|A sweeping set of Southern California fishing closures remains on track for a December implementation vote following the Oct. 20 meeting of the Fish and Game Commission in San Diego.
It was all talk and no action, as this was nothing more than an exercise in meeting a regulatory requirement to hold three hearings before the Marine Life Protection Act’s South Coast Study Region reaches its conclusion.
The sea of faces packed into the meeting hall and overflowing onto the patio at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel included some two hundred anglers clad in fishing t-shirts and scores of blue-shirted students bused in from High Tech High North County, La Jolla Country Day, and other area schools.
When the hours of public testimony finally sputtered to an anticlimactic stop, the commission adjourned without taking an action or even discussing the issues. The Teflon-coated Integrated Preferred Alternative assembled last year by the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force appeared unmarred. Pleas from the environmental community to add Palos Verdes to the closure list and expand the reserves proposed for Laguna and La Jolla seemed so much hot air.
Likewise, the Commission majority didn’t blink when confronted with the implied threat of further legal action from aggrieved fishing interests who suspect a rush toward a predetermined conclusion. Earlier this month former DFG Deputy Director and Sportfishing Association of California president Bob Fletcher won his Public Records Act lawsuit against the BRTF and the Master Plan Team (aka Science Advisory Team), requiring them to divulge internal documents.
“It’s obvious this will end up in a three to two decision. It’s disappointing. Minds are made up. They don’t want to be confused with facts,” Fletcher said of the commission majority. Fletcher and the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans urged the commission to put a halt on MLPA proceedings until there is a reasonable opportunity to review the records.
“No harm will be done to the natural resources of California by the postponement, but considerable harm to the integrity of the regulatory process will be done if the commission pushes on and forces a vote in December,” the PSO asserted in a statement.
That December implementation hearing is set for the 15th and 16th at the Hotel Mar Monte in Santa Barbara.
Paul Lebowitz is covering the MLPA process for WON, and is a former sportfishing kayaker stakeholder in the process.