By Jim Matthews of the San Bernardino Sun
The Fish and Game Commission voted for a massive ban on sport and commercial fishing in ocean waters off the North Central Coast region of California on a 3-2 vote with the body's newest commissioner, appointed just the day before, casting the deciding vote. The vote was a huge disappointment to sportfishing groups.
In a flurry of activity over the past week that buoyed and then dashed sport anglers' hopes for a more balanced approach to marine life protected areas, the Fish and Game Commission saw its president Cindy Gustafson resign last Friday. Her departure almost assuring that the Wednesday vote on adoption of restrictive Marine Life Protected Act reserves off the Monterey region would be deadlocked, 2-2, failing to pass.
Don Benninghoven, who was chairman of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force that has recommended for massive ocean closures, was immediately appointed to the Commission on Tuesday by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to assure the passage of the Central Coast closures the following day.
Sporting groups have argued the science referenced for massive closures doesn't justify eliminating all sportfishing, as the blue ribbon panel has recommended for regions all along the coast. The MLPA process is also ignoring the economic impacts to the sportfishing community and refuses to address how enforcement of the closures will be funded.
"Today's vote to move forward with a new $55 million a year marine program shows that the Schwarzenegger administration is not listening to the people of California," said Vern Goehring, head of the California Fisheries Coalition after the Wednesday vote.