Posted by on December 10, 2004 at 23:56:57:
In what has been categorized as an historic move, typically antagonistic factions of the fishing industry have banded together to oppose Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed plan to close or limit fishing off the Central California coast.
Formed last month, the California Fisheries Coalition includes members of sportfishing and commercial fishing groups as well as fish processors and aquaculturists.
The coalition’s sole purpose, according to spokesman Jim Martin of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, is to defend the interests of all the state’s fishermen in the current legislative battle over the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA).
Gov. Schwarzenegger has “fast-tracked” implementation of MLPA, said Martin. The bill would greatly expand the square-mile areas of offshore fishing grounds that are either closed to fishing or designated as marine reserves.
“Fishermen feel especially betrayed because we supported Gov. Schwarzenegger for election because [former Gov.] Gray Davis was for major closures,” Martin said. “Now we realize we have to be involved and engaged to oppose this process that will result in smaller and smaller fishing areas and, therefore, an intensification of fishing in the open areas that are left.”
State environmentalist groups are hoping to close between 20 and 40 percent of fishing grounds between Morro Bay and San Francisco, according to Martin, who states that the MLPA is only the first step in what could prove to be blanket closures of vast areas all along the California coast.
“The recreational fishermen haven’t caused these problems,” Martin said. “In fact, no one seems to know exactly what the problems are.”
The coalition is currently made up of representatives from the Recreational Fishing Alliance, the Sportfishing Alliance of California, Dana Wharf Sportfishing, as well as commercial-fishing organizations.
To expedite efforts to make its voice heard in Sacramento, The California Fisheries Coalition has hired Al Petrovich, a retired marine-division manager with the state Department of Fish and Game, as a consultant, and lobbyist Vern Gehring.
“The important point is that we are getting support from fishing groups that are usually antagonistic towards one another,” Martin said. “But, we all realize that the cards are so stacked against our interests that we need to present a clear and consistent position to the Governor and the state legislature.”
Petrovich is a professional lobbyist who has worked on behalf of commercial fisheries in the past; Gehring will spearhead the drive to develop statewide interest in the MLPA plan and process, Martin explained.
“One of our intents is to hold the state’s feet to the fire in terms of the science behind the MLPA,” he said. “We need to require that the state make funding available to continue marine-fisheries research. Right now, the environmentalists are basing their arguments on misinformation.
“The state’s anglers supported Schwarzenegger, and now he’s making the MLPA a cornerstone of his entire environmental program. The coalition enables us to formulate and implement a unified opposition.”
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