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July 01, 2015

GOVERNOR BROWN WINS PRAISE FOR SIGNING OF MARINE PROTECTION ENFORCEMENT LEGISLATION

AB 298 Signed Into Law to Boost Protections for Coast, Fisheries
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SACRAMENTO, June 30, 2015 – Environmental, law enforcement, and coastal groups from throughout California today applauded the signing of Assembly Bill 298 authored by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) that will strengthen the enforcement of the state’s marine protected areas (MPAs).

The law, which will take effect in January 2016, will allow the Department of Fish and Wildlife and other law enforcement agencies to better combat poaching and illegal fishing in the areas off the state’s coastline. It makes a change in state law that will allow MPA violators to be cited with an infraction or a misdemeanor. All violations currently are treated as
misdemeanors.

The new law, which passed both the Assembly and the Senate on unanimous votes, enjoyed widespread support from law enforcement, user groups and environmental organizations including WILDCOAST, Heal the Bay, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, San Diego Council of Divers, The Fish and Game Wardens Association, and The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. Violations oftentimes were not prosecuted as priority crimes sending the wrong message to would-be poachers; the new law, they say, will result in better enforcement.

“This will allow law enforcement officials to effectively manage MPAs without overburdening the legal system,” said Gonzalez. “With today’s signing, we will be able to better protect our vulnerable marine areas for future generations. This bill relieves pressure on an overtaxed legal system  and empowers our frontline officials to provide stronger enforcement to allow ocean life to recover after decades of overfishing.”

“We have been working with fishermen, user groups, elected officials and enforcement agencies to improve the implementation of MPAs in California”, said Zachary Plopper, Coastal and Marine Director of WILDCOAST, a co-sponsor of the bill. “We feel that this legislation will enhance the effectiveness of our MPAs to rebound fisheries and ecosystem health in California.”

“Governor Brown’s signature on this new law will result in effective enforcement in marine protected areas across California, better protecting critical areas of our coastline for improved recovery of fisheries and longterm ecosystem health,” said Ed Harris, a City of San Diego lifeguard sergeant. “We applaud Governor Brown for signing this bill and appreciate the efforts of Assemblymember Gonzalez to put the law on the books to better preserve California’s rich marine life for generations to come.”