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Friday, August 6, 2010

Victory for California Anglers

Don Benninghoven Is Not Confirmed As a Member of the Fish and Game Commission


Sacramento, CA – August 6, 2010 – Thanks to California’s grassroots anglers who loudly spoke out for a fair and unbiased process for protection of ocean resources along the California coast, the appointment of Fish and Game Commissioner Don Benninghoven was not confirmed by the State Senate. As a result, as of August 4, 2010, Mr. Benninghoven no longer sits on the Commission.  Over the past several months, thousands of concerned citizens voiced their concerns over Mr. Benninghoven’s lack of independence and objectivity as a member of the Commission, especially throughout the process of implementing the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA).
 “We are so pleased that recreational anglers from across California responded with letters to Senate President Darrell Steinberg decrying Don Benninghoven's bias in the MLPA process,” said Bob Fletcher of the Sportfishing Association of California and former Chief Deputy Director of the Department of Fish and Game.  “And we are pleased that the State Senate listened to Californians who love to fish and who love the Ocean as much as anybody.” 
In August 2009, Governor Schwarzenegger appointed Mr. Benninghoven to the Fish & Game Commission at the last minute to vote on a proposal to close areas within California’s North Central Coast region to fishing.  Just prior to his appointment, Mr. Benninghoven had served on the panel that designed the closures.  When appointed to the Commission, Mr. Benninghoven, not surprisingly, cast what turned out to be the deciding vote to approve the very closures he had helped to design.  Had he remained on the Commission, Mr. Benninghoven would also have voted on proposed new closures in the South Coast and North Coast regions.
“Governor Schwarzenegger should take this opportunity to appoint a new Commissioner who will be independent and objective about the implementation of the MLPA,” said Dan Wolford, Science Director for California’s Coastside Fishing Club.  “Implementing the MLPA will cost California jobs and hurt our economy at the worst possible time. The very least we can ask is that a new commissioner has a fair and unbiased approach.” 
Anglers, fisheries scientists and conservationists have roundly criticized flaws in the way that the MLPA has been implemented.   Concerned recreational anglers have already hired attorneys to examine and, if necessary, to pursue a legal challenge in court on their behalf to the flawed way in which the MLPA has been and is being implemented.  
“Now we need California’s anglers to step up and help us by donating to our effort to challenge this flawed MLPA process,” said Steve Fukuto, President of United Anglers of Southern California.  “We need all California anglers to donate what they can to protect their right to fish in the Ocean.”
The recently formed Ocean Access Protection Fund will enable contributors to donate online through its website, www.OceanAccessProtectionFund.org.  
The purpose of the Fund, which is operated by the nonprofit group United Anglers of Southern California, is to provide the financial support necessary to maintain legal challenges involving the MLPA as well as future threats to recreational access to ocean and coastal waters.

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