with state goals for management of invasive  
          species and state environmental standards.

        3)Requires the Fish and Game Commission (Commission) to ensure that  
          its regulations for the taking of crayfish from Lake Tahoe or the  
          Lake Tahoe Basin for commercial purposes be consistent with the  
          Lake Tahoe Region Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan.

         EXISTING LAW  : 

        1)Prohibits the sale or purchase of crayfish taken from Lake Tahoe  
          or the Lake Tahoe Basin.


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        2)Requires commercial fishing licenses, crayfish permits, and  
          commercial fishing vessel registration for commercial crayfish  
          harvest operations.  Limits the size of crayfish traps to three  
          feet in greatest dimension and requires the immediate return of  
          other species taken in crayfish traps.

        3)Confers authority to the Commission to set regulations for the  
          taking and possession of crayfish and to prohibit the use of  
          crayfish traps that will injure fish or create unnecessarily large  
          amounts of bycatch.

        4)Prohibits by regulation the taking of crayfish for commercial  
          purposes from all lakes and reservoirs, and limits take in certain  
          California counties, including Placer and El Dorado Counties, to  
          areas west of Highway 49.  Requires that crayfish legally caught  
          under a commercial license be used only for human consumption or  
          for aquaculture.

         FISCAL EFFECT  :  According to the Assembly Appropriations Committee:

        1)Minor one-time costs in the $30,000 range for the Department of  
          Fish and Wildlife (DFW) to develop the California Environmental  
          Quality Act (CEQA) document and regulatory changes necessary to  
          establish a commercial crayfish fishery.

        2)Minor on-going costs of approximately $25,000 for tracking the  
          impact of commercial fishing on the crayfish population and  
          increased warden patrols of Lake Tahoe.

         COMMENTS  :  This bill would lift the ban in state statute in place  
        since 1970 on the harvest and sale of crayfish in Lake Tahoe.  The  
        Assembly Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee analysis on this bill  
        provides further background on the historical rationale for the ban.  

        The signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) is native to  
        freshwaters within the Pacific Northwest coast but are not native to  
        Lake Tahoe.  The Truckee watershed was first seeded with crayfish in  
        the early 1900s.  Some of the crustaceans were planted by anglers to  


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        provide food for trout deposited in Lake Tahoe in the late 1800s,  
        and some were most likely planted as a food source for locals.  For  
        years, crayfish were a dietary staple for nonnative trout and  
        kokanee salmon in Lake Tahoe, and the signal crayfish population was  
        kept relatively under control.  In the 1960s, researchers from the  
        University of California at Davis estimated there were 56 million  
        crayfish in Lake Tahoe.  However, around the same time as the  
        statutory ban on commercial crayfish harvesting was imposed, a  
        species of shrimp was released into Lake Tahoe.  With the  
        opportunity for easier prey, the fish began feeding on the shrimp  
        instead of the newly protected crayfish.  By 2001, scientists  
        estimated the crayfish population in Lake Tahoe had increased to 220  
        million.  Current estimates for the Lake Tahoe crayfish population  
        range from 240 to 280 million.  The dramatic population growth over  
        the past half century has been attributed to decreased predation due  
        to the shift in the lake trout's diet.  Climate warming may also be  
        driving crayfish production.   

        Crayfish are still a major food resource for invasive, warm water  
        fish species, such as smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, and  
        bluegill.  The increasing numbers of crayfish are believed to  
        contribute to the population growth of these species.  Crayfish have  
        also been found to excrete nitrogen and phosphorus, which are  
        important stimulators of algae production.  Thus, crayfish are  
        believed to contribute to the degradation of water clarity in Lake  

        On the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, commercial crayfish harvesting is  
        authorized.  Nevada had a statewide ban on the taking of crayfish  
        for commercial purposes until 2011, when the Nevada Board of  
        Wildlife Commissioners amended its regulations to permit commercial  
        take of crayfish from Lake Tahoe for an annual permit fee of $500,  
        provided that the Nevada Department of Wildlife approves the time,  
        place, and manner of the operation, and determines that the  
        operation is not deleterious to fish or other wildlife indigenous to  
        Lake Tahoe or planted or propagated there at public expense.  The  
        Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners amended its regulations again  
        in 2012 to explicitly allow the commercial sale of crayfish from  
        Lake Tahoe, both by a permitholder to a food wholesaler or  
        restaurant, and by a food wholesaler to a restaurant.  At least five  
        businesses have received both commercial crayfish permits from the  
        Nevada Department of Wildlife and commercial permits from the Tahoe  
        Regional Planning Agency (TRPA).  These businesses must also work  


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        with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Nevada Division of  
        State Lands to obtain appropriate clearances.  At this time, one  
        business, the Tahoe Lobster Company, is harvesting crayfish from  
        Lake Tahoe.


         This bill is substantially similar to AB 2504 (Beth Gaines) of 2012  
        which was held on the Assembly inactive file.  

        The author states that this bill will help control Lake Tahoe's  
        invasive crayfish population and help address concerns over both  
        lake clarity and invasive species.  In addition to environmental  
        benefits, the author states allowing the buying and selling of  
        crayfish from Lake Tahoe will help stimulate the state and local  
        economy.  The author notes that, under current law, even California  
        restaurants near Lake Tahoe must import crayfish from out of the  
        region or out of the state.


         TRPA, the bi-state planning and regulatory agency with jurisdiction  
        over the Lake Tahoe region, supports lifting California's current  
        statutory ban on commercial harvest of crayfish.  TRPA states that  
        commercial crayfish harvesting from Lake Tahoe may allow the control  
        of this species by engaging the private sector to accomplish what  
        otherwise would not be possible given the limited public funding for  
        controlling invasive species.  TRPA also states that it will conduct  
        an environmental analysis on the commercial boating associated with  
        each individual harvest operation in order to ensure that any  
        resulting commercial operation is consistent with its standards and  


         Removal of crayfish through commercial harvest may have both  
        positive and negative ecological impacts.  For these reasons, some  
        fishery scientists have urged that any prospective commercial  
        fishery involve careful planning and monitoring.  Issues raised  
        regarding the establishment of a responsible commercial harvesting  
        program for Lake Tahoe include avoidance of bycatch, avoidance of  
        spreading signal crayfish to other ecosystems, limiting the areas of  


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        harvest to protect invertebrate habitat, maximizing cooperation  
        among agencies and scientists, inter-agency cooperation, and  
        tracking and analyzing commercial harvest and ecosystem data.

        This bill does not in itself authorize commercial crayfish harvest  
        in Lake Tahoe.  Nor does it require the Commission to amend its  
        regulations to allow such commercial crayfish operations.  
        The Commission would still have to amend its regulations, including  
        those barring commercial crayfish harvest in any lake or reservoir  
        and in Placer and El Dorado Counties east of Highway 49, before a  
        commercial crayfish harvest operation at Lake Tahoe would be  
        authorized. The Commission's amendment of its regulations would be a  
        discretionary action potentially subject to CEQA.  Pursuant to CEQA,  
        the Commission may be required to conduct an initial study and to  
        prepare appropriate environmental documentation based upon the  
        potential environmental impact of the project.  Additionally, DFW  
        would likely have to devote some additional time and resources  
        toward designing, implementing, and enforcing any potential  
        commercial harvest program in Lake Tahoe.  The Assembly  
        Appropriations Committee analysis notes these costs are recoverable  
        through fees on annual commercial permits.  The State of Nevada  
        currently allows commercial permits and charges $500 annually.  In  
        contrast, the current commercial permit fee for crayfish in  
        California is $41.97.  DFW assumes that initially eight commercial  
        fishing companies would apply for permits based on information from  
        Nevada.  In order to cover all Commission and DFW costs, initial  
        permits could exceed $7,000 if the one-time CEQA compliance cost is  
        factored in.   Fees that do not recover CEQA costs but provide  
        enough funding for the ongoing costs would be a little over $3,000  
        per year.  If the Commission chose not to propose fees sufficient to  
        cover costs, DFW would have to absorb any one-time and ongoing costs  
        that are not recovered through the fee. 

         Analysis Prepared by  :    Diane Colborn / W., P. & W. / (916)  

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