Marine fisheries, Martin’s Beach access bills vetoed
Proposal to raise funds for public access to Martin’s Beach did not go far enough, according to Gov. Brown.
SACRAMENTO — Proposals to allow experimental fishing permits and raise funds for public access to a Northern California beach were vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown in early October. California’s top executive, however, did sign a bill into law calling for the creation of a Spiny Lobster Commission.
The series of vetoes and approvals came as California’s current legislative calendar nears its end; Brown has been reviewing approved bills since Oct. 1.
Senate Bill 42
Brown’s veto of Senate Bill 42 (SB 42) comes at an interesting time. The bill sought to launch a fundraising campaign to help California raise enough money to create an easement through Martin’s Beach near the San Francisco Bay Area – only weeks after a state appeals court ruled the owner of private beachfront property there must allow coastal access to the public.
State Sen. Jerry Hill introduced SB 42 in December 2016. The bill specifically proposed to create a Martin’s Beach subaccount, which would collect funds to help create a public access route and right-of-way easement through a beachfront property owned by billionaire entrepreneur Vinod Khosla.
Access to a stretch of beach adjacent to Khosla’s property, which is located just south of Half Moon Bay, had been the center of a legal and political battle in recent years. Khosla had blocked access to the coast at his property, demanding the state pay him millions of dollars to re-open the beach to the public.
At the heart of the matter is California’s Coastal Act, which has been used to maintain public access to any waterway in the state.
SB 42, Hill hoped, would help address the conflict by allowing the State Lands Commission to use up to $1 million in raised funds to acquire a public easement to Martin’s Beach.
Brown’s veto message stated SB 42 limits the state’s options in its quest to provide public access to the coast.
“As drafted the bill does not meet the author’s intent. This bill precludes the use of eminent domain in this instance and limits the state’s options,” Brown stated in his veto message. “Public access to our state beaches and parks is a core value to this state and must be protected. Here, however, the public’s right to access Martin’s Beach will be determined in further judicial and administrative proceedings.”
The bill first cleared the State Senate by a 28-11 vote in May. Assembly members approved an amended version SB 42 by a 57-20 vote in early September; senators adopted the updated bill by a 28-12 vote on Sept. 11, allowing SB 42 to move forward to the governor’s desk.
Assembly Bill 1228
The governor also returned Assembly Bill 1228 (AB 1228) to the legislature, stating the proposal is duplicative and would create certain unfunded requirements on the Fish and Game Commission.
AB 1228, introduced by Assembly member Richard Bloom, would have authorized the Fish and Game Commission to approve experimental fishing permits. The approved permits would have permitted the Department of Fish and Wildlife to authorize commercial or recreational fishing activity otherwise prohibited by law.
“The purpose of the permits is to provide an opportunity for experimentation. Through the exemptions, fishermen and scientists can collect important scientific information that they otherwise could not. This is particularly valuable where prohibitions on fishing have limited data collection. The permits allow for testing innovative approaches and create ways to find practical solutions to fisheries problems,” an Assembly analysis of AB 1228 stated.
“The knowledge gained from the opportunities provided by the permits allow for technical advancements in fishing and fishery management that can improve fishery outcomes,” the Assembly analysis continued.
Brown’s veto message effectively stated the proposal, while well intentioned, required further refinement.
“While I support sustainable fishing practices, this bill creates significant and unfunded requirements on the [Fish and Game] Commission and the Department [of Fish and Wildlife],” Brown stated in his veto message. “This bill also duplicates an existing permit which already allows the testing of experimental fishing gear.
“As our marine ecosystem changes, California should be a leader and support innovative and sustainable fishing practices,” Brown continued.
AB 1228 cleared the State Senate (40-0) and Assembly (79-0), Sept. 14.
Assembly Bill 944
A proposal to establish a Spiny Lobster Commission was signed into law by Brown, Oct. 5.
Assembly member Monique Limón introduced Assembly Bill 944 (AB 944) as part of an effort to promote and foster California’s spiny lobster fishery.
The new commission, according to SB 944, would offer its members a stipend and “carry out programs of education, public information, promotion, marketing, and research relating to spiny lobster.”
“The bill would authorize the commission to levy an assessment … on spiny lobster fishermen … and would authorize the expenditure of those moneys for the purposes of carrying out the commission’s powers, duties, and responsibilities, thereby making an appropriation,” the language of SB 944 stated.
An Assembly analysis of AB 944 stated California’s spiny lobster fishery has been managed for more than 100 years and supports commercial fishers and recreational anglers.
“The commercial fishery in California extends from Point Conception (Santa Barbara County) south to the United States and Mexico border, and is estimated by the industry to contribute $33 million to $40 million in consumer spending within the California economy,” an Assembly analysis of AB 944 stated. “Currently, the majority of commercial spiny lobster is exported due to high price per pound that can be obtained in China (up to $30/lb.). This has contributed to the pressure to effectively manage the resource.”
A new commission, however, would not be formally established until the spiny lobster industry votes for such a body to be created.
“The industry believes the unique method of creation of this commission will overcome issues of opposition. Specifically, the vote by the industry, upon chaptering of the legislation, to determine whether or not the commission should be established, is key to mitigating opposition within the industry,” the Assembly analysis of AB 944 stated. “Failure to meet the initial voting requirements would mean that the commission would not be established.”