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Question on wild bimac collecting in Southern California?


Mar 19, 2005
Hi all,

It still hurts looking at the empty tank. I've convinced myself and my wife that the best thing we can do to get over Thomas is to get another little guy/girl into our living room as soon as we get back from vacation towards the end of May.

Does anyone know what the collection laws are for California? Obviously if it's an ecological reserve, you can't take anything, even the rocks. But what about just a normal rocky beach or tidepool area that's not a reserve? Is it legal to go get one that way?
california collection of bimacs

DHyslop and I have been researching this a bit offline. The regulations are such that in California, you can't generally collect bimacs for the aquarium trade; however, you can get a sport fishing license and collect them for personal use, but you can't sell/trade/barter them if you collect them this way.

It's a bit complicated, and we're trying to work out the details still. I got some info from the appropriate office, but I didn't hear back from him when I asked if I could re-post his letter here, so I'm not sure I can quote it in its entirety.

If you're collecting for your own personal use, the sport fishing seems like it's clearly the way to go. I'll write up more details on this soon, but I want to learn more before claiming to have a full understanding.
Without posting the letter publicly, I believe he even pointed us towards the sport fishing license as a legal alternative. I originally had concern that Octopets was collecting brood stock illegally, but the sport fishing license would have protected them.

Here are appropriate links for the fishing license:

California Sport Fishing Regulations

2006 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations (pdf)

Here are links for the Marine Aquaria Collector's Permit:

Fish and Game Code - section 8596-8598.6

The short answer is yes, it is legal to go out and get your own bimac if you have a fishing license.

From the Marine Aquaria Collector's link
(b) Except as provided in Section 8598.2, and unless otherwise
prohibited in this code, or regulations made pursuant thereto,
specimens of the following groups or species may be taken, possessed
aboard a boat, or landed under a marine aquaria collector's permit:

(H) Cephalopoda--Octopuses and squids; all species, except two
spot octopuses--Octopus bimaculatus and Octopus maculoides--and
market squid--Loligo opalescens.

So, as far as I can tell (sorting through the government's version of English :bugout: ) the bimacs cannot be legally collected...:sad: but I guess you could always claim you thought it was a different octopus...:cool2:
Ok thank you for the links! I've seen sport fishers out off Del Mar catching sand sharks and rays, and off Windansea catching large tuna I believe (some as big as the kayak, and definitely heavier!!), so wasn't sure if Octos fell under the same category...
Ok after searching through those docs and finding pargraphs relating to octos and invertebrates, I believe the marine aquarium collector trade link where it says you CAN'T take them is pertaining to those who would collect and then sell them to/for the pet store hobby/trade.

Otherwise they contradict themselves, because in the 2006 sport fising code, it says:

29.05. General.
(a) Except as provided in this article there are no closed seasons, closed hours or minimum size limits for any invertebrate.

and then below:

Except where prohibited within state marine reserves, state marine parks, state marine conservation areas, or other special closures only the following may be taken: red abalone, limpets, moon snails, turban snails, chiones, clams, cockles, mussels, rock scallops, native oysters, octopuses, squid, crabs, lobsters, shrimp, sand dollars, sea urchins and worms except that no worms may be taken in any mussel bed, unless taken incidental to the harvesting of mussels.

And lastly:

29.10. General.
(a) Except as otherwise provided in this article, saltwater mollusks, including octopus, may be taken only on hook and line or with the hands.

So I "think" if it's for personal use, you're ok. Otherwise the 2 codes completely contradict each other! Then that would mean, "It's ok to fish for octopus if you're going to kill and eat them, but not if you want to keep one alive and happy in your living room...", which makes no sense :bonk: :mrgreen:
A sport fishing license and an aquarium collector permit are two different things: For the former you are collecting things for yourself, for the latter you are selling them for profit for the aquarium trade.

In this instance a marine aquaria permit (which costs about $300) does not allow you to collect bimacs for resale. But a $30 fishing license does allow you collect bimacs for yourself.

This is probably why we're not seeing a lot of wild caught bimacs for sale.

As long as we're going into some level of details, one of the responses I got on this was that the restrictions on collecting both bimac types for aquarium use were because they asked Dr. Eric Hochberg for advice, and he (they said) felt that while bimacs are not endangered at present, if they ever "took off" in the aquarium industry it would be very easy for collectors to have a very dramatic impact on their populations in a short amount of time, including possibly collecting too many eggs and disrupting their reproductive cycle. I haven't had a change to follow up on this by emailing Dr Hochberg directly, but it sounds like since he's already considered the "expert consultant" by the appropriate authorities, he might have the leverage to convince them that the rules could be adjusted to allow some limited collection for breeding stock or something like that. I'm sure he knows that we all want to make sure that bimacs are protected in the wild, but that it also seems that bimacs are very good pets, and they are more easily aquacultured than most octos.

Of course, all of this is third-hand, so talking to Dr. Hochberg directly will probably be more helpful.

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