There is no question that the passage of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) has been the most controversial environmental issue California’s angling community has ever faced. It signaled the state’s shift from a shared philosophy of conserving California’s natural resources to outright protectionism, with little regard to the interests of outdoor recreation, tourism and all of their economic benefits.
As the MLPA established the framework for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), the state promised California anglers that areas designated as off-limits to commercial and recreational fishing may one day be open to fishing. In fact, they were very specific in their promises. Scientific assessments would be conducted every five years, and as fish populations were assessed as sustainably viable, the restrictions would be lifted.
Over time, the state established many MPAs along California’s coastline, totaling over 850 square miles. As new MPAs were introduced, the angling community not only challenged the merits of closing some prime fishing spots, but the process by which they were selected. The locations and boundaries were not set by a presumably objective government agency, rather, a private organization who’s funding was fueled by environmental groups, many of which shared an anti-fishing agenda.
As the plans came before the California Fish and Game Commission, the science or lack thereof was challenged, but to no avail. Even with considerable restrictions on the amount and manner of take already in place, commissioners simply assured anglers that timely assessments would be conducted and such drastic action would only lead to more plentiful fishing in the years to come.
That was then and not now. Deadlines to conduct these assessments have come and gone, and so apparently have assurances that the state can keep its word. This was evident at the April 13 California Fish and Game Commission, where some commissioners echoed the view of environmentalists that no promises were ever made. In fact, the president of commission stated that he didn’t expect fishing to be restored during his lifetime.
In retrospect, this stunning pronouncement was not surprising. The commission is functioning with only three commissioners and two vacancies after several longstanding commissioners resigned out of frustration. Defending hunters and anglers had become too tiresome. Ironically, it was the two recently appointed commissioners who challenged the assertion that promises were made, as if they had an institutional knowledge of the all the public hearings and stakeholder meetings.
The bottom line is the state did not recruit recreational anglers to serve on stakeholder groups to seek their advice on how best to deny them access to some of California’s finest fishing, permanently. That would have been a none-starter. Rather, stakeholders were assured that environmental mitigation was required to protect the ocean’s natural resources, and their participation aimed to balance the interests of responsible environmental stewardship and outdoor recreation.
The commission would be wise to abandon their current course of action of denying the truth, thereby enshrining the Marine Life Protection Act’s legacy as the greatest bait and switch act ever. It will only further damage their relationship with those who were once their partners in conserving our state’s natural resources.
Marko Mlikotin, Executive Director, California Sportfishing League
Illegal charter or passenger for hire?
Re: Coast Guard reminds boaters of the hazards of illegal passenger vessel operations (April 8 issue). This article would have been much more informative if it had addressed the criteria by which the determination of “passenger for hire” is made. This is a frequent topic of discussion among fishermen in the private boater community where it is common to “share costs” and concerns arise as to which costs may be permissibly shared. The conventional wisdom is that sharing direct, out of pocket costs (i.e. fuel, bait, food etc.) is not a problem even if the cost is spread entirely among the crew with no owner participation. The thinking is that the owner is not profiting. Conversely, it may be inferred that sharing other costs, such as insurance, slip fees, boat depreciation, etc., especially where the owner does not pay a share, crosses the line. It would have been great if this article had reported the United States Coast Guard position on what is permissible and what is not. It may be that the Coast Guard won’t take a specific position on that topic, and if so that fact would also be important. Lastly, there are a number of private boaters who share a ride for a fixed flat rate, looking suspiciously like an illegal charter operation. It would also have been interesting to hear whether the Coast Guard is aware of those operations and what it does to address.
Boat operator offers suggestions
Re: It’s no war zone: San Diego Bay balances boating, Navy operations (April 22 issue). While “rules of the road” are important and should be adhered to, it is more important to show your intentions(intended course and speed ) as early in your encounter as possible with a large vessel of any kind. A ship’s course and speed is not optional in a narrow channel such as San Diego Harbor. Upon approaching when possible exaggerate your course change acknowledging their presence and your action to avoid course intersection. Hope this helps.
From Our Facebook Page
Should anglers reel in sharks?
The Log: It’s a scene straight out of #Jaws, except Orca is in #Oceanside & she made it back to shore w/ the behemoth #shark! Re: California fishermen reel in a 55-pound shark (khon2.com).
Tommy Fardig: As a fisheries biologist and considering the current state of our shark populations, which are depleted to the point where recovery may be tough I have mixed feelings about such a take. Yes it’s legal, but is it necessary? It takes years for sharks to become reproductively viable so killing big sharks dramatically impacts populations. I hope they ate the shark and used every part of it. If they killed it for a trophy to bring to the dock to show how “big” of fisherman they are then shame on them and I hope they feel like douche bags. That’s all I will say about that.