Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher Bill Cracking Down On Illegal Marine Poaching Advances in Assembly

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

SACRAMENTO  – (Tuesday, April 10, 2018) – California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) won approval from a key Assembly committee today for her bill to crack down on illegal poaching by commercial fishing operations in protecting marine areas, an important step in preserving the delicate coastal ecosystem in these spots.

AB 2369 would stiffen penalties and serve as an important deterrent to some of the worst offenders, including passenger fishing vessels, or party boats, that poach in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Under this bill, a business that violates the law could be fined $5,000 to $40,000 and face up to a year in jail on a misdemeanor conviction. Penalties for a second violation would be a loss of fishing license, a fine of $10,000 to $50,000, and up to a year in jail on a misdemeanor conviction. The Assembly’s Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife voted 12-1 today to approve the bill, which now heads to the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.

“Illegal poaching represents a dire threat to our marine wildlife,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher said. “These poachers are making so much money that they can easily afford to pay the paltry fines if they get caught. This bill sends the message that for this highly destructive conduct, crime doesn’t pay.”

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in California have been established to protect and conserve marine life and habitat. These areas provide opportunities to preserve our natural biodiversity, enjoy nature recreationally, understand human impacts on marine life and more. Illegal poaching threatens the delicate balance of marine life inside these MPAs. When done by commercial entities, the poaching is typically on a much greater scale and thus poses an even greater threat to these ecosystems. Additionally, illegal poaching hurts the businesses that follow the rules.

However, under current law, penalties for poaching in a Marine Protected Area aren’t tough enough. These penalties vary but generally may not exceed $1,000 per violation under the Fish and Game Code. For instance, in 2015, a commercial fisherman was fined a mere $220 for having set 200 hagfish traps within a no-take State Marine Reserve. These paltry fines are simply the cost of doing business when catch such as spiny lobster can sell for as much as $32 per pound. In contrast, penalties for illegal trophy hunting of animals such as deer and elk include fines between $5,000 and $40,000, and up to a year in jail.

Furthermore, commercial fishing operations have been able to continue fishing even while under investigation by simply transferring the fishing license to another person in their business. AB 2369 would prevent this situation by prohibiting the transfer of a permit or commercial fishing license before resolution of pending civil, criminal, or administrative action that could affect the status of the permit.

For more information on this issue or to schedule an interview with Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher, contact Alex Roth at 619-228-3253.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher represents California’s 80th Assembly District, located in southern San Diego County, including the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, and National City. She serves as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Appropriations, Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Women in the Workplace, and Vice Chair of the California Latino Legislative Caucus. For more information on Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher visit https://a80.asmdc.org/