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Closing Waters to Sportfishing in California

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California Coastal Fishing Under Attack California Coastal Fishing Under Attack

The California Fish and Game Commission is forging ahead with closures and restrictions of sport fishing along the California coast. Many of the best fishing locations could be lost completely to sport fishing


The California Fish and Game Commission is forging ahead with closures and restrictions of sport fishing along the California coast. Many of the best fishing locations could be lost completely to sport fishing.  All of this is being done under the California Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). The California Legislature passed the MLPA in 1999 and is being implemented by the California Department of Fish and Game Commissioners.  The idea of protecting marine life sounds like something we could all support but the implementation has been faulty.  On one side you have fishermen with certain stakeholders and on the other side you have environmentalist and anti fishing groups.  

Those in favor of the closures state that only 204 square miles are being restricted or closed to fishing.  Of those 204 square miles only 85 square miles are closed to fishing. One problem with this claim is the Marine Protected Areas (MPA) are only 3 miles wide.  To me the miles of shore line restricted or closed to fishing is much more important.  Beach fishers and kayakers rely on good access.  Each MPA is not large but some of the proposed areas are prime fishing for many different fish.  

California sport fishers and coastal users are fighting the system to try and add some reason to how the MPA areas are chosen.  Some restrictions seem reasonable and some make no sense at all.  One thing that the California F&G Commissioners were doing was denying access to data use to establish MPA's. The courts have decided that as a public agency, their meetings and data must be public.  

The following press release covers some of the latest information associated with this mess.  I urge everyone to read the following update from Partnership For Sustainable Oceans.  Please visit their site for more information and make a donation.  While this is a California issue today I am sure the anti-fishing groups are watching this very closely.  This could become a fight for all coastal states.  Please visit the Ocean Access Protection Fund.


Closing Waters to Sportfishing in Southern California Denies Public’s Right to Access Public Waters
California Fish and Game Commission ignores numerous legal concerns by approving MPA regulations

Sacramento, CA – December 15, 2010 – Despite ongoing legal concerns, the California Fish and Game Commission (FGC) voted 3-2 to approve a wide-ranging array of marine protected areas (MPAs), essentially no-fishing zones, along the southern California coast. In its latest effort to implement the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), the commission’s vote indefinitely closes approximately 12 percent of southern California’s ocean to recreational fishing – including many of the state’s best recreational fishing areas.

“It’s beyond comprehension that the commission would go through with approving these regulations given the serious flaws in the process,” said Bob Fletcher of the Sportfishing Association of California and former Chief Deputy Director of the California Department of Fish and Game. “The commission obviously had no desire to assure that a fair, open, objective and legally conducted process was in place before such a vote occurred. This vote leaves little doubt that the MLPA has is based on political agendas instead of the needs of California’s citizens and natural resources.”

The Partnership for Sustainable Oceans (PSO), which represents recreational fishing and boating interests in California, has been actively engaged in the MLPA process since the North Central Coast phase. The PSO has voiced its concerns regarding the numerous flaws and a lack of transparency in the process. One of the PSO’s members, United Anglers of Southern California (UASC), has retained legal representation to investigate the legality of the MLPA process.

During the December 15, commission meeting, the PSO’s attorneys presented to the commission the numerous examples of defects in the rulemaking process, including many flaws that were discovered after reviewing MLPA planning documents that have only recently become public.

On October 1, 2010, a California Superior Court ruled that two MLPA planning groups – the Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) and Master Plan Team , also known as the Science Advisory Team, are state agencies and therefore compelled by California’s Public Records Act to share information that they were withholding from public view. These groups would not respond to a Public Records Act request, incorrectly claiming they were not state agencies. In light of a PSO review of the documents provided to date, the commission was presented several notable findings prior to their vote, including evidence that the BRTF held numerous scheduled, agendized meetings which were closed to the public.

Other notable flaws and concerns with the MLPA process that were not taken into consideration by the commission include:

  • Lack of funding for the necessary monitoring and enforcement of MPA regulations – a $40 million annual price tag.
  • Negative economic impact of closures to saltwater recreational fishing, which contributes $2.3 billion to California’s economy annually and supports nearly 20,000 jobs.
  • Major flaws in the environmental analysis of the impacts of the proposed South Coast regulations.
  • Inconsistent and shifting guidelines throughout the process.

“The MLPA attempts to resolve a fisheries ‘crisis’ that simply does not exist. As a result of decades of successful traditional fisheries management, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service, there is not one marine fish stock currently experiencing overfishing in California’s waters,” said Gordon Robertson, Vice President of the American Sportfishing Association, a PSO member. “Simply put: fisheries management in California is working and the MPAs are not necessary.”

“While we are deeply disturbed that the commission would go forward with approving these regulations, the process is not over yet,” noted John Riordan, Board Member of UASC. “The PSO legal effort is working to protect the interests of recreational anglers and is making significant progress. I urge all anglers and anyone concerned with the MLPA to visit http://www.oceanaccessprotectionfund.org/ and make a donation to help the fight against this flawed process in the courts.”


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