December 16, 2011

Recreational fishing given a green light

By Damien M. Schiff Senior Attorney

Yesterday, the California Fish and Game Commission definitively rejected a proposal from the Department of Fish and Game to amend the state’s regulations governing private fish stocking.  The proposed amendments, which would have removed the permit exemption currently in place for 37 counties, and would have imposed new and onerous conditions on the issuance of all stocking permits, were rejected by a 4-0 vote.  The Commissioners unanimously concluded that the Department’s proposal was not adequately justified either in law or in policy.  The vote came immediately after several hours of testimony from the regulated public, led by members of the California Association for Recreational Fishing (CARF).  Pacific Legal Foundation represents CARF in an ongoing lawsuit in California Superior Court challenging the Department’s present enforcement of the now defunct proposed regulations.

I testified in support of CARF at yesterday’s meeting.  In addition to informing the Commission of our lawsuit against the Department, I also explained how the Department’s justification for proposing the regulatory changes was without legal basis.  The Department contended that a previous lawsuit brought by several environmental groups required the agency to produce an environmental impact report assessing the environmental impacts of both state-run and private fish stocking.  And it was the mitigation suggested in that document that formed the basis for the Department’s proposed regulations.  But, as I informed the Commission, it is clear from reviewing the pleadings and rulings from that earlier case that the only action at issue was the Department’s own fish stocking, not private fish stocking.  I also noted that one of the environmental groups that had been a party to the earlier lawsuit had recently stated publicly that it never had any intention of questioning the legality of the state’s private fish stocking program.

Ultimately, these and other points made by CARF members and the general public convinced the Commission that the Department’s regulatory proposal was a thoroughly bad idea.  The Commissioners made clear to the Department that, if the Department wants to proceed with new regulations (which, the Commission noted, the Department need not do), then the proposed regulations should look substantially different from the proposal rejected yesterday.

All told, yesterday was a great day for Californians who enjoy recreational fishing, or who work in fishing related industries.  As for PLF’s lawsuit, the Department has until next year to respond to our arguments that the Department cannot enforce the now defunct proposed regulations.

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