Abalone Pearls – Can They Be Legally Bought and Sold?

An unusually large red abalone pearl taken by Peter Truong of Elk Grove, CA from Mendocino County in 2010. This pearl was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records earlier this year as the largest natural abalone pearl ever recorded! (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I saw an abalone pearl for sale on Craig’s List. Is this legal? I always thought no part of the abalone may be bought, sold, traded or bartered when taken under a California sportfishing license. What does the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) and California law say regarding abalone pearls? My understanding is the pearl is not part of the mollusk but instead a foreign object that got stuck in the gonad or between the shell and the meat. Any help would be much appreciated. (Matt M.)

Answer: You are correct. Unless the abalone was taken by licensed California commercial divers prior to the 1997 commercial abalone fishing ban, or purchased from a commercial abalone aquaculture operation, then it is a violation to sell the shell or any other part of the abalone. It is legal to import the pearls for sale if they comply with the commercial fish laws regarding importation. Therefore, it would be incumbent for the jeweler/individual offering the pearl for sale to have documentation that they obtained the pearl legally.

Bowfishing winding reels required?
Question: I would like to try bowfishing but don’t have any equipment yet. My father heard bowfishing equipment has to have a winding reel on the bow. Is this true or can any reel work on the bow? (Sean)

Answer: Any reel will work for bowfishers. According to DFG Lt. Scott Melvin, to help ensure speared fish are retrieved, the arrow shaft or the point, or both, must be attached by a line to the bow, but the line can be attached either directly to the bow or to a fishing reel mounted on the bow (including crossbow) (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.23). While the bow is not required to have a winding reel, these two options for attaching the line may have led to your father’s confusion.

Before engaging in bowfishing, be sure you know what species you can legally bowfish for. In inland waters, only nongame fish may be taken. In saltwater, most sharks and rays and other finfish may be taken. However, no take is allowed for the following: giant (black) sea bass, garibaldi, gulf grouper, broomtail grouper, trout, salmon, striped bass, broadbill swordfish and white sharks (CCR Title 14, section 28.95). In addition, some areas do not allow for bowfishing at all because some city jurisdictions view the equipment as a deadly weapon.

Getting a resident fishing license?
Question: I have homes in both California and Arizona. My primary residence is in Arizona but I have a boat and slip in California. Can I get a resident fishing license since I have a mailing address in California and I pay utilities and property taxes in California? I only fish a couple of days a year, but those days wouldn’t be consecutive so a temporary license doesn’t make sense. (Dwain L.)

Answer: California law is clear on the definition of a “resident.” A resident is defined as any person who has resided continuously in California for six months or more immediately before the date of application for a license, or persons on active military duty with the armed forces of the United States or an auxiliary branch or Job Corps enrollees.

If you cannot count yourself a California resident by this definition, you cannot purchase a California resident license. However, holders of a resident Arizona fishing license that has a California Colorado River Use Stamp affixed to it may take fish from a boat or other floating device on the Colorado River or adjacent waters that form the California-Arizona border.

Are there three shell shotgun limits when nongame hunting?
Question: While hunting coyotes in California with a shotgun, am I limited to only three shells in my shotgun like when hunting waterfowl? (Mick M.)

Answer: No, you may take coyotes and other nongame species with a shotgun capable of holding no more than six shells total – five in the magazine and one in the chamber.

No person may possess a shotgun capable of holding more than six shells total while hunting (Fish and Game Code, section 2010). In the case of coyotes, you would be restricted to non-lead shot or slugs within the condor range. When taking any game animals, you are restricted to a three shot capacity. But for nongame species, like coyote, the three shot capacity does not apply.

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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 CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

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