Aerial view of La Jolla, Matlahuayl Marine Protected Area
September was a big month for the protection of California’s coastal and ocean ecosystems. Governor Brown and lawmakers made the state the first in the nation to restrict plastic straw distribution at restaurants and require state-owned facilities and vendors to use only reusable, recyclable, or compostable food packaging. Governor Brown also signed into law AB 2369 (Gonzalez-Fletcher) to increase fines for commercial poaching in California marine protected areas, or MPAs.
“California has one of the world’s largest networks of MPAs, protecting 16%, more than half a million acres, of state waters,” explained WILDCOAST Conservation Director, Zach Plopper. “Unfortunately, a few bad actors are undermining the system with egregious poaching of resources from our underwater parks,” he continued. That is why WILDCOAST worked with Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher, fishermen, tribes, businesses, and conservation groups across California to develop a bill that targets commercial-scale poaching in MPAs.
The bill increases fines from $100-$1,000 to $5,000-$40,000 for first offense violations. It also gives the California Department of Fish and Wildlife authority to suspend commercial operating licenses. After being signed into law by Governor Brown Assemblymember Gonzalez-Fletcher commented that, “the law is an important step in preserving the very delicate coastal ecosystems in California’s protected marine areas. The greedy poachers have done an enormous amount of damage, showing that the current penalties are nominal to their bottom line and they don’t seem to work. I’m pretty sure this new law’s threat of a hefty fine will get their attention.”
The law will go into effect on January 1, 2019. For more information about WILDCOAST’s MPA Program please click here.