New Year means another round of laws for boaters and anglers

SACRAMENTO — The Christmas boat parades are over and local harbors have officially welcomed 2016. A new year means new laws on the books. California’s legislature spent portions of 2015 championing boating- and fishing-themed proposals. Only a handful survived the process and made it to the Governor’s desk for signature.

Below are five bills Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law. The new laws are either already in effect or will become effective soon. All five bills came out of the State Assembly and cover the sale of seafood in public squares, enforcement of restrictions in Marine Protected Areas, search warrants to draw blood from boaters suspected of boating under the influence, personal flotation devices and marine debris.

Assembly Bill 226

Fishermen’s Markets could soon be sprouting up along the California coast thanks to AB 226. The new law, known as the Pacific to Plate Act, was signed into law on Oct. 8 and makes it easier for consumers to purchase locally sourced seafood.

AB 226 essentially allows Fish Markets to operate the same as Farmer’s Markets. Consumers will be able to buy fresh fish in a public square from commercial fishermen. One of the first fully functioning open air Fish Markets in Southern California is Tuna Harbor Dockside Fish Market at San Diego’s Seaport Village, where 17 vendors sell 22 species of fish such as yellowtail and swordfish.

The new law allows commercial fishermen to organize under a single permit and sell fresh catches in public squares. Commercial fisheries will also have to follow strict compliance measures to maintain food safety guidelines and abide by the California Retail Food Code.

Assembly Bill 298

Brown signed AB 298 into law on June 30, 2015. The new regulation took effect Jan. 1 and gives law enforcement greater leeway to enforce restrictions in California’s Marine Protection Areas (MPAs). Officers from the Department of Fish and Wildlife will be able to cite anyone who violates California’s restrictions against fishing or poaching within the MPA network. The citation would function similar to being written up for a traffic violation.

California’s MPA system was established in 1999. There are 124 MPAs within the network, each designed to conserve and protect marine life off the California coast.

Assembly Bill 539

Assembly member Marc Levine introduced a bill to allow law enforcement officers to obtain a search warrant in order to perform blood tests on boaters suspected of boating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Open containers of alcohol are not prohibited aboard a boat. California law does prohibit, however, a boat operator to consume alcohol or operate a vessel while inebriated. A boater could be convicted of boating under the influence if his or her blood alcohol level is proven to be 0.08 or higher.

AB 539 was introduced in the name of boater safety in February 2015 and signed into law five months later.

Assembly Bill 638

Another safety-themed bill was AB 638, which was signed into law on July 13, 2015. AB 638 amended California law to require every one age 13 or younger to wear a personal flotation device (PFD) while aboard a powerboat or sailboat of any length and is underway. A State Senate amendment exempted passenger and small passenger vessels from AB 638.

Assembly Bill 1323

AB 1323 will be in effect by Jan. 1, 2017 but the approved law would allow any public agency to remove and dispose of any marine debris floating, sunken, partially sunk or beached after a 10-day waiting period. The new law aims to protect any public waterway or beach and state tidelands or submerged lands to be clear of abandoned marine debris.

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