Feb 22 2012

Local Municipalities, Fishing Interests Intervene in Lawsuit to Protect Fishing in California

Groups Aim to Stop Extremist Lawsuit Seeking Drastic Cuts in Fishing Quotas

Monterey, Calif. – The California Wetfish Producers Association, a non-profit association promoting sustainable marine resources and fishing communities, announced today that it is working with a diverse group – including the City of Monterey and the Ventura Port District – to challenge a federal lawsuit by Oceana that would decimate California’s historic wetfish industry.

The group filed to intervene as defendants in the ongoing case by Earthjustice, representing Oceana, against the Secretary of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Oceana wants deep and unnecessary cutbacks in sardine fishing, as well as substantial harvest reductions in other “forage fish” fisheries, including herring, anchovies and squid – which are also already managed strictly and sustainably.

“Fishing for coastal pelagic species in California is under attack. Oceana has based this lawsuit on pseudo-scientific studies loaded with faulty calculations and conclusions, all to force federal regulators to massively curtail fishing limits, if not ban fishing outright,” said Diane. Pleschner-Steele, executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association. 

“That’s why a diverse group representing cities and ports, as well as fishing families, including fishermen and seafood processors, has come together to help block this extremist lawsuit,” Pleschner-Steele continued. “In this tough economy, we can’t afford to destroy this historic fishing industry and the local economies in which it operates, especially when the action is not based on the best available science.”

Oceana’s lawsuit claims that sardines and other so-called forage species are being massively overfished. Ironically, California’s coastal pelagic fisheries have one of the lowest harvest rates in the world.  Further, fishery management in California and, the California Current Ecosystem is recognized as one of only a few areas worldwide deemed ‘sustainable’ by internationally recognized scientists, according to a 2009 Science magazine article, Rebuilding Global Fisheries, and other recent studies.

“Oceana’s lawsuit is baseless; California already has the most precautionary fishery management system in the world. If successful, this lawsuit would restrict our state’s fishermen unnecessarily, and unfairly, because virtually all the forage species listed are actively managed or monitored by the federal government as well as the state,” said Steve Scheiblauer, Monterey’s harbormaster.

The state and federal government established guidelines more than a decade ago for coastal pelagic species harvested in California and on the west coast, maintaining at least 75 percent of the fish in the ocean, far below the science standard set for other fisheries.

The sardine protection rate is even higher at close to 90 percent. In addition, California implemented a network of marine reserves in state waters through the Marine Life Protection Act.  Many reserves were established explicitly to protect forage for other marine life, including important bird rookery and haul out areas around Año Nuevo and the Farallon Islands, as well as the Channel Islands in Southern California. In addition, more than 30 percent of traditional squid harvest grounds are now closed in reserve.

“Oceana failed to get a bill passed in California’s state legislature last year, so now they are trying the federal courts to get their agenda implemented,” said Scheiblauer. “Legislators on both sides of the political aisle saw through the ill-crafted bill, AB 1299, and it died because legislators knew it would have unnecessarily decimated local coastal economies like Monterey.”

About California Wetfish Producers Association

The California Wetfish Producers Association strives for sustainable fishery resources, access, education and scientific research. Find more info at www.CaliforniaWetfish.org.

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