Outdoors: If you don't have a license, don't go near clam diggers

Question: I can't purchase a fishing license this year due to a citation I received last year while helping my friend take his abalone. The penalty was a one-year fishing prohibition, which I deeply regret.

I have now been invited to join some friends who will be clamming next weekend, and I would like to know where my limit is. This may sound like I am pushing my limitation, but I would like to know before I get into more trouble. Obviously, I am not planning to take any clams that my friends catch, but I would like to join them while they are digging for clams.

Is digging in the mud considered fishing while only my friends who have licenses take clams that they find? I personally love nature, so I hope you can help me. — Jerry

Answer: Sorry, Jerry. California Fish and Game law prohibits taking clams without a valid fishing license in your possession. Fish and Game laws define taking clams to include any activity that can be considered to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill or even attempt those activities for any clam.

Retired DFG Capt. Phil Nelms says these laws mean that if you are digging in mud, and you do not have a valid license, you can be arrested. You can also be arrested if you are in the mud and are with people who are taking clams even if you are not digging. In your case it would be best to just watch your friends from a distance.

Q: While wandering through a fair in Nevada last week, I found a vendor selling seafood and abalone shells. The shells still had the sport tags attached. I know that in California there is a law that makes selling abalone shells illegal, but do California laws hold up in other states? Is it legal to sell abalone shells in other states even though they were taken by someone with a California sport fishing license? — Paul R., Carmel

A: Abalone and their shells taken under the authority of a sport fishing license can never be bought, sold, bartered or traded. Though California laws only apply when in California, transporting abalone (including the shells) and any other fish taken in California under the authority of a recreational fishing license across state lines for the purpose of sale is a violation of the federal Lacey Act -- which can be enforced by any state wildlife officer who has been deputized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and most California game wardens are deputized.

The Lacey Act passed in 1900 and was the first federal law to address wildlife protection nationwide. The law makes it illegal to import, export, transport, sell, buy or possess fish, wildlife or plants in violation of any federal, state, foreign or Native American tribal law.

This law allows the federal government to help states, tribes, and countries around the world safeguard their wildlife resources. In its original version, the Lacey Act supported efforts by the states to protect their game animals and birds. It prohibited the interstate shipment of wildlife killed in violation of state or territorial law.

Those who knowingly violate the Lacey Act face maximum penalties of up to five years in prison and fines as high as $250,000 (or $500,000 for organizations). Civil penalties can run as high as $10,000. Those convicted under the Lacey Act can be required to forfeit vehicles, aircraft or vessels used to commit the crime.

Q: If I want to hunt deer and bear in the D-6 zone during archery season in August, would it be legal to carry a pistol for self-defense protection only? I do not feel like getting killed by a mad bear with an arrow in it. I want to be legal, but also don't want to get killed by a bear just because the lawmakers don't trust me to use a pistol in self-defense. — Scott S.

A: Hunters are prohibited from carrying a firearm while hunting during an archery-only season or under the authority of an archery only tag. Fish and Game regulations are very clear on this issue.

Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. Send questions to at CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov