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Marine Life Management


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Frequently Asked Questions: Fish Tagging and Marine Fish Hatcheries

Why does the California Department of Fish and Wildlife attach tags to fish?

Biologists tag fish for many reasons, including:

  1. To follow fish movement over time and to ascertain migration patterns.
  2. To discover habitat preferences for fish at different ages, or reproductive stage.
  3. To determine how fast fish grow.
  4. To get information on fish mortality and population size.

Each species has a unique life history so researchers must tag individuals of the species in which they are interested. Since the return rate for most fish tagging projects is 5% or less, many fish must be tagged in order to gather meaningful information.

What is the difference between an external Floy-tag and a coded-wire tag?

An external floy-tag is a plastic filament two to three inches long, usually with a "T" base on the end that is inserted into the fish. The "T" anchors the tag into the dorsal muscles or bones of the fish to keep the tag in place. A colored sleeve on the filament contains printed information regarding who to contact when the tag is recovered. The coded-wire tag is a tiny piece of stainless steel wired, injected just under the skin on the head of the fish or into the snout (nose). The wire, commonly called CWT, is etched with a binary code to cross reference the origin of the fish and other information. A metal detector is used to find CWTs in the fish. Often times hatchery produced salmon and white seabass have code-wire tags inserted before they are released. The Sport Fish Research Project in Long Beach, at (310) 590-5117, encourages people who take legal size white seabass to retain the head and contact the Project to determine the presence of a CWT.

What should I do if I catch or find a tagged fish?

Record the date and location where caught (or found), the length of the fish and the tag number (if present). Each numbered tag has a unique serial number on it, and usually the phone number or address of an agency to contact. Anglers should release any sub-legal size tagged fish, or tagged fish taken during a closed season, after recording the tag number and carefully measuring the total fish length. Do not remove the tag from a fish that will be released.

Do marine fish hatcheries increase the number of fish for fishermen?

For decades salmon hatcheries have been producing fish which contribute to ocean and river salmon populations. California has nine hatcheries that collect eggs from returning adult salmon. The eggs are fertilized, incubated, and the juvenile fish released to the wild. The only marine hatchery now in production is in northern San Diego County. It is producing annually about 100,000 juvenile white seabass at this time, and will eventually produce about 400,000 per year. Each of the white seabass are tagged in order to determine the hatchery contribution to the ocean seabass population.

Please see the Ocean Resources Enhancement and Hatchery Program (OREHP) website for more information about the white seabass hatchery program, and the CDFW Hatcheries web page for more information about salmon hatcheries.

Other Information


Established in November 1997, the Marine Region is one of the seven CDFW regions that divide California into discrete, manageable areas. The Marine Region extends along the entire California coastline from border to border and approximately three nautical miles out to sea, including offshore islands. Through development of specific projects, staff provide for fisheries and habitat management, environmental review, and water quality monitoring statewide. The fourteen projects listed below exemplify the breadth and depth of Marine Region commitment to protecting, researching, and providing for the use of marine resources for each California resident and visitor.

Aquaculture and Bay Management Project (ABMP)

The ABMP focuses much of its research on the bays, estuaries, and nearshore habitats of California that support commercial and recreational fisheries, striving for ecosystem-based management through collaboration with universities, agencies, businesses, public stakeholders and fishermen. ABMP staff are committed to maintaining the health of wild and cultured marine species through disease monitoring and sustainable fisheries management. Staff participate in monitoring, assessment, and management of kelp and other marine algae, and marine finfish and shellfish, including white seabass, bay shrimp, and Pacific herring.

Aquaculture and Bay Management Project

Aquaculture and Bay Management Project (ABMP); Photo Credit: Ryan Bartling

California Recreational Fisheries Survey (CRFS)

The California Recreational Fisheries Survey (CRFS) is a multi-part survey implemented in 2004 with one goal: to produce, in a timely manner, marine recreational fishery data needed for sustainable management of California’s marine resources. The CRFS project collects fishery-dependent data, and resulting monthly catch and effort estimates are used to inform management decisions. CRFS is the largest project in the Marine Region with three Senior Environmental Scientists, five Environmental Scientists, seven Fish and Wildlife Technicians, and approximately 70 Scientific Aids. CRFS operates on 1,100 miles of coast, and conducts over 7,000 sampling assignments, interacting with over 68,000 fishing parties, at 400 sampling sites each year.

The California Recreational Fisheries Survey

California Recreational Fisheries Survey

Diving Safety Program

The Diving Safety Program administers the compressed gas diving activities of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Program oversees dive planning, supports projects in the field, and provides ongoing training for more than 70 active divers statewide. Administered by the Department's Marine Region, the DSP has been an AAUS Organizational Member since 2000.

Diving Safety Program

Diving Safety Program

Environmental Review and Water Quality Project

The Environmental Review and Water Quality Project staff reviews activities that impact marine habitat and resources such as dredging, new construction, artificial reefs, desalination plants, beach replenishment, and offshore renewable energy. The Project works to restore, mitigate, and protect habitats and waters critical to California's marine and estuarine resources. Staff ensures compliance with the California Endangered Species Act and the California Environmental Quality Act, and acts as lead for California's marine mitigation banking program.

Project Review/Water Quality Unit

Groundfish Project

Through analyzing and reviewing fisheries data, project staff provides annual and in-season management options and recommendations to the Fish and Game Commission and the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC). Staff monitors and develops regulations for the commercial and recreational groundfish fisheries. "Groundfish" include rockfishes, flatfishes, roundfishes (including sablefish, cabezon, lingcod, and greenlings), and some sharks and skates. Staff also conducts and reviews stock assessments, and represents California fisheries on the PFMC Groundfish Management Team.

Groundfish Project

Groundfish Project

Invertebrate Management Project

Invertebrate Management Project staff participates in data collection, monitoring, surveying, assessment, and management of commercial and recreational invertebrate fisheries occurring primarily in the nearshore environment. The project focuses on abalone, California spiny lobster, Dungeness crab, clams, red sea urchin, sea cucumbers, and other tidal invertebrates. Project biologists collaborate with fishermen, industry groups, NGOs, and other researchers on a broad range of activities related to California's invertebrate species.

Invertebrate Management Project

Invertebrate Management Project

Kelp and Other Marine Algae

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife manages marine algae resources by conducting annual aerial surveys of kelp canopy, tracking commercial harvest records, and providing management recommendations to the California Fish and Game Commission on kelp harvest plans, kelp bed lease requests, and potential regulation changes.

Kelp and Other Marine Algae Project


Marine Fisheries Statistical Unit (MFSU)

MFSU staff collects, processes, and audits commercial fishery landings data, including landing receipts, commercial passenger fishing vessel logbooks, spiny lobster logbooks, and transportation receipts. The MFSU works closely with CDFW biologists and enforcement staff to monitor these data and ensure compliance is achieved. MFSU staff provides landing data and statistics to various governmental agencies, consulting firms, courts, fishermen and the general public.

Marine Fisheries Statistical Unit

Marine Fisheries Statistical Unit (MFSU)

Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Project

Charged with implementing the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), MPA Project staff work in a public-private partnership to support the planning and implementation of a statewide network of MPAs. Staff works in collaboration with multi-interest stakeholder groups, provides feedback on MPA proposals, works with inter-agency scientists and policymakers, provides public outreach, and assists the overall MLPA implementation process. Staff also works on the long-term evaluation, monitoring, and enforcement of MPAs.

California Marine Protected Areas

Marine Protected Area (MPA) Project

Marine Region Administration & License Sales Project

This project is designed to enhance the working relationship between CDFW staff and the public by providing administrative guidance and support. Project staff provides the framework that guides CDFW staff through day-to-day business dealings, including but not limited to: facilities and contract management, license sales, and personnel transactions. Project staff helps to ensure conformance with State laws and CDFW policies as CDFW staff work to accomplish their projects' objectives.

Marine Region Administration & License Sales Project

Northern and Central California Finfish Research and Management Project

formerly State Finfish Management Project

Project biologists participate in data collection and analysis, research, monitoring, surveying, and other management activities related to state-managed finfish species, including surfperches (especially barred surfperch), California halibut, kelp bass, and hagfish. Information gathered from fishery-independent and fishery-dependent sources may contribute to stock assessments, developing management options, and public informational aids (such as pamphlets) for state-managed finfish.

Northern and Central California Finfish Research and Management Project

Northern and Central California Finfish Research and Management Project

Ocean Salmon Project (OSP)

The Ocean Salmon Project provides fishery-dependent and -independent data for managing California's ocean salmon fisheries. The project produces annual estimates of ocean salmon harvest, fishery effort, ocean abundances, and fishery impacts on stocks of special concern. OSP staff collaborates with CDFW's Fisheries Branch and the California Recreational Fisheries Survey, and provides technical assistance to the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the California Fish and Game Commission, NOAA Fisheries, tribal governments, and constituents.

Summary of California ocean salmon seasons

Ocean Salmon Project (OSP)

Pelagic Fisheries and Ecosystems Program

The Pelagic Fisheries and Ecosystems Program (PFEP) manages Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS; Pacific sardine, Pacific mackerel, jack mackerel, northern anchovy and market squid) and Highly Migratory Species (HMS; tunas, billfishes and sharks). Management activities and functions include collection and analysis of fishery data, assessment of species status, generation of management recommendations, and evaluation of existing regulations. PFEP staff coordinates state management of CPS and HMS species with multiple state, national and international managing bodies.

Pelagic Fisheries and Ecosystems

Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS)/Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Project

Recreational Fisheries Data Project (RFDP)

RFDP staff participates in gathering, reviewing, analyzing and presenting recreational fishery data for state and federal recreational fishing regulatory activities. Staff supports the California Recreational Fisheries Survey and other recreational fishery information surveys, edits the Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel logbook database, and participates in developing recreational fisheries data collection protocols on an interstate level.

Recreational Fisheries Data Project

Recreational Fisheries Data Project (RFDP)

Research Vessel Operations Project (RVOP)

RVOP staff provides and maintains platforms for collecting data at sea. CDFW research vessels currently include a variety of boats ranging from the 45-ft. R/V Garibaldi to several small, inflatable boats. Vessels can be adapted for a wide variety of research, including abalone and finfish surveys, and kelp forest monitoring. RVOP staff also supports research by other CDFW and non-CDFW partners through use of Marine Region vessels.

Research Vessel Operations Project (RVOP)

Southern California Fisheries Research & Management Project

Project staff uses fishery-independent methods including scuba to gather data from nearshore environments. The project goal is to provide information to improve management of nearshore resources. Staff activities include data collection for stock assessments, evaluation of marine protected areas, monitoring of important fished species and their habitats, and determination of life-history parameters for various species. Southern California Fisheries Research & Management Project staff often work collaboratively with other agencies, academic institutions, and the fishing community on large-scale monitoring and research efforts.

Southern California Fisheries Research & Management Project

Southern California Fisheries Research & Management Project

Marine Region Year in Review Reports

Marine Region (Region 7)
Regional Manager: Dr. Craig Shuman
Main Office: 20 Lower Ragsdale Drive, Suite 100, Monterey, CA  93940  |  (831) 649-2870
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