Fish and Game Commission postpones vote on Marine Protected Areas plan

BAKERSFIELD — Drama surrounding the future of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) continues to build as the California Fish and Game Commission (FGC) put off its vote on the MPA Master Plan until its Aug. 24 meeting.

Delaying the vote until late next month would give the state’s Native American tribes time to chime in and review proposed language incorporating tribal ecological knowledge into the Master Plan.

This is the second time commissioners delayed voting on the MPA Master Plan; the commission held off on decisive action in April, claiming then as now the state’s tribes need more time to review specific language in the proposed policy.

The delayed vote came after anglers and environmentalists anxiously waited a decision of whether fishing bans at all MPAs up and down the coast would be extended from five to 10 years.

Some have argued they were assured by the state and commission an MPA fishing ban would only be in place for five years. Commissioners, led by FGC President Eric Sklar, and commission staff retorted the five-year ban was just a starting point and no promises were – or should have – been made.

“It defies logic, to a degree, that these MPAs are being created with the thought that they might be eliminated in as little as five years. That’s just not how MPAs anywhere else have proven to work,” Sklar said. “It is a very long and drawn out process to both establish them, evaluate them, re-evaluate them, and through the re-evaluation process perhaps eliminate some MPAs [and] create new ones, move MPAs, change the lines of MPAs, [etc.]. That’s going to be part of a process … for generations.”

Commission staff added five years is not enough time to monitor a species and determine whether any progress has been made to restore a fishery.

The California Sportfishing League (CSL) has been the most vocal group against fishing ban extension.

“Years ago, the commission promised that MPA assessments would be conducted every five years and when fishing populations were restored, so would fishing. Not only were many of the assessments never conducted, the current commission says fishing may never be allowed again,” a CSL spokesperson wrote on the group’s Facebook page before the FGC’s vote on the proposed fishing ban extension.

The commission’s next meeting will be held Aug. 24 and 25 at Lake Natoma Inn Hotel and Conference Center in Folsom.

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