Last week the DFG held 3 MLPA orientation meetings aimed at starting the process that will eventually end with the California Fish & Game Commission considering adoption of a set of marine reserves, or marine protected areas, along the coast of California. Most of the meeting consisted of background information and description of how the meetings will work, and little new came out. The meetings were held Wednesday, July 17 in Los Alamitos, Thursday, July 18 in Monterey, and Friday, July 19 in Eureka.

The DFG did, however, announce that they had asked state Senator Dede Alpert to author legislation to extend the legislatively mandated timelines in order that the seven regional committees would have sufficient time to come to agreement on a recommendation on marine reserves that would be submitted to the Fish & Game Commission. Senator Alpert's bill, SB 1086, will extend the three deadlines by two years. This means that when SB 1086 is signed by the Governor, the new deadline for the DFG to submit a 'Draft Master Plan for the MLPA' will become January 1, 2005. Deadline for the Fish & Game Commission to have a final draft of the master plan will be April 1, 2005, and the new deadline for the Commission to adopt the Master Plan for the MLPA will become December 1, 2005.

One way to assist in the SAC effort would be to write letters of support for SB 1086, and send them to both Senator Alpert and the chair of the Assembly Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee, Assemblyman Dean Florez. You can also express in your letter your concern for the use of large areas of closure, and point out how economically important recreational angling is to the state. A report done by the National Marine Fisheries Service documented that in the year 2000, the direct expenditures by recreational anglers was nearly $2.5 Billion. The bill is up for hearing in early August, so don't delay!

Senator Alperts address is:

The Honorable Dede Alpert
California State Senate
P.O. Box 942848
Sacramento, CA 94249-0001

Chairman Dean Florez's address is:

Assemblyman Dean Florez,
Chair Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee
P.O. Box 942849 Sacramento, CA 942848-0001

One other bit of news that came out of the meeting was that the regional committee meetings will probably not be every month, as originally announced. Instead, they will be on average every other month, with time out for assignments, agreed to at the meeting, to be completed. All the players were there, and the same disagreements that plagued the Marine Reserves Working Group for the Channel Islands were evident last week. It should be an interesting process! We encourage all of you who have a passion for fishing to stay informed and come sit in on one of the meetings, if possible.