Legal Effort to Save Marine Sportfishing in California

In 2007, the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), IGFA and other national and California sportfishing groups formed the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans (PSO) , and since that time ASA and other PSO members have been actively working to keep waters open in California as the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative process has unfolded. Through this process, the state continues to close large areas of California’s coastal waters to fishing. To this point, 14% of the state’s total waters are under some level of closure, but when considering the location of the closures (some of the state’s best marine fishing areas) the total area lost to fishing opportunity is 40 percent or greater.

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These closures have been so excessive in large part because the process was rigged from the start – funded by pro-closure environmental groups and virtually ignoring the interests of the recreational fishing community. This flawed and unfair process has left the PSO with no choice but to take legal action to challenge these regulations, which have already been enacted in the Central and North Central coasts and may go into effect in the South Coast this winter.

On January 27, 2011, United Anglers of Southern California, Coastside Fishing Club and Bob Fletcher filed a lawsuit seeking to set aside the MLPA regulations. The lawsuit cites a lack of statutory authority for the California Fish and Game Commission to adopt the regulations, and, in the case of the South Coast regulations, numerous violations of the California Environmental Quality Act in the commission's environmental review of the regulations. The lawsuit will seek, as remedies, court orders that invalidate these regulations, and prevent the future adoption of marine protected areas unless and until they are done in a manner directed by the Legislature and in compliance with California law.

The trial dates are coming up this fall, and we have the utmost confidence that we will win the case. Our attorneys have done an excellent job to date – in fact, we have won all three previous court victories related to the case – but this legal effort has been expensive. Due to the complex nature of this case, our legal billings are approaching one million dollars, with more to come. While ASA and our partners in California have put tremendous effort into fundraising, we know more is needed to continue this critically important legal effort.

The MLPA is a precedent-setting attack on the recreational fishing and boating community which, if allowed to continue unabated, will give more momentum to those who wish to keep us off the water. This is why the PSO has fought so hard to protect our interests during this misguided and unfair process. The PSO’s legal effort is our last chance to stop these regulations from permanently going into effect. Anything you can do to contribute to our legal fund is greatly needed and appreciated.

ASA has funded all the lobby and public relations costs as well as a comprehensive poll of California citizens and anglers.  In addition, ASA has contributed approximately 20% of the legal costs.  We are ready to commit another $50,000 to our winning litigation but we are challenging individuals and businesses to match at least part of that amount.  To match in part, or in whole, the ASA amount, please contact Gordon Robertson, Vice President of ASA at 703-519-9691 x 237 or visit www.keepamericafishing.org to donate securely online.  Your assistance in this precedent setting litigation is needed and appreciated and the future of CA marine sportfishing is at stake.  Thank you for your consideration.