BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    





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          |                                                                 |
          |         SENATE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES AND WATER         |
          |                   Senator Fran Pavley, Chair                    |
          |                    2013-2014 Regular Session                    |
          |                                                                 |
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          BILL NO: AB 165                    HEARING DATE: June 11, 2013  
          AUTHOR: Beth Gaines                URGENCY: No  
          VERSION:   January 23, 2013        CONSULTANT: Bill Craven  
          DUAL REFERRAL: No                  FISCAL: Yes  
          SUBJECT: Commercial fishing: crayfish.  
          
          BACKGROUND AND EXISTING LAW

          Adopted in 1970, Fish and Game Code section 8490 prohibits the  
          sale or purchase of crayfish taken from Lake Tahoe or the Lake  
          Tahoe Basin. 

          Regulations of the California Fish and Game Commission (FGC)  
          require commercial fishing licenses, crayfish permits, and  
          commercial fishing vessel registration for commercial crayfish  
          harvest operations. These regulations also limit bycatch, limit  
          the size of crayfish traps to three feet in greatest dimension,  
          require the immediate return of other species taken in crayfish  
          traps among other provisions. 

          PROPOSED LAW
          This bill would lift the ban on sale and purchase of crayfish  
          taken from Lake Tahoe or the Lake Tahoe Basin. It includes an  
          intent section that states that any "allowance" for commercial  
          crayfish operations shall have the primary purpose of reducing  
          the population of the signal crayfish, an invasive species, and  
          that commercial taking of crayfish shall be consistent with the  
          state goals for management of invasive species as set forth in  
          the Lake Tahoe Region Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan. 

          The bill also states that the taking of crayfish shall be  
          subject to regulations of the FGC, which although not stated in  
          the bill, would presumably trigger a review pursuant to the  
          California Environmental Quality Act. 

          ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT
          According to the author, this bill will help control Lake  
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          Tahoe's invasive crayfish population. The author argues that  
          reducing the number of crayfish in Lake Tahoe will in turn help  
          address concerns over lake clarity. In addition to environmental  
          benefits, the author states that 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. 

          The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA), a 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 ordinances.

          ARGUMENTS IN OPPOSITION
          None received

          COMMENTS 
          According to research done by the science and technology fellow  
          at the Assembly Water Parks and Wildlife Committee, the signal  
          crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) is native to freshwaters  
          within the Pacific Northwest coast. The Truckee watershed was  
          first seeded with crayfish in the early 1900s. Some of the  
          crustaceans were planted by anglers to provide food for the  
          trout deposited in Lake Tahoe in the late 1800's, 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 Tahoe, and the signal crayfish population  
          was kept relatively under control. In the 1960's, researchers  
          from UC Davis estimated that there were 56 million crayfish in  
          Lake Tahoe. However, around the same time as the crayfish  
          controversy and the resulting ban on commercial crayfish  
          harvesting, a species of shrimp (Mysis relicta) was released  
          into Lake Tahoe. With the opportunity for easier prey, the fish  
          began feeding on the shrimp instead of the newly protected  
          crayfish. In 2001, a different group of scientists estimated  
          that the crayfish population had increased to 220 million. 

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           How many crayfish is too many?  The author's background materials  
          estimate that there are now 240 million crayfish in Lake Tahoe,  
          and news articles have placed this number as high as 280  
          million. The dramatic crayfish 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 species. 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 the lake. 

           Commercial Crayfish in Nevada  : On the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe,  
          commercial crayfish harvesting is authorized. Nevada had a  
          statewide ban on the take of crayfish for commercial purposes  
          until very recently. In 2011, 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 or planted or propagated in those waters 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 permit holder 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 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. 

           Related Legislation  : This bill is substantially similar to AB  
          2504 (Gaines) from 2012 which was held by the author because of  
          an Appropriations Committee amendment that imposed a provision  
          requiring a reasonable fee. 

          Staff would note that such a fee provision is no longer  
          necessary since SB 1148 (Pavley) in 2012 conferred authority on  
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          the commission to recover the costs of various hunting and  
          fishing permits through a generic fee provision that would seem  
          to apply.  

           Staff Note : The Lake Tahoe Region Aquatic Invasive Species  
          Management Plan was finished in 2009 and is theoretically  
          subject to 5 year updates. As stated in the report, "At a  
          minimum, the Plan will be reviewed once a year and revised every  
          five years ? to ensure Plan objectives, strategies and actions  
          continue to identify and address relevant?issues in a timely  
          manner. Individual components of the Plan (e.g. rapid response  
          plans, monitoring plans, vessel inspection protocols) may be  
          updated more frequently to fully address changing needs in the  
          Lake Tahoe Region." It will be important for the updates to be  
          made in a timely manner in order to help gauge the effect of the  
          commercial crayfish harvest. Applicants for permits as well as  
          the FGC are invited to inform the relevant policy committees in  
          the Legislature if the updates are not developed. 

          The following amendment is intended to be largely technical. It  
          converts the intent section into operational language and  
          codifies the TRPA provision (contained in its support letter)  
          about an environmental review of permit applications. 

          SUGGESTED AMENDMENTS 

          AMENDMENT 1  
          On page 2, lines 12-18, rephrase as follows: The commercial take  
          of crayfish in Lake Tahoe or in the Lake Tahoe Basin shall be  
          for the primary purpose of population reduction and control of  
          the signal crayfish, an invasive species, and the commercial  
          taking of crayfish may be allowed only to the extent that it is  
          consistent with state goals for management of invasive species  
          and other environmental standards, including but not limited to  
          an environmental analysis of proposed individual harvest  
          operations conducted by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. 

          AMENDMENT 2
          Add Bigelow and Dahle as co-authors. 

          SUPPORT
          Tahoe Regional Planning Agency 

          OPPOSITION
          None Received


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