A California Superior Court issued a ruling on Friday confirming that the Marine Life Protection Act Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) and Master Plan Team (MPT, also known as the Science Advisory Team) are state agencies and therefore compelled by California's Public Records Act to share information with representatives of angling/conservation organizations working to protect recreational ocean access. The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by Allen Matkins Leck Gamble Malloy & Natsis LLP, on behalf of Robert C. Fletcher, former president of the Sportfishing Association of California, a member organization in the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans.
"This is a very significant ruling to the many recreational angling groups and individuals across California who have invested so much time and energy in the MLPA process," said Fletcher, former president of the Sportfishing Association of California (SAC). "This ruling validates our long-held position that the groups implementing the MLPA and making decisions that result in closures of large areas of the Pacific Ocean to recreational activities cannot carry on as if they were not agencies of the state. Like any other state agency, these groups are responsible to the public and must do their work in an open and transparent way that the public can learn about through laws like the Public Records Act," added Fletcher.
"Now we'll get to see information that has been previously hidden from us about key decisions made by the BRTF and MPT," said Steven Fukuto, president of non-profit United Anglers of Southern California (UASC) and director of the Ocean Access Protection Fund (OAPF), a division of UASC formed to rally anglers and sportsmen across California in support of legal action. "Our success in this lawsuit will allow us to shine a light on important decisions that have been made in the dark. We have every confidence this ruling will help us better understand how decisions have been made under the MLPA, and to examine the legal basis for those decisions on behalf of anglers and sportsmen across the state," added Fukuto.
"This ruling is an important first step, but we're going to need more financial assistance from anglers to support our efforts to fight this flawed process in the courts," Fukuto said. For additional information, visitwww.keepamericafishing.org or www.oceanaccessprotectionfund.org.