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Fish and Game Q&A: Why no world record broomtail groupers?

Grouper In support of the California Department of Fish and Game and its effort to keep hunters and anglers informed, Outposts, on Thursday or Friday, posts marine biologist Carrie Wilson's weekly Q&A column:

Question: I just received notice from the International Game Fish Assn. that world-record applications will not be accepted from California for broomtail grouper catches. This is because possession of broomtail grouper is prohibited everywhere in California, even if caught in Mexican waters.

Please explain why possession of broomtail grouper is prohibited in California for even Mexican-caught fish, while possession of black (giant) seabass is allowed if proper Mexican documentation is present. Only a relative handful of broomtail have ever been caught in U.S. waters in the last 100 years, and most of those were what would now be considered illegal transplant/introductions in the La Jolla/San Diego Bay region. Numerous other primarily Mexican species are very rarely caught in California, but are not a prohibited catch. Shouldn’t the proper Mexican-waters documentation be sufficient? (Steve C.)

Answer: According to Department of Fish and Game Lt. Eric Kord, species that are illegal to possess in California are also prohibited from being imported into California. Fish and wildlife cannot be imported into California unless they were legally taken and possessed outside of this state (Fish and Game Code, section 2353). Although this code and regulations do not expressly prohibit their possession in this state, California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 28.12 does expressly prohibit the possession of gulf grouper and broomtail grouper in California. Therefore, neither of these fish may be imported into California.

The reason why black seabass may be imported and possessed in California is because CCR Title 14, section 28.10 does not expressly prohibit their possession in California. In fact, the section specifically authorizes their importation from Mexico with the appropriate documentation.

According to DFG retired Senior Marine Biologist Steve Crooke, the laws protecting both the gulf grouper and the broomtail grouper in state waters, as well as the ban on the importation of these fish from Mexico, was put on the books sometime in the 1950s. At that time a nice population of these fish lived in the La Jolla Cove area and they were a favorite attraction for divers. The laws were enacted in hopes of protecting this expatriate population from Mexico for the enjoyment of the divers. The ban on importation from Mexico was because California sport boats at that time were not capable of fishing in Mexican waters and so it was just easier to ban any possession or importation of the fish. Today, few groupers exist in California waters anymore because conditions are not favorable here for them to spawn. The law banning the importation of these species into California have just never been taken off the books.

Q: I’ve heard that it is illegal to possess an African clawed frog (Xenops laevis) in California, since they are highly invasive. Is it permitted to capture wild specimens in order to kill them, at least? This of course would entail possessing them, however temporarily. Is there any way around this Catch-22? (Anonymous)

A: Technically, it is illegal to possess them at any time, including the time it would take to kill them. One thing to keep in mind is there is more than one type of African clawed frog subspecies and they are very difficult to tell apart. The legal type are sold in pets stores on a routine basis and do not pose the threat the illegal species does.

Q: An Olympic gold medalist from China will be visiting our state in October. During the visit he would like to go pheasant hunting. Is there any way to get a one-day license or special permit for him and his father to hunt at one of our pheasant clubs here in Southern California? (Larry B.)

A: Yes. They can purchase a two-day nonresident hunting license, or a one-day nonresident license valid only at a licensed game bird club for taking domesticated game birds and pheasants, as well as domesticated migratory game birds [FGC, sections 3031(a)(4) and (a)(5)]. They must, however, show proof they have completed a hunter education class.

Q: Can you help me locate regulations regarding tree stands or "elevated platforms," specifically pertaining to big game hunting for bear and deer? (Brian B.)

A: California has no Fish and Game Code regulations restricting tree stands. They are legal to use, but make sure you obtain prior permission from the landowner or public agency controlling the land where you intend to use a tree stand to hunt.

If you have a question you would like to see answered in this column, e-mail it to CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

Photo: Esaul Valdez posing with his 123-pound gulf grouper. Credit: Steve Carson

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