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MLPA Info

MLPA Background

In the mid-1990s when the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) was first envisioned, California’s ocean environment was in trouble — several fish stocks were in decline, a clear need existed to protect the ocean and its ecosystem and the “green” movement was just beginning to realize its full potential. Along with several other legislative actions, California enacted, but did not fund, the MLPA. In combination, these measures were intended to protect the health of our ocean ecosystem. The MLPA was designed to “sustain, conserve and protect” the state’s marine resources through the establishment of a series of designations called marine protected areas (MPAs), including no-fishing areas called marine reserves. The state began implementation shortly after passage of the law, but the effort stalled due to the lack of financial resources.

Since the late-1990s, the health of California’s fisheries improved significantly. Thanks to the enactment and enforcement of important conservation aspects of state and federal laws such as the Marine Life Management Act and the Magnuson-Stevens Act, overfishing along the entire Pacific coast is no longer occurring and California’s marine fish stocks are rebuilding. This approach clearly has demonstrated that fish stocks can be effectively managed and rebuilt under existing fishery management regulations and without the aid of the MLPA closures and their associated adverse economic and environmental impacts on fishing and coastal communities.

Regardless, environmental organizations were not content to let the MLPA sit idly by. In 2004, with the advent of a “public-private partnership” between the state and a wealthy foundation, private funds were injected into the public-process of MLPA implementation. This “partnership” fundamentally transformed MLPA implementation into a process that the Legislature would not have recognized. Under this process, statutory requirements have been ignored, environmental review has been flawed, and private meetings that should have been open to the public were held, during which important decisions were made.

Establishing no-fishing zones presents a serious challenge to sportfishing and can have a significant economic impact on communities supported by recreational fishing. A program originally estimated by the Legislature to cost California $250,000 per year is now estimated to cost more than $40 million annually to enforce and monitor — resources that California simply does not have. The program will also have serious economic impacts on businesses and communities throughout California. For example, in the first region of the state undertaken by the MLPA — the Central coast — recreational fishing tackle sales have declined by 20% compared to other parts of the state. This early indicator will be followed by lost sales and jobs in the lodging and food industries that support recreational angler visits to central California coastal areas.

Recreational angler groups in California have stepped up to overturn MLPA regulations in the courts. On January 27, 2011, the United Anglers of Southern California, Coastside Fishing Club and Robert Fletcher filed a lawsuit in the San Diego County Superior Court seeking to set aside MLPA regulations for the North Central and South Coast study regions. The lawsuit cites a lack of statutory authority for the Fish and Game Commission to adopt the regulations, and, in the case of the South Coast regulations, numerous violations of the CEQA process in the commission’s environmental review of the regulations.

Your help is needed to ensure that this legal effort is a success. Tremendous progress has been made to date, but financial contributions from anglers like you are needed to keep the effort moving forward. By donating just $5 or more, you can do your part to help save California fishing and keep our coastal waters open for you and future generations to enjoy.

 

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