Coalition of conservationists and fishermen celebrate passage of AB 1241 into law, condemn veto of AB 2404

provided by the Natural Resources Defense Council

ishermen and conservationists in California today applauded Governor Wilson's signature into law of the most significant advance in fisheries management and conservation in perhaps 50 years, AB 1241, the Marine Life Management Act by Fred Keeley (D- Boulder Creek).

"Wilson's decision has rescued California's fisheries from the fate of management from crisis to crisis, and we applaud his decision to take die collective advice of fishermen and scientists and sign this bill," said Warner Chabot, Pacific Region Director of the Center for Marine Conservation.

AB 1241 as signed into law defines a new framework for fisheries management that prioritizes sustainability, both economic and ecological, over short-term economic gain. Tom Raftican, President of United Anglers, said today of the governor's action, "AB 1241 is the most significant advance in

California fishery management since 'Pat' Brown was governor. While white seabass, near shore and emerging fisheries will benefit from it, the real impact is in the way the bill defines the fishery management process."

But conservationists condemned Governor Wilson's veto of AB 2404, The Sea Life Conservation Act by Kevin Shelley (D - San Francisco), a bill to improve the state's ailing system of marine protected areas. "Governor Wilson's veto leaves the job of sustaining ocean resources half done," said Karen Garrison, Senior Policy Analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "It leaves a hollow legacy in this "Year of the Ocean." AB 2404 would have created a process to transform the state's fragmented collection of marine protected areas, now often protected in name only, into a more coherent and effective network, similar to parks on the land. "Governor Wilson has missed his final opportunity to make his own vision for the oceans a reality,' continued Karen Garrison. "This bill would have put the 'protection' back in our marine 'protected' areas, extending ecosystem-based management to the oceans," she added.

The new law created by the passage of AB 1241 will empower the California Department of Fish and Game and Fish and Game Commission with the authority, financial resources, and science to manage many of the state's fisheries and ensure that they are protected for generations to come. "we have seen the Legislature forced to manage fisheries once they collapse, like the abalone closure in Southern California that the legislature enacted in 1997," said Dr. Rod Fujita, senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund. "AD 1241 will create a system of proactive management in which the state no longer stands idly by while species decline and disappear, but will rather manage them to ensure that the fishery is protected for our children, and our grandchildren."

AB 1241 was supported by an unprecedented alliance of conservationists, sport fishermen, commercial fishermen, marine scientists, sport divers and coastal businesses, and both of the bills were supported by every major California newspaper. Fishermen's organizations and conservation groups participated in the writing of AB 1241 and ensured that it would incorporate the expertise of fishermen and scientists into the management process.

"The working men and women in the commercial fishing fleet thank Governor Wilson for signing the Keeley bill, A.B 1241," said Zeke Grader, Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "This bill, establishing state policy for sustainable fisheries management and the establishment of management plans for some of California's important fisheries, is essential for healthy fishery resources and healthy fishing communities."

Pietro Paravanno, President of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, said today, "the signing of AB 1241 is particularly timely given that we will be celebrating the first World Fisheries Day on November 21. California will have something positive to show the rest of the world.

"We applaud Governor Wilson's decision to sign AB 1241, a landmark bill for the International Year of the Ocean, but we condemn his veto of AB 2404. Both of these bills are a direct response to the Governor's 1997 report, California's Ocean Resources: An Agenda for the Future. AB 1241 and AB 2404 were very good complements for each other, and the passage of only AB 1241 represents only one half of the equation. But you can bet we'll be back next year," said Chabot.

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AB 1241: The Marine Life
Management Act

AB 1241 reforms an antiquated system of managing California's marine fisheries. California's history of marine fisheries management has been marred by Legislative micro-management, resulting in numerous cases of 1Ith hour crisis management only when the fishery was on the verge of collapse. AB 1241 would reverse this trend by committing the state to manage fisheries proactively for sustainability, instead of for short-term profits.

AB 1241 will:

  • Declare that conservation, restoration and sustainable use are the guiding principles for managing California's sport and commercial fisheries.
  • Remove the Legislature from micro-managing fishery resources by empowering the State Department of Fish and Game and the Fish and Game Commission with the legislative authority, financial resources, and scientific support to pro-actively manage the marine fisheries and ecosystems on a day-to-day basis. Currently, the Legislature manages most commercial fisheries and the Department of Fish and Game manages sport fisheries.
  • Establish a process for developing fishery management plans based on sound, peer reviewed science and stakeholder participation.
  • Require the Fish and Game Commission to adopt fishery management plans for near-shore fisheries ("Rockfish"), white seabass, and "new, emerging" fisheries.
  • Require the Department of Fish and Game to report annually to the Legislature on the status of marine fisheries, identifying any fisheries that are in trouble and steps needed to rebuild these fisheries.
  • Provide a multi-year funding source (authorizing $2.2 million annually over 7 years) to accomplish what AB 1241 and AB 2404 require of the Department and Commission.
  • Will provide a foundation, if proved successful, for the management of California's other marine fisheries.


AB 1241 adopted a number of amendments at the request of the Department of Fish and Game and the Governor's office. The scope of the bill was narrowed from requiring 40 Fishery Management Plans to the 3 it now requires, to ensure that the Department could meet the requirements of the bill. Passage of AB 1241 into law will implement Recommendation A-4 from the Governor's 1997 report, California's Ocean Resources: An Agenda for the Future:

"Establish additional comprehensive long-term approaches forsustainably managing California's ocean and coastal fishery stocks, with an emphasis on rebuilding stocks in decline.