UPDATE: 8:28 a.m., June 29 – Gov. Jerry Brown took action on the state budget on June 28; this story, which appears in the current print edition of The Log, will be updated shortly.
SACRAMENTO — The impending state budget could prove worrisome to California’s anglers and fishers as officials propose significant changes to a fishing preservation fund.
California could abolish its Lifetime License Trust Account, transferring any funds there to the Fish and Game Preservation Fund (FGPF).
Landing fees could also be changed to an 11-tier system, where “higher value species” are assessed higher rates. California’s finance department staff stated the fee rate change would “[take] advantage of existing collection mechanisms and would not result in significant department costs.”
State officials hope a proposed increase of commercial landing fees would yield $12.4 million in revenue.
“This [eleven-tier system] proposal … [would require] fisheries that are the highest value per pound pay the highest rate,” a state finance department analysis stated. “All fisheries would pay a higher rate than status quo under the proposal resulting in an average overall rate of 5 percent based on the three year historical average value of all California fisheries.
“Implementing the proposed Eleven-Tier System is expected to generate an average of $13.3 million in landing fee revenue annually, an increase of $12.4 million over current levels,” the state finance department analysis continued. “This proposal more appropriately assigns the costs of managing commercial fisheries to those participating in the industry.”
The preservation fund, according to the state’s Department of Finance, is the largest funding source for the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Funding from the FGPF supports the Fish and Game Commission, fisheries management, lands management, law enforcement and wildlife conservation.
A Department of Finance analysis of the proposal to restructure the preservation fund stated revenues have remained stable but costs are increasing – thus requiring major changes.
“While revenues in the FGPF have remained relatively stable in the last ten years, there has been significant volatility in the General Fund, in budget years when revenues have been strong, the department has received General Fund augmentations for critical activities such as law enforcement, conservation planning, and marine fisheries management,” finance department staff stated in an analysis of proposed changes to the preservation fund. “Alternatively, during periods of statewide shortfalls in the General Fund and Environmental License Plate Fund, the FGPF has had to absorb many of these costs to continue these vital programs.
“This has contributed to the erosion of the fund’s reserve,” the finance department’s analysis continued.
Marko Mlikoton, the executive director of California Sportfishing League, said the state’s proposal amounts to a raiding of the FGPF.
Action on the state budget could be finalized June 30. Updates on whether the state budget includes any significant changes affecting California’s anglers and commercial fishers will be provided in FishRap’s July 14 issue.