Court orders MLPA Blue Ribbon to repay angling groups

SIGNAL HILL, Calif. — The Ocean Access Protection Fund and other advocacy groups stand to get financial compensation from a March 10 California Superior Court ruling.

The ruling orders the Marine Life Protection Act Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) and Master Plan Team (MPT) to pay legal fees incurred by recreational angling groups in a 2010 lawsuit. The original lawsuit, initiated by the United Anglers of Southern California, asked to enforce BRTF’s and MPT’s obligations to produce documents about their actions in adopting marine protected areas in the ocean waters off the California coast. Rulings have confirmed that these were public agencies and the BRTF is required to carry on its business in an open and transparent way.

“This is a significant monetary award on our behalf, but it represents only a small portion of what we’ve invested in battling the unlawful MLPA process so far,” said David Elm, Chairman of United Anglers of Southern California and director of the Ocean Access Protection Fund. “Even more important than the financial ramifications of this decision is the signal that it sends. The court has now decided in our favor twice, based on the merits of our original case against the BRTF and MPT.

“This latest court decision has given both encouragement and additional resources to our efforts,” said Elm. “But we have a long way to go, and continued success will only be possible with ongoing support from anglers across California. We will continue our aggressive awareness and fundraising campaigns, allowing us to keep up our ‘full court press’ on the flawed MLPA process.”

Following the successful Public Records Act suit, on Jan. 27 United Anglers of Southern California, Coastside Fishing Club and Robert Fletcher filed a lawsuit in the San Diego County Superior Court seeking to set aside the MLPA regulations for the North Central and South Coast study regions. This currently pending lawsuit cites a lack of statutory authority for the Fish and Game Commission to adopt the regulations.

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