Feature Article: Anglers Win Lawsuit

Anglers win lawsuit — trout plants will continue

Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Feb 24, 2015

SACRAMENTO — The California Third District Court of Appeals has struck down the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (DFW) illegally drafted permitting requirements on recreational freshwater fishing — regulations that threatened to decimate the $2.4 billion industry by driving fishing lakes, private hatcheries, and fish farms out of business.

“If the state had prevailed in court, many fishing lakes would have closed down due to extremely costly and onerous regulations,” said Marko Mlikotin, Executive Director of the California Association for Recreational Fishing. “No fishing lake operator can afford to shell out over $100,000 every one to five years for environmental studies and remain profitable. Fortunately, the court held the Department of Fish and Wildlife accountable for underground regulations that represented one of the greatest threats to freshwater fishing in years. Sadly, this wasn’t the only threat to keeping recreational fishing accessible and affordable.”

The ruling came in a lawsuit against the California Depart­ment of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), by Pacific Legal Foun­dation (PLF), representing the California Association for Recreational Fishing (CARF), a grass-roots organization of freshwater recreational fishermen and businesses that serve them. PLF represents CARF — as with all clients — free of charge.

Even though the state’s freshwater fish population is historically healthy, DFW devised a radical new mandate on hatcheries and stocking ponds. Before they could stock or raise any fish, DFW would have to determine that there would be no effect on dozens of arbitrarily-selected species — including species that are abundant and thriving in California.

This process would be so cumbersome and drawn out that it could effectively block many stocking ponds and hatcheries from continuing to operate.

PLF challenged the new requirements because they were drafted without public input, as mandated by the California Administrative Procedure Act (CAPA). In ruling for PLF and striking them down, the Third District agreed they are illegal “underground regulations” — i.e. the bureaucracy did not comply with CAPA’s requirements for public review and comments.

“This court ruling is a powerful victory for everyone who values recreational fishing opportunities, and for everyone who values openness and accountability in government,” said PLF Senior Staff Attorney Joshua Thompson. “The DFW concocted these radical regulations all on its own, without any request from the Legislature and without seeking public review and comment as state law requires. This court victory saves recreational fishing from out-of-control regulators and protects everyone’s rights by reminding bureaucrats they aren’t above the law.”

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