An urgency bill that restricts the emergency transfer of Dungeness crab fishing permits has been signed by Gov. Brown. AB 2363, sponsored by north coast State Senator Wes Chesbro takes effect immediately, in time for the beginning of this year's crab season.But Chesbro gave credit to Ronnie Pellegrini of Carlotta, a former Humboldt Bay harbor commissioner who brought the problem to the Legislature's attention."The testimony of Ronnie, her husband, Paul, and other crab fishermen at the Fisheries Forum in February reached legislators who are in a position to pass laws making changes that are needed," Chesbro said. "Because of Ronnie's conscientiousness, California crab boats won't have to contend with unfair competition from out-of-state vessels like last season and the Dungeness fishery will benefit as a whole."Pellegrini said she travelled to a meeting of the California Fish and Game Commission to speak about the frustration with so-called "tsunami boats" from out of state, who local crab fisherman felt were overrunning California's crab fishery during the last Dungeness season.The problem, Pellegrini explained, is that a number of boats destroyed in the Crescent City harbor by the March 2011 tsunami had little or no recent crab landings, yet the Department of Fish and Game allowed for the emergency transfer of their crab permits to out-of-state vessels with much larger capacity. This put a lot of pressure on California's Dungeness fishery and created lop-sided competition for local crab fishermen."That was my issue," Pellegrini said, "and I thank the governor signing into law in time for this season."AB 2363 also allows the sale of meat from crabs that are pulled up to test whether the Dungeness are large enough for the season to start. This revenue will pay for the testing program, which has suffered from inconsistency in the past because it has lacked a stable funding source."This is very, very important for everyone involved in the industry, from the fishermen to the processors, to the consumer," said Mike Cunningham, a Eureka crab fisherman.Other provisions of AB 2363 will:• Allow the Department of Fish and Game to develop regulations to permit any licensed and permitted crab fisherman to retrieve lost or abandoned commercial crab traps at the end of the crab season, not just the owner of the trap. "This means less derelict fishing gear in the water to ensnare wildlife or to interfere with other fishing operations," Chesbro said.• Allow an administrative law judge, when reviewing appeals under soon-to-be-implemented crab trap limits, to waive appeal fees based on military service or medical hardship.
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