As an organization dedicated to ensuring our North American heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting with over 350,000 supporters, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers expresses serious concerns regarding several of the petitions currently before the California Fish & Game Commission that would eliminate fishing access along large stretches of the California coast.
The intent of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) and the stewardship of our coastal resources are of paramount importance to California's heritage. However, these laudable goals and conservation benchmarks should not preclude access to harvest coastal foods where state and federal fisheries managers have demonstrated robust and resilient fish stocks without any current threat of overfishing, nor for those species where targeted fishing and active management would benefit the overall ecosystem balance.
There are numerous, seemingly well-intentioned petitions currently before the Fish & Game Commission that seek to preserve California's coastal waters citing anthropogenic impacts to biodiversity and ecosystems, such as pollution, rising sea temperatures, disease, development and fishing. While we support the intent to safeguard our fish stocks, biodiversity, and ecosystem integrity, we strongly disagree with the all-or-nothing approach adopted by many of the petitioners who proffer the wholesale elimination of fishing access without adequate scientific rationale.
Simply put, many of the petitions seek to advance preservation at all costs, pushing for wholesale closures that circumvent the regulatory processes already in place, ultimately bludgeoning access for the diverse angling communities that have revered these coastal traditions for generations.
Shore fishing, diving/spearfishing, kayak/boat fishing and coastal gathering are low impact activities that reflect the broad spectrum of California's diverse community and constitute a valuable resource for individuals across the economic divide to access nature and provide food for their families at the same time. We encourage the Commission and MPA managers to consider the numerous communities that enjoy the state's many sustainable food resources when considering protections and recommendations that might unnecessarily exclude these groups. These considerations are in line with the California Natural Resources Agency's Outdoors for All initiative and its commitment in the Pathways to 30x30 document to "implement projects that do no further harm or pose unintended consequences to historically marginalized communities."
It is within this context that we urge the Commission to deny those petitions (outlined in our detailed letter to the Commission on 2/1/24) that would unnecessarily erode our longstanding coastal fishing and foraging traditions.