April 9 teleconference to discuss potential closure of sportfishing in certain areas could not go on because of heavy call volume.
Editor’s Note: The Fish and Game Commission will meet on April 15
SACRAMENTO—An April 9 emergency meeting to discuss the potential closure of sportfishing in certain areas of the state had to be rescheduled due to heavy call volume. The California Fish and Game Commission planned to hold a teleconference meeting on April 9 to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic
The commission was specifically set to discuss whether the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife should be granted the authority to delay, restrict or suspend sport or recreational fishing, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The question was whether delaying, restricting or suspending sport or recreational fishing would help “prevent and mitigate public health risks that may arise when people travel for fishing trips or congregate while participating in available fishing opportunities.”
“[The California Department of Fish and Wildlife] and the commission have received requests from county representatives and local health authorities requesting delays to sport or recreational fish openers such as the Eastern Sierra trout opener scheduled for April 25,” CDFW staff stated in an email to the press.
The exact date of the rescheduled meeting was not yet announced – but CDFW staff and commission leadership did state the teleconference would take place at some point during the week of April 13. Updates of the meeting – as well as its outcomes – will immediately be reported on our website, fishrapnews.com.
CDFW staff and commission leadership, in a joint statement, acknowledged the April 9 teleconference had to be rescheduled because of high call volume and a lack of technological preparedness.
“We are very appreciative of the passion we heard from those that were able to join this morning’s call. It is clear that the call volume was overwhelming, and the technology wasn’t ready,” the joint statement by Fish and Game President Eric Sklar and CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham said. “We acknowledge that this is a challenge as we attempt to navigate new technology for meetings. We are frustrated by what happened today and are looking for a remedy now. We understand that many members of the public and media were unable to join the call and because we also understand the importance to many of you, we need to ensure that you have an opportunity to provide input.”
Sklar and Bonham added the public can also submit comments for the record via email (email@example.com) if they do not want to be on the teleconference.
The commission president and department director also made clear the meeting was to discuss a possible closure – not a ban.
“We also want to make it crystal clear that today’s proposed decision was not about banning fishing statewide or locally. We are not contemplating statewide closure. The decision is to help prepare us to work with counties and tribes to make those decisions based on their requests,” Sklar and Bonham said. “We are working on a tailored and surgical approach based on local needs and knowledge. We have already received some of these requests. Today’s proposed action was an effort to become more nimble and ready to react when asked by a local entity to act.”
CDFW staff, in a report to commissioners, stated emergency action is needed to benefit the public interest.
“Given the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s … expertise in understanding sport (including recreational) fishing throughout the state, and the behavior of sport fishers as it relates to those fisheries, CDFW and the California Fish and Game Commission … have determined that a temporary, adaptive approach is needed to give CDFW the ability to suspend or restrict certain or all inland and marine waters to sport fishing or restrict the taking of any fish species,” CDFW staff stated in a report to commissioners.
Some of the fishing seasons set to begin (or were supposed to be underway by now) include the groundfish fishery between Santa Barbara and Mendocino counties (April 1 opener) and the Eastern Sierra Trout Opener (April 24). The groundfish fishery north of Mendocino County was set to open May 11.
“Travel and potential concentration of fishers at ‘choke points’ where it may not be possible to maintain six feet of separation (e.g., launch ramps, parking lots, etc.) have the potential to increase the spread of COVID-19,” CDFW staff said in a report to commissioners. “In addition, when traveling for a fishing trip, a fisher has the potential to travel to remote, small towns, often stopping at gas stations or convenience marts, tackle shops, fast food and other restaurants, marinas or boat launches, and/or hotels/motels. The travel can lead to inadvertent transmission of the virus to the local business attendants or employees, even if the fisher is asymptomatic.”