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Coronavirus
Sacramento River Tim Hearden
The Sacramento River winds through Redding, Calif.

State's proposed rural fishing ban sparks controversy

Fish and Game Commission to consider allowing local governments to temporarily close access to lakes, streams

A California state panel will make its second attempt this week to hold a virtual public hearing on whether to allow some local governments in rural areas to delay or cancel sport fishing season because of concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.

The Fish and Game Commission will consider granting requests from county representatives and local health authorities requesting delays to sport or recreational fish openers such as the Eastern Sierra trout opener scheduled for April 25, according to a news release.

The proposal has been added to the start of the board's scheduled webinar and teleconference, which is set to begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday. The agenda includes instructions on how to join the meeting electronically. The public can also send written comments to fgc@fgc.ca.gov.

An emergency commission teleconference last week was overwhelmed with angry callers after the proposal was criticized online by several rural Republican lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa. 

"Using this quarantine period to advance government control that would never sell otherwise is a breach of trust," LaMalfa, a Richvale rice farmer, wrote on his Facebook page. "It could have the effect of many deciding to become defiant and do what they want when they sense their “leadership” isn’t fair or logical."

Commission President Eric Sklar and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham said in a joint statement that "the technology wasn't ready" and that some members of the public and media were unable to join the call.

“We also want to make it crystal clear that today’s proposed decision was not about banning fishing statewide or locally," they stated. "We are not contemplating statewide closure. The decision is to help prepare us to work with counties and tribes to make those decisions based on their requests.

"We are working on a tailored and surgical approach based on local needs and knowledge," they added. "We have already received some of these requests. Today’s proposed action was an effort to become more nimble and ready to react when asked by a local entity to act.”

The officials said the proposal aims to mitigate public health risks that may arise when people travel for fishing trips or congregate while participating in available fishing opportunities.

TAGS: Water
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