Fish Bulletin 138. The California Marine Fish Catch For 1966 California-Based Fisheries off the West Coast of Mexico for Temperate Tunas, Market Fish, and Sport Fish
Catch bulletins provide records of the amounts and values of various living marine resources taken by California's commercial fisheries, and summarize the catches made by the partyboat sportfishing industry. They also detail the small quantities of freshwater fish taken commercially in inland areas. These data provide the basic background for managing California's commercial fishery resources. The published figures are of national and international significance, and are used by fisheries scientists, legislators, educators, members of the fishing industry, and others interested in the State's fisheries. This report for 1966 is the 26th in the series of catch bulletins. The first, published in 1929, contained the records of the 1926 and 1927 commercial fish catches. California's fishery statistics are based on a system whereby fish dealers, processors, and partyboat operators send duplicate copies of their landing records to the Department. The statistical system and methods used to collect the records were fully described in Fish Bulletin 86, which reported the catch for 1950. In the intervening years, methods and equipment have been modified as conditions warranted, but the basic principles have remained unchanged. ======================================= On 1 January 1968, Mexico implements the provisions of its law establishing an exclusive fishery zone 12 nautical miles in breadth. A transitory provision of this law states that: “"The Federal Executive shall establish the conditions and terms under which nationals of countries that have traditionally exploited the living resources of the sea within the zone of three nautical miles beyond the territorial sea may be authorized to continue their activities, for a period that shall not exceed five years counted from January 1, 1968. Nationals of such countries may continue the said activities without any special conditions during the year 1967."” During May 1967, representatives of the United States and Mexico met in Washington, D. C. to discuss in an informal and exploratory manner the situation brought about by this law. No conclusions were reached at the Washington meeting, but the Mexican delegation indicated their government would look favorably on a continuation of the fishery under permit (via la pesca) in the Pacific Coast territorial waters of Mexico, and would allow fishing at the "traditional" rate in the adjacent exclusive fishery zone, at least for the 5-year period. Mexico's action in adopting a 12-mile zone is of especial interest to Californians because of its potential impact on three groups (tuna fishermen, market fishermen, and sport fishermen) whose representatives have fished under permit for many years in Mexico's territorial waters, particularly off Baja California. The Mexican delegation expressed an interest in obtaining detailed information on U. S. fishing activities south of the boundary, with special emphasis on the quantities by species taken less than 9, from 9 to 12, and more than 12 nautical miles from the Mexican coast. This paper, pursuant to the Mexican request, records the information about the California-based albacore and bluefin tuna fisheries, market fisheries, and recreational fisheries off the west coast of Mexico. We are not including data for the tropical tunas because the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission has the most detailed records on these species. The basic documents for this compilation are the fish receipts made out at the time commercial fishermen unload at a California port, and the catch records completed by the operators of the "partyboats": vessels that carry sportsfishermen for hire. The catch locality reporting system is not ideal for the problem at hand, because the smallest statistical reporting unit is 10 minutes latitude by 10 minutes longitude and a given unit may fall partly within and partly outside either a 9- or a 12-mile band along the coast. Nevertheless, these records coupled with fishermen interviews, detailed log books maintained particularly by tuna fishermen, and the staff's knowledge of fishing grounds made reasonably accurate allocations possible. We have used the period 1961–1965 as a base except for the commercial albacore fishery for which data were available for 1951–1963. In summary, (1) the quantity of albacore caught within 12 miles of Mexico each year is relatively negligible (an average of about 110 tons/year), (2) the tonnage of bluefin taken is variable but significant, worth some $200,000 per year to the fishermen, (3) the amount of market fish approaches 2 million pounds annually worth nearly $350,000 to the fishermen, and (4) the amount of sportfishing is extremely important but difficult to measure in terms of economic benefit to the State (17,500 partyboat anglers in 1965 paid over $250,000 in fees to the boat operators alone). Most of these fisheries are prosecuted within a few miles of shore, and relatively little activity took place in the 9- to 12-mile zone during 1961–1965. The total value of the commercial landings to California's economy is about 3.2 times the price paid the fishermen; therefore, catches of bluefin and various market species made within 12 miles of the Mexican coast annually contribute about $1.75 million to our economy. These fisheries are thus of considerable importance to the State. They also comprise a sizeable source of revenue to the Mexican government and constitute a resource not harvested to any significant degree by Mexican nationals at the present time. All these fisheries have been prosecuted for decades by California-based fishermen. California's commercial records go back over 50 years, but U. S. boats were operating in Mexican waters long before the California statistical system was inaugurated in 1916. In fact Collins (1892), in his report on a survey made in 1888, remarks that the San Diego fishing grounds for bonito and barracuda extended "to a long distance southward, off Mexico." Coleman (1923) states ". . . the year 1907 marks the period when this fishing (off Baja California) became a general practice." By 1920, boats carrying ice operated as far south as Cedros Island and at times as far as Magdalena Bay, seeking then as now halibut, barracuda, white seabass, rockfish, and tuna. The sport fishery is not as old, but official state records extend back to 1936, about the time that partyboats began fishing at the Coronado Islands. The sections which follow give detailed accounts of the fisheries in question, and summarize the fee system currently imposed by Mexico on U. S. fishermen who wish to fish in the territorial waters of Mexico.