BY KEITH MORET
Vice President, Marina Del Rey Anglers
MARINA DEL REY – Every angler on the West Coast likely knows and understands the problems stemming from the uncontrolled population of sea lions in California. They are everywhere. They are loud. They are messy. They destroy public and private property and they are dangerous.
The entire sea lion population of Santa Monica Bay seemed to know the release of nearly 4,000 juvenile white seabass from the Marina Del Rey seabass pens was imminent. An entire battalion of hungry pinnepeds began gathering around the Marina Del Rey pens in the first days of April, seemingly intent and determined to eat every last one of them if possible.
Marina Del Rey Anglers and the sportboat Betty-O teamed up to release the latest batch of juvenile WSB cared for by MDRA. This writer runs the WSB program for MDRA, and myself along with Captain Mike Reinsch from the Betty-O developed a plan to safely release their wards and foil the greedy mammals.
On April 8, Marina Del Rey Anglers completed its first successful boat release of white seabass in the 26-year history of our grow program. Captain Reinsch of the Betty-O stated, “Out-foxing these sea lions is tricky. They are smart and hungry and will follow the boat a long distance for a free meal. We wanted to give our juvenile white seabass the best opportunity for survival. Hopefully, my passengers will have a shot of catching them in a couple years when they are 20 pounds or more.”
The white seabass pens in Marina Del Rey are operated by Marina Del Rey Anglers, in part- nership with Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute and funded by the OREHP. The state pro- gram is managed by the Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute and funded by the OREHP portion of sportfishing licenses sold by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The Marina Del Rey seabass pens were constructed and funded by Marina Del Rey Anglers and are attended by an all-volunteer staff of “Pen Pals” supervised by myself, Vice President of MDRA. To date, the club has raised and released over 110,000 juvenile white seabass in support of the program. Hopefully, Western Outdoor News readers have caught some of them, or at least had some fun trying.
After a health check and clearance by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the juvenile seabass have traditionally been released inside the harbor to make their way to safety, and hopefully toward a long life ahead. This year, in light of the invasion of sea lions, it was determined that we needed to transport the fish out into the bay in order to escape the relentless predators. Capt. Reinsch volunteered his boat Betty-O along with his crew to transport the fish safely out into the Santa Monica Bay for their safe release.
MDRA volunteers, led by myself and Bruce Williams, assisted the HSWRI representatives Mike Shane and Chad Brewer in uploading the fish from the pens at Burton Chase Park into the Betty-O’s bait tanks. The operation required three separate trips to prevent overcrowding and insure the health and safety of the fish. Wayne Kotow and Chris Arechaederra from the Coastal Conservation Association of California (CCA-CAL) were also in attendance and memorialized the event with photos and video, which can be viewed on the CCA website.
The game plan and release was a huge success, as all 3,700 fish were transported safely without a single mortality and the sea lions were successfully evaded. Marina Del Rey Anglers will continue to support the white seabass grow-out program along with its kids fishing and veteran fishing trips as part of its commitment to giving back to the sportfishing community and the larger community on the whole.
Following the successful operation, Captain Reinsch summed up the day, saying, “Those juvenile white seabass darting away with each successive overboard brail carried our collective worries and anxieties away on their little backs, one by one. We rescued them from confinement in harbor pens experiencing a 6-degree Fahrenheit rise over the past two weeks, accompanied by the overnight arrival of more than 150 sea lions crowding onto the docks adjacent to the seabass pens. We were extremely lucky we were able to transport the young fish out into the Santa Monica Bay, release them and return again and again repeating the process without a single act of sea lion interference or predation. Patty and I are fortunate we had room in our schedule to help carry this out… and yet there actually was no other choice. Our schedule was honestly secondary.”
I want to personally thank Captain Mike and Patty and the crew from the Betty-O, Mike and Chad from HSWRI, Wayne and Chris from CCA and all of our pen pals and volunteers who make this white seabass program a great success. I also want to be the first to wish the Betty-O a happy 100th birthday this year. She will turn 100 years old in December and I hope to see all of you at her huge birthday bash.