SLC discusses California water access

LONG BEACH, Calif. - The second annual Sportfishing Leadership Conference took place recently in Long Beach, Calif., as anglers and industry members gathered to learn about what might happen to access and availability of saltwater fishing in Southern California.

“Once again we had a packed house, and the panel speakers did a great job,” said Tom Raftican, president of United Anglers of Southern California and moderator of the Sportfishing Leadership Conference. “Obviously, the future of ocean recreational fishing is an emotional issue right now. It was great to see that although many members of the panel had differing viewpoints, they all recognized the necessity of finding common ground and coming up with solutions for the challenges we face.”

This second-year event drew more than 300 attendees to enjoy a sit-down luncheon and hear from those involved in shaping the future of fishing off Southern California.

Among those addressing the audience were Tom Raftican, Mike Chrisman, California Secretary of Resources; Ryan Broddrick, Director of the California Department of Fish & Game; Dr. Rebecca Lent, NOAA Fisheries; Phil Isenberg, Chairman of the Blue Ribbon Panel on the Marine Life Protection Act; Bob Fletcher, President of Sportfishing Association of California, Bill Shedd, President of AFTCO and founder of UASC; Jim Martin, Pure Fishing's Conservation Director; David Pfeiffer, President of Shimano American Corporation; former California gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon; Frank LoPreste of Fisherman's Landing; Don Hansen of Dana Landing; Mike Nussman, President of the American Sportfishing Association; Chris Hall, President of Coastside Fishing Club; Bart Hall of Fred Hall & Associates and Tim Alpers of the Hot Creek Hatchery Project.

“With a diverse group such as this, it's no surprise that anglers heard many different perspectives about what needs to be done to fix our problems and maintain access for recreational fishing,” said Raftican.

Even so, there were several common themes echoed by many of the speakers, among the most prevalent the need for more accurate recreational fishing data on which to base decisions that can effect our fishing for years to come. Those involved in policy-making decisions stressed the need for input and involvement at all levels. Representatives of the sportfishing industry pointed out the importance of an often-overlooked component of fishing - live bait -- that also needs protection from commercial overfishing and recreational access.

It was notable that NOAA chose this event to unveil on the West Coast its “NOAA Recreational Fisheries Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2005-2010.”

Dr. Lent outlined the program, which the NOAA called in its press release “a contract between the agency and the nation's 13 million recreational anglers.” According to NOAA, the plan's common goal is to build healthy fisheries and create opportunities for the public to enjoy these natural resources through recreational fishing. More info about it can be found on the web at

With concern about pending implementation of MPAs, Phil Isenberg of the MLPA blue ribbon panel drew the most intense interest and response from the audience. Although the MLPA is a controversial issue, several speakers remarked that it is the law, and anglers need to work together and find ways to meet MLPA goals and protect access for recreational fishing. Interestingly, some of the largest crowd responses came when speakers mentioned the need to bring more kids into fishing.

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