-From: "Daniel Bacher" <danielbacher@hotmail.com Date: Mon, 02 Dec 2002 17:38:57 -0800 Subject: Anglers Plan To Sue DFG, Fish & Game Commission

Coastside Fishing Club Launches Lawsuit To Fight Rockfish Closures

by Dan Bacher

Recreational rockfish anglers, angry over being kicked off the California coast south of Cape Mendocino until July while the state and federal governments allow the commercial fishing industry to fish the same waters, plan to go to court to defend their fishing rights.

On November 25, the Coastside Fishing Club, in conjunction with the San Francisco law firm Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, announced their intention to file suit to challenge the newest rockfish regulations. The 2700 member club is filing the suit against the California Fish and Game Commission and Department of Fish and Game in an effort to protect "traditional recreational angling rights," according to Bob Franko, Coastside Fishing Club President.

Lead by litigator Jim Miller, a 25 year veteran of Brobeck, Coastside members have been preparing the case and have worked on forming a coalition with leaders of the sportfishing community. This is a prodigious feat, considering that many of the sportfishing organizations have butted heads on different fishery issues in the past. Everybody who cares about the future of our fisheries should support this lawsuit.

Organizations supporting the effort include the Golden Gate Fisherman's Association, Northern California Recreational Fisherman's Alliance (RFA), United Anglers of California, United Anglers of Southern California and the Sportfishing Association of California.

"I'm glad that we´re finally going through with this lawsuit," said Bob Strickland, president of United Anglers of California. "We feel that the Commission should not continue its commercial preference when there are not enough fish to sustain both a commercial and a satisfying recreational fishery. We´ve been kicked off the water for eight months so that commercial anglers can continue to fish."

Recreational angling groups, galvanized into action by increasingly draconian regulations that have targeted recreational anglers while allowing unsustainable commercial fishing to continue, have joined forces to challenge proposed limitations on recreational rockfishing. The California Fish and Game Commission, in spite of previous statements indicating a preference for continuing a recreational fishery, in October decided to ban anglers from fishing for rockfish and lingcod for eight months from November 1, 2002 to June 30, 2003.

Franko views the new regulations as unjustified discrimination against the right to take a child fishing. "Our heritage is being challenged, and these new proposed regulations do not achieve the purpose that was intended," said Franko. "The days of grandpa taking his grandkids fishing on a party boat or in a little aluminum boat is vanishing before our eyes."

The Commission, in spite of any evidence showing that shore anglers have a measurable impact upon the rockfish and lingcod populations, also decided to prevent shore anglers from fishing on the ocean for these species starting January 1 - while commercial boats are allowed to fish the same near-shore areas with destructive stick gear.

"The fishing community has had enough," said Franko. "We are sorry to be forced to go to court to get recreational angling back where it belongs at the top of the Fish & Game Commission Agenda, but this has been forced upon us. The state has shown flagrant disregard for the rights of recreational anglers and they have done this without regard to the fact that no rod and reel fishery has ever threatened an ocean species.

Franko emphasized, "The scientific data that Fish & Game have quoted to justify this miscarriage has been shown to be inaccurate and unsubstantiated. Any parent has always been able to take a child fishing throughout the entire history of this state, and it has never hurt the fish population."

The suit will focus on the "unusual degree" of deference shown by the California Department of Fish & Game to the commercial fishery-dominated Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC), and will challenge the data relied upon by the Commission in the latest round of regulatory cutbacks, according to Franko.

Charter boat captains are supporting the club in their litigation. "Our organization and its member vessels take over 200,000 recreational anglers fishing annually in northern and central California," said Roger Thomas, president of the Golden Gate Fishermen´s Association. "We support any effort that will provide increased fishing opportunities for our clients and all other anglers."

Randy Fry, president of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, Norcal Chapter, said the new rockfish regulations don´t pass the "straight face test."

"We can´t even fish for rockfish and lingcod from piers and jetties starting January 1," said Fry. "But we can sit on a jetty and watch the commercial live rockfish and trawl boats cruise on by as they get ready to unload their catches."

I'm elated that the Coastside Fishing Club has taken the lead on this issue. The DFG, Fish and Game Commission and Pacific Fishery Management Council have been criminally negligent in their management of rockfish and lingcod fisheries. The federal and state governments have allowed the commercial gill net, trawl, long line and stick fisheries to deplete groundfish populations to the point where it may take some populations of deep water rockfish, such as bocaccio and canary rockfish, 80 to 100 years to recover because of the long time it takes for these species to mature.

The Commission, supposedly dominated by "environmentalists" now, has bowed to the commercial live fishery, one of the most ecologically destructive fisheries ever used on the coast. Under the "leadership" of Robert "Invisible Man" Hight and Mike Flores of the California Fish and Game Commission, anglers are denied their right to fish, in spite of the pleas by recreational anglers to adopt the Washington plan, where commercial groundfish boats are prevented from fishing state waters within 3 miles of shore.

Whereas the State of Washington has decided to go after the main problem -unsustainable commercial fishing - the State of California has decided to perpetuate the problem by not declaring a moratorium on commercial fishing for groundfish in inshore waters. Taking the Commission and DFG to court is the only way to force the authorities to manage groundfish populations in an ecologically sustainable manner while maintaining the public's right to continue fishing.

For more information, contact Robert Franko, President, Coastside Fishing Club, P O Box 1422, El Granada, CA 94018-1422, phone (650) 726-1666, www.coastsidefishingclub.com.