CALIFORNIA'S ONLY SPORTSMAN'S NEWS SINCE 1953

MLPA Updates

The MLPA is an issue that will affect all of us who fish the inshore waters, islands and bays in California. This blog is intended to follow the progress of these new laws,  explain how they will affect you, and most importantly let you know how you can get involved to protect your right to fish.
COURT OF APPEAL REFUSES TO HALT LAWSUIT TARGETING MLPA
Coastside Fishing Club's appeal to go forward; hearing that could roll back saltwater fishing closures expected in late in 2012

By Paul Lebowitz
WON Staff Writer

In October, angling advocates United Anglers of Southern California, Coastside Fishing Club and Robert C. Fletcher suffered the first setback in their legal campaign targeting privately funded Marine Life Protection Act ocean fishing closures. San Diego Superior Court judge Ronald S. Prager rejected arguments that the Fish and Game Commission exceeded its authority when it approved new marine protected areas in North-Central California.

In December, Coastside attorneys struck back, appealing the ruling. On Jan. 9, the Commission filed a motion to dismiss the appeal. The Court of Appeal denied the motion, meaning the appeal will go forward. It is expected to be heard in late 2012. If it is successful, not only could it roll back saltwater fishing closures in North-Central California, it could pull recently approved Southern California closures off the map.

Coastside's statement:
As you are probably aware, on December 15, 2011 we filed a Notice of Appeal on behalf of Coastside Fishing Club, appealing the trial court’s denial of Coastside’s claims that the Fish and Game Commission lacked statutory authority and failed to follow required procedures in adopting the North Central Coast MPAs and MPA regulations. All of the remaining claims brought by United Anglers and Robert Fletcher (the South Coast regulatory authority and CEQA claims, as well as the Coastal Act claim) are still pending in the trial court; a trial date has not yet been set.

On January 9, 2012, the Fish and Game Commission filed a motion in the court of appeal to dismiss Coastside’s appeal, arguing that Coastside must wait to appeal until all of the remaining claims still pending in the trial court have been resolved.

We just received good news from the court of appeal — it denied the Commission’s motion. Coastside’s appeal may therefore go forward and be heard on the merits. 

 

How to donate:

To raise funds for the legal challenge,  anglers, boaters and anyone interested in a fair legal process can visit www.SaveCAFishing.org and contribute to the effort. Under the "Donate" section of the site, individuals can contribute $5 or more a month on a recurring basis, or make a one-time donation. All proceeds will directly support legal action to keep California's healthy and abundance coastal waters open to sportfishing.

 

"Based on initial returns, the SaveCAFishing.org website has tremendous potential to raise the funds needed to protect sportfishing access in California," said Bob Fletcher, former president of the Sportfishing Association of California and a plaintiff in the lawsuit. "In order to keep the legal challenge going over the coming months, we need anglers to step up and pledge their support. A simple $5 or more monthly contribution to the legal effort will go a long way towards ensuring that current and future generations can enjoy accessing California's coastal waters."        








SOUTH COAST MLPA CLOSURES APPROVED FOR JAN 1 START DATE
State administrative law office breaks out the rubber stamp a week early.

 

BY PAUL LEBOWITZ

 

WON Staff Writer

 

 

SACRAMENTO --  The day Southern California’s saltwater anglers have long dreaded is now set. On January 1, vast swaths of local ocean will be officially off limits to fishing, closed under the auspices of the Marine Life Protection Act.




The giant rubber stamp of officialdom came down a week earlier than expected. In a decision dated December 8, the California Office of Administrative Law approved the long disputed regulations.


Say your farewells now. Come the new year, iconic spots such as Malibu’s Pt. Dume, south La Jolla, the majority of the Laguna shore, and many other locations will close. For a better idea of the lost areas, visit WON’s exclusive MLPA South Coast Closure Maps. WON staff will update them to reflect any changes, which should be relatively minor.


Keep in mind that a hundred feet this direction or that could lead to legal complications once the curtain comes down. The fine print is critically important. Read carefully to check on permitted activities. Some otherwise closed areas allow fishing for fin bait or  spear fishing.


If the administrative fight is over, at least for now, the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans hasn't thrown in the towel in the court battle. The coalition of angling advocacy groups continues to weigh its options following an October setback.  Donate to the legal fund via the Ocean Access Protection Fund (www.oceanaccessprotectionfund.org <http://www.oceanaccessprotectionfund.org> ).  

 

Jan. 1: deadline for South Coast approaches
Will MLPA curtain come down Jan. 1?

 

BY PAUL LEBOWITZ

 

WON Staff Writer

 

 

SACRAMENTO -- The California Office of Administrative Law holds the fate of the MLPA start date in its hands. Will vast swathes of productive southern California coastline close to fishing on New Year’s Day as scheduled?

 

According to a source familiar with the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity, the OAL is picking very carefully over the regulations, presumably due to the ongoing court challenge spearheaded by United Anglers of Southern California, the Coastside Fishing Club and past Sportfishing Association of California president Robert C. Fletcher.

 

Time is ticking away. According to the arcane regulatory clock in Sacramento, the OAL must either approve the revised South Coast MLPA regulations by December 16, or send them once again back to the Fish and Game Commission for further work. The office is expected to hold its silence until the last possible day.

 

If the OAL bestows its blessing, south La Jolla, most of Laguna, Malibu’s Pt Dume and many more areas will be off limits to fishing come January 1. As it happens, the Fish and Game Commission wraps up its 2011 business on the 15th. Sources inside the governor’s office indicated this is expected to be the final meeting for combative commissioner and MLPA fan Richard B. Rogers, who infamously challenged foes to “bring it,” igniting the current court battle. There was no word on his replacement. Governor Brown’s appointment could have a momentous impact on future developments. The four remaining commissioners are balanced between MLPA supporters and detractors.

 

On the legal front, Partnership for Sustainable Oceans representatives continue to say the coalition of angling advocacy groups is weighing its options. In October, the effort suffered its first setback when San Diego Superior Court judge Ronald S. Prager rejected arguments that the MLPA was the result of a flawed, extra-legal planning process. The PSO is still raising funds for the battle via Ocean Access Protection Fund (www.oceanaccessprotectionfund.org <http://www.oceanaccessprotectionfund.org> ).  

 

Given how slowly the gears of the court system grind, should the PSO appeal, it will not be in time to stave off south coast fishing closures—if the OAL approves them by December 16.  

 

 

Breaking news!: Judge delivers blow to lawsuit

MLPA Challenge Suffers Setback in Court


BY PAUL LEBOWITZ
WON Staff Writer


SAN DIEGO — On Monday, San Diego Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Prager dealt the legal challenge against the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act a sharp blow.

Confirming his tentative order of Oct. 6, Prager rejected arguments brought by angler advocates United Anglers of California, Coastside Fishing Club and Robert C. Fletcher that the Fish and Game Commission exceeded its statutory authority when it approved new marine protected areas in Northern California.

Fletcher, past president of the Sportfishing Association of California, was undaunted by the setback. “As we all are, I’m very disappointed the judge didn’t appear to understand the arguments we made. We still stand by those arguments,” he said. Fletcher further told the Union-Tribune’s Mike Lee that an appeal is under consideration. “We think our case was very solid,” he added.

The ruling did not directly affect planned South Coast MLPA closures, now set for a January 1, 2012 implementation. The UASC lawsuit originally targeted both the northern California and south coast regions, but the lawsuit was split as the south coast start date continually slipped, making the legal challenge premature.   

It was the first court setback for the effort to hold the state accountable for a marine reserve planning process that singles out fishermen but does nothing to halt damage to the marine environment caused by sewer outfalls and industrial uses. Previously, Fletcher decisively prevailed when he sued for access to meeting agendas, emails and other records generated during the MLPA planning process. The so-called Blue Ribbon Task Force had argued they were immune to laws designed to protect the public from secretive, back-room dealings. The court found otherwise, compelling the BRTF to release communications that demonstrate a pervasive pattern of closed-door wheeling and dealing – some would say at the behest of the MLPA’s private funders, the Resources Legacy Trust Fund Foundation.

"From the outset, it was clear that the MLPA process was set up to reach a predetermined outcome under the fiction of an allegedly open and transparent process," Fletcher previously told WON.

Anglers continue to mobilize resources for the legal battle. In response to a $50,000 challenge grant from the American Sportfishing Association, Okuma, Coastside members and sportfishing pioneer Ingrid Poole each pledged $10,000 to the Ocean Access Protection Fund, and Fletcher poured in another $1,000.

"We're in this fight to the end. We're working hard on behalf of recreational and commercial fishermen who don't agree with the MLPA and the decisions of the Fish and Game Commission. We'd like all the help we can get to continue the battle," Fletcher said.

Update: Judge delays decision on lawsuit
 

No-decision on North-Central lawsuit comes after spirited court testimony

 


SAN DIEGO — San Diego Superior Court Judge Ronald Prager heard spirited testimony from both sides of the Marine Life Protection Act and and elected not to make a decision at the Thursday hearing. He has delayed his decision until at least this week.

 

According to sources, he set no timetable, and authors and supporters of the lawsuit are mounting a letter-writing campaign to the court and Judge Prager.

 

This is not the worst of news for the sportfishing industry which has raised $600,000 for the lawsuit that is now at or close to costing  $1 million in legal fees. It is not good news for either side, which had hoped for a clear decision.

 

The Plaintiffs, the  Partnership for Sustainable Oceans members Bob Fletcher, United Anglers of Southern California and Coastside --  argue the Commission have acted without statutory authority. Californians who agree can donate directly to the anti-MLPA legal effort at http://www.oceanaccessprotectionfund.org/.

 

While the battle over the North-Central Region in the lawsuit awaits the judge’s decision, clearly a lynchpin in any further legal efforts against the MLPA and upcoming closures, the fight for funds is heating up. On Saturday, Fletcher announced a $50,000 donation toward matching funds was issued by the American Sportfishing Association based in Alexandria, VA. That means any funds up to $50,000 raised by United Anglers of SoCal and others will be matched by the Association. A few minutes later, after Fletcher announced ASA’s matching fund donation on the Let’s Talk Hookup Radio show at a Ford dealership, Ingrid Poole walked up to the microphone and said she heard about the matching fund donation and kicked in $10,000. 

 

In other MLPA news, which is a clear victory for sportfishing interests, it was announced that on Oct. 3, the California Fish and Game Commission opened a 15-day public comment period for revised proposed regulations for the South Coast marine protected areas developed under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) process. The closures are expected to g into effect Jan. 1.

 

Revisions were made because the California Office of Administrative Law (OAL), which must first review and approve the regulations before they go into effect, rejected the regulatory package previously provided by the commission.

 

The Partnership for Sustainable Oceans, which represents the interests of California's recreational anglers and boaters in the MLPA process, is currently reviewing the revised regulations and will provide suggested issues to consider when commenting on the regulations prior to the Oct, 18, deadline.

 

Comments will also be accepted at the Oct. 19 Fish and Game Commission meeting in Monterey.

 

During its September meeting, the commission outlined a proposed timeline to re-notice and finalize the South Coast MLPA regulations, resubmit them to OAL, and seek an anticipated effective date of Jan. 1, 2012. This projected effective date is not only dependent on OAL approval, but also may be affected by the outcome of a pending lawsuit filed by members of the PSO.

 

For information on how to contribute to the legal effort, please visit www.OceanAccessProtectionFund.org

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