April 13, 2016 (Santa Rosa, CA): In a stunning admission, the California Fish and Game Commission introduced the possibility that recreational fishing may never return to California’s coastal waters designated as Marine Reserves by the Marine Life Protection Act.
Today, the California Fish and Game Commission convened in Santa Rosa, CA, for the purpose of adopting a final Marine Life Protected Area Master plan that postpones environmental assessments from every 5-years to every ten years. Over the objection of California anglers, the commission moved to adopt the plan at its June meeting.
“The state’s failure to study Marine Protected Areas in a timely fashion is having a profound impact on communities that depend on recreational fishing for outdoor tourism and jobs,” said Marko Mlikotin, executive director of the California Sportfishing League (CSL). “It is evident that Marine Protected Areas that were once viewed as marine restoration projects are becoming permanent fishing bans.”
In order to assure California anglers that MPA fishing bans would not become permanent, the state promised that environmental assessments would be conducted every five years so that if fishing populations were restored, so would recreational fishing.
In a stunning admission, newly appointed commissioners rejected the notion that any such commitment was ever made and that marine restoration programs were never intended to restore recreational fishing to coastal waters designated as Marine Reserves. The president of the commission also stated that fishing may not be restored during his lifetime. The only senior member of the commission acknowledged that during stakeholder meetings concerns were raised that temporary fishing restrictions would become permanent. The commission is functioning with three commissioners, and two vacancies.
“In order to build public support for Marine Protected Areas, the state reassured anglers, time after time, that environmental assessments would be conducted every five years so that when fishing populations returned, so would sportfishing,” said Paul Lebowitz, a former member of the state’s South Coast Regional Stakeholder Group. “Today, the commission is breaking faith with California anglers by introducing what appears to be at best an uncertain environmental review process and at worst, a permanent fishing ban.”
The California Sportfishing League (CSL) is a nonprofit coalition of fresh and saltwater anglers, and small business owners devoted to protecting access to recreational fishing. Recreational fishing contributes over $4.9 billion annually to California’s economy, a major source of outdoor tourism and jobs.