Shark-Shortened Halibut?

Question: A diver friend recently speared a halibut that was clearly legal, but before he could get it to shore, a shark bit off the rear half. What remained was not 22 inches long meeting the minimum size limit. I’m sure this same situation happens to rod and reel fishermen too.

Would the diver or fisherman in possession of a shark-shortened fish be cited? It seems a shame to throw away the remains of what was a legal fish, but I want to be clear on the law. I have no desire to be the test case in this area. (Bill M., San Clemente)

Answer: This is one of those “letter of the law” vs. “spirit of the law” questions. By the letter of the law, if a fish no longer measures the minimum length required by law, then technically that fish is no longer legal to possess and the diver/angler could be cited for having a short fish. It is unlawful to possess on any boat or to bring ashore any fish with a minimum size limit that is in such a condition to where it’s size or weight cannot be determined (Fish and Game Code Section 5508.)

As far as the spirit of the law goes, if the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) game warden could clearly see what had happened and believed the fish started out as legal size, it would be up to him/her to decide whether or not to cite for what is now a “shark-shortened” fish, as you put it. This is something that would be entirely up to the discretion of the game warden. One suggestion if this happens again is to not fillet the fish. Keep the fish whole as evidence to show that the shark bite matches up to the story, and wait to fillet the fish until getting it home.

The bottom line according to Assistant Chief Rob Allen, if the fish’s minimum total length or filet size cannot be determined, then the safest decision would be to let the fish go back to nature. This would not be a waste of fish issue since the fish was supposedly legal when originally taken. If the fish is half-eaten and there is no way to measure the size, the diver/angler could be cited for keeping it. In a situation like this, a fish being returned to the ocean half-eaten would provide food for other organisms, such as crabs and fish.

Are There Rules for Prizes in Hunting Contests?
Question: What are the rules as far as prizes that may be awarded for biggest fish contests? How about for biggest buck or turkey contests? (Jim P.)

Answer: According to Game Warden A.J. Bolton, under Section 2003 of the Fish and Game Code, no permit is required for game as long as the total of all the prizes awarded does not exceed $500. Bass tournament contests require a permit from the DFG – a type “A” permit may be issued if the prizes exceed $1,000 and a type “B” permit may be issued if the prizes offered total less than $1,000 (CCR T-14 section 230). No permits are required for ocean fish contests.

Lobster Report Card, Do You Need One?
Question: I’ve heard that this year we will be required to buy a lobster report card. Is this true? Why are they being required and what will we have to do?

Answer: Yes, beginning this year Spiny Lobster Report cards are required for every person who fishes for lobsters. This includes persons who are not required to have a California sport fishing license, such as children under the age of 16 or people fishing from a public pier in ocean waters. The card costs $7.90 and may be purchased from all DFG license offices and most independent license agents. Report cards are valid from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 and must be returned to the DFG no later than Jan. 31 of the following year (therefore, cards bought in 2008 are due back to the DFG by Jan. 31, 2009).

The 2008-2009 season runs from Sept. 27 through March 18. Report cards must be carried by hoop netters, and divers must keep it with their fishing license. If a lobster fisherman fills up a card before the current calendar year ends, the card can be returned and a new one purchased.

The purpose of the Spiny Lobster Report Card is to allow DFG biologists to find out how many people are fishing for lobster, how long it takes to catch them, how many are being harvested, what type of gear is being used and where they are being caught. With this information, biologists can determine whether the lobster resource is healthy and if current fishing regulations are working correctly. Without fishing regulations, California’s marine resources would not remain sustainable and some species might even eventually disappear completely.

#  #  #

Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s