Leslie Hart: Highlights with the California Fish and Game Commission

Author: Leslie Hart
Fellow Type: California Sea Grant State Fellow
Year(s) of Fellowship: 2018
Host Agency: California Fish and Game Commission

It is common to wonder what new and exciting opportunities will arise during your experience as a California Sea Grant State Fellow. Since each fellowship position is unique, I want to take the opportunity to share several of my highlights working with the California Fish and Game Commission.

Fisheries and climate change

I had the opportunity to attend The Nature Conservancy’s Climate and Communities Initiative Workshop in Portland, Oregon. There were 67 individuals representing a variety of organizations and expertise invited to develop a set of recommendations to guide the Pacific Fishery Management Council on how to move forward with the effects of climate change on fishing communities.

It was eye-opening to witness the workshop attendees, including top climate change and fisheries scientists, struggling to determine the best solutions moving forward. Transitioning to climate-ready fisheries is a challenge, and attending this workshop allowed me to approach my coastal fishing communities project with the commission under a new lens.

(left) California Sea Grant State Fellow Leslie Hart assists the California Collaborative Fisheries Research Program with research at the Farallon Islands; (right) Class of 2018 California Sea Grant State Fellows meet California Sea Grant Extension Specialist Carrie Pomeroy at the fellowship update meeting in Bodega Bay.

Professional development opportunities

Red abalone
Even though I traded in my wetsuit for business clothes this year, I still had several experiences that fed my field work soul. During graduate school, I worked closely with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) so that my research on red abalone recruitment dynamics directly informed management decisions.

As a fellow, I was able to keep my relationship with CDFW as I assisted with their north coast field surveys. Due to ocean warming events, there has been an extreme loss of kelp and sea urchin populations have skyrocketed, which sequentially caused abalone populations to drastically decrease where the last recreational red abalone fishery remained north of San Francisco. I witnessed the effects of warming events first-hand assisting CDFW.

Then, with the California Fish and Game Commission, I was able to observe the process of creating an emergency regulation to increase the recreational take of purple sea urchins, and the process of extending the closure of the recreational red abalone fishery in northern California. Talk about a full circle!

(top) California Fish and Game Commission staff receive the Organizational Enhancement Award at the 2018 Employee Excellence Awards on behalf of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife; (bottom) California Fish and Game Commission staff visit the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area during a staff retreat.

Exceptional staff

When I say the commission staff is EPIC, I truly mean it. The staff is small but mighty!

They provide excellent leadership to ensure that California will have abundant, healthy, and diverse fish and wildlife. They also hold the best potlucks in the history of potlucks, go on whitewater river rafting trips together, allow me to lead impromptu yoga stretch breaks, and warmly welcome a sense of humor in the office.

Written by Leslie Hart