United Anglers of Southern California President Steve Fukuto, Bob Fletcher, retired Sportfishing Association of California President (and Petitioner in the recent California Superior Court suit won by anglers' groups) and many others representing fishermen, sport divers and kayakers stepped to the podium October 20 to state their wide-ranging concerns about the Marine Life Protection Act in Southern California.
This meeting saw many pro-angler speakers singing a different tune, as it were, using their discussion time to highlight the recent court ruling and inquire as to why the documents and information requested by Fletcher and the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans (PSO) - and required by the California Public Records Act - have not been provided. Fletcher drove this point home when he called on the commission to put a halt to the process in Northern and Southern California until such a time as this information was provided and reviewed by attorneys representing the PSO and angling groups.
Earl Warren, past president of the Los Angeles Rod and Reel Club (LARRC), preceded Steve Fukuto at the podium and again highlighted the flawed and illegally conducted MLPA process and the resolve of recreational anglers to continue legal action that brings this to light. The LAARC recently put its "money where its mouth is," contributing $5,000 to the Ocean Access Protection Fund (www.oceanaccessprotectionfund.org), a legal action fund spearheaded by UASC.
Many kayak anglers' organizations spoke, driving home the point that the "just go somewhere else to fish" attitude of the extreme environmentalists isn't practical when you're limited by where you can carry and/or safely launch a kayak. They explained that the size or shape of an MPA doesn't matter that much when it closes off what could be the only safe access point for 20 miles.
Anglers were well represented, beginning with a pro-fishing rally lining both sides of the street leading into to the Sheraton Four Points Resort in San Diego. Overall, there were roughly 1,200 people in attendance.
Proponents of radical closures (still fighting for even more No-Take marine reserves then currently contained in the MLPA's Integrated Preferred Alternative for Southern California) were also well represented and vocal. "The lawsuit was an important victory, but there is no time to rest," said Fukuto. "The process moves into the adaption phase in December. We'll continue to aggressively pursuing our legal strategy, and we expect significant developments between now and then. We need continued support and contributions from anglers and all people who value ocean access," added Fukuto.
For more information, contact UASC at (562) 494-9900 or visit www.unitedanglers.com.