| DIVIDED COMMISSION EXPECTED TO NARROWLY PASS SOUTH COAST MLPA CLOSURES
‘It’s a farce,’ says former DFG deputy director Bob Fletcher of the Dec. 15 vote that will finalize a flawed process
SANTA BARBARA -- Surprising no one familiar with outgoing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s heavy-handed MLPA politics, the California Fish and Game Commission is expected to vote in new Southern California ocean fishing closures when they meet Dec.15 in Santa Barbara.
The vote is expected to pass 3-2, with ‘see no environmental evil’ commissioners Michael Sutton of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, seat warming Heal the Bay board member Jack Baylis, and Richard Rogers in favor. It should be the latter’s final meeting.Rogers, apparently atoning for past personal indiscriminate fishing practices including the then-legal spearing of a black seabass, is expected to lose his commission seat when Governor-elect Jerry Brown’s administration appoints a replacement. Baylis, who many political observers believe was appointed to deliver this particular vote, has not been confirmed by the state Senate. He, too, is operating on borrowed time.
Commission president and labor advocate Jim Kellogg and outspoken critic of unfunded mandates and private control of public policy Dan Richards are expected to vote no.
The vote will be recklessly rammed through despite an estimated $40 million annual statewide implementation cost to a state facing cuts in basic services. Let’s not forget apparent conflicts of interest, the best science private money can pay for, suspected closed-door dealings on the South Coast MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force, flaws in the environmental documentation, pending legal action, and so on, in the name of greening an unpopular governor’s legacy.
“Those three commissioners are going to vote to adopt. We know that. Their minds are made up. They don’t want to be confused with facts. They just have to go through the administrative motions. It’s a farce,” said Bob Fletcher, past president of the Sportfishing Association of California, a founding member of the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans, and winning plaintiff in a recent Public Records Act lawsuit directed at the BRTF and MLPA Science Advisory Team.
“The Public Records Act (lawsuit) was a first salvo. That’s not the end of it,” Fletcher added. PSO attorneys representing over a million anglers will attend the hearing, where they point out the glaring shortcomings of the South Coast MLPA planning process – presumable vulnerabilities for future legal action. Meanwhile, the BRTF and SAT have yet to produce their internal communications, which could prove or disprove allegations of back-room dealing.
With the outcome at the commission a foregone and predetermined conclusion, anglers are understandably ambivalent about attending. “People are disillusioned, disappointed, frustrated, they see the fix is in,” Fletcher acknowledged.
But not so fast. “Going does support the two guys (Kellogg and Richards) who have heard us,” the politically savvy Fletcher said, encouraging the fishing community to mobilize and show in force. At a minimum, anglers should shower the commission with letters protesting a disgustingly flawed process. Sample letters are available at KeepAmericaFishing.org.
Regardless of any December South Coast implementation vote, the MLPA’s ultimate fate remains uncertain. Expected turnover could produce a more open-minded commission as soon as February. The legal wrangling is still in the early stages.
The Fish and Game Commission hearing on South Coast MLPA implementation starts at 9 am, December 15, at the Hotel Mar Monte El Cabrillo room, 1111 East Cabrillo Boulevard, Santa Barbara.