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The State of California has a plot in the works to raid funds generated by fishing and hunting license fees in order to support the management of Marine Protection Areas (MPAs). This diversion of funds is both inappropriate and illegal, says the California Sportfishing League (CSL).

As part of its Marine Protected Area Partnership Plan, the State Ocean Protection Council (OPC) is proposing to divert funds from the Fish and Game Preservation Fund in order to support its efforts in protecting and improving marine life and ecosystems.

Although this is certainly a noble effort, fishing and hunting license revenues should not go towards such programs that are primarily designed to benefit non-game species. In fact, the MPAs generally serve to curtail recreational access to coastal waters, which is precisely the opposite of what our license fees should support.

“California anglers pay costly licenses fees in order to fund recreational fishing programs,” said Marko Mlikotin, CSL’s Executive Director. “Raiding this special fund for an alternative use is simply a bait and switch scheme that threatens hunting and fishing programs. It is not honest for the state to ask anglers to pay for one thing, only to use it for another.”

Beyond the moral implications of misusing license fees, such a diversion of funds is prohibited under the California Fish and Game Code. Section 711 of The Code makes direct reference to the fund in question:

“711. (a) It is the intent of the Legislature to ensure adequate funding from appropriate sources for the department. To this end, the Legislature finds and declares that:

(1) The costs of nongame fish and wildlife programs shall be provided annually in the Budget Act by appropriating money from the General Fund, through nongame user fees, and sources other than the Fish and Game Preservation Fund to the department for these purposes.”

Despite this clear language in The Code, the OPC is still pushing to appropriate these funds for its MPAs. “During the implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act, MPAs were touted as ecosystem protection,” said Mlikotin. “It is inappropriate to argue that MPA management is anything but a nongame program and, therefore, Fish and Game Preservation Fund monies are not available for MPA management. The OPC’s Partnership Plan must be amended accordingly.”

On Wednesday, Dec. 3, the California Fish and Game Commission is meeting to discuss this proposal. Concerned anglers and hunters can email the Fish and Game Commission at fgc@fgc.ca.gov to express their feelings about this plan.

The California Sportfishing League is a nonprofit coalition of fresh and saltwater anglers, and small business owners devoted to protecting access to recreational fishing. Recreational fishing contributes over $4.9 billion annually to California’s economy, a major source of outdoor tourism and jobs.

To learn more, visit www.SportfishingConservation.org.

Guy Carl is a CPA and partner with BDCo Accountants and Advisors in St. Helena (www.bdcocpa.com). Contact Guy at GC.outdoors@sbcglobal.net.

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