Now that the annual southward migration of California gray whales has begun, the bill signed by Gov. George Deukmejian to ban drift gill net fishing within 25 miles of the coast should save a few whales.
The bill, authored by Assemblyman Gerald Felando (R-Torrance), requires that the shark and swordfish commercial gill netters stay beyond a 25-mile line from Dec. 15 to Jan. 31, when the bulk of the gray whale migration from the Bering Sea to their calving grounds in the lagoons of Baja California takes place.
Jim Torre, president of the National Coalition for Marine Conservation, Pacific Region, hails the legislation as "a dramatic step that resulted from our cooperation and our pressure." The Coalition tirelessly has pumped for laws to restrict and control drift gill net fishing for the last several years.
The Coalition collected information from a number of different sources that showed a dramatic increase in whale entanglements in drift gill nets in recent years.
The 25-mile closure is only a partial solution, Torre said. It offers minimal protection to the whales because three migratory paths lie outside of the area. It will benefit whales using coastal paths.
The bill also regulates drift gill net fishing to a line 75 miles from the coast from June 1 to August 15. The 75-mile closure is an attempt to reduce the thresher sharks catch. The threshers, which are primarily found inside the 75-mile line, have gained widespread popularity as a table fish. This has resulted in their being overfished in just about five years of heavy harvesting.
Threshers, which produce only one pup annually, are susceptible to overfishing. State Fish and Game has produced a report, with recommendations to reduce fishing because the present overfishing "could negatively affect the thresher shark fishery." This documentation led to the legislation restricting the drift gill net fishery. The National Coalition, made up of ocean sport fishermen, has long sought thresher shark protective measures.
Sailing Notes If you're in the market for a sailboat, or simply want to browse the latest in designs and equipment, don't overlook the 17th annual California International Sailboat show in the Long Beach Convention Center. Sponsored by the Southern California Marine Assn., the show runs from Oct. 26 through Nov. 3. . . . Peter Isler of Marina del Rey, educational director of the American Sailing Assn., has been named skipper of the Courageous Syndicate's America's Cup Challenge. His first sailing duties aboard Courageous will take place in Perth, Australia, in February. There, he and his team will compete against an international field in the 12-Meter Class World Cup, a warmup event for the America's Cup final. . . . John Landon and Hugh Bennett, both veteran Transpac skippers, have taken top honors in the 22nd annual San Diego to Ensenada yacht race, sponsored by the Southwestern Yacht Club. Landon's new 68-foot sloop Kathmandu was first to finish in 12 hours and 24 minutes. Landon is a member of the San Diego Yacht Club. He won the first-to-finish award of the race. Bennett, also of the SDYC, won overall Ocean Racing Fleet honors on his 45-foot sloop Apollo. . . . Gone With the Wind, a pilothouse Tayana-37 out of Long Beach, is being made ready to escort during seaward legs a canoe trip from Florida to Venezuela and Buenos Aires to Cape Horn. Veteran canoeists Verlen Kruger, 63, and Valerie Fons, 34, will navigate the rivers of North and South America aboard specially designed 17-foot Kevlar canoes. The escort vessel, skippered by Don Homan, 55, is needed in case of rough weather. The voyage is planned to begin in March. . . . Bruce S. Hopping of Laguna Beach, chairman of Kalos Kagathos Foundation and an ardent outrigger paddler, writes that sharks of any species are not among the fears of outrigger racers. Outrigger sailors, it seems, routinely execute a "wet change" in all cross-channel competition. That is, they dunk themselves overboard. They do it routinely among "sun-bathing (albeit food-bloated) sharks" without incident, he says. . . . A notice to mariners and the curious: The dredge Master Assn. will be conducting dredging operations in the back bay of Newport Bay, north of the Pacific Coast Highway bridge, until Dec. 1. The tug Ruby R (radio call sign WI 7751) will be on the scene. There will be both floating and submerged pipelines in this area.