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DFG EXPERIENCES REGIONAL BREAKUP; PROS AND CONS CITED IN THE SPLIT OF LONG BEACH'S REGION 5.

Byline: Brett Pauly Daily News Outdoors Editor

The breakup of Department of Fish and Game Region 5 headquartered in Long Beach reflects several recent developments that impact the state's regulation of hunting and fishing.

The largest of the department's administrative regions, Region 5 oversaw operations in Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Orange, San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside, Imperial, Inyo and Mono counties. It was disbanded on Oct. 1.

The five coastal counties will now compose a retooled Region 5, or the South Coast Region, and the remaining interior counties will fall under the jurisdiction of a new Region 6 - the Inland Deserts-Eastern Sierra Region.

The move was designed to better serve the natural resources - wildlife and habitat - and to improve communications with the public. The split and the way it was broken up - west counties and east counties - is generally lauded by the Long Beach office.

``It's been long overdue. With 10 counties it was a large region, to such an extent that it had become cumbersome to operate,'' said one Long Beach employee who requested anonymity.

Largely criticized, however, is the decision to make Long Beach the temporary headquarters of the Inland Deserts-Eastern Sierra Region and San Diego the home base of the South Coast Region, which includes Los Angeles County.

``It's difficult to fathom why,'' the employee said. ``Is moving the coastal region to San Diego or maintaining the headquarters in the Los Angeles area better?

``It's just that most of the population is here (in the Los Angeles area), and it's the central location for a coastal area. Geographically, it makes sense to have the South Coast Region remain headquartered in Long Beach or at least somewhere in the Los Angeles area.

``Otherwise, it means a disruption of a lot of lives here (at the Long Beach office); in the short term, that can't improve communications with the public.''

The inland region will eventually be based in Chino, though no date for the relocation has been set, officials said.

In the wake of the unlawful planting of Northern pike in Plumas County's Lake Davis and last October's controversial effort to chemically eradicate the destructive fish, Gov. Pete Wilson signed into law Sept. 14 a bill to make more drastic the penalties for planting ``aquatic nuisance species'' in state waters.

The law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, will increase the fine for persons convicted of planting such species from a maximum of $1,000 to as much as $50,000. It also creates an award of up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest or criminal conviction of offenders.

``Hopefully it will be a deterrent,'' said Bruce Barngrover, senior hatchery supervisor for the DFG's Sacramento Valley-Central Sierra Region headquarters in Rancho Cordova, which oversees Lake Davis.

``Unauthorized release of fish, or any animal, into the wild is something we have big concerns about,'' Barngrover said. ``There are native species and introduced organisms that could be compromised, as witnessed by the pike. It is a voracious predatory that eats the trout in the lake, and, if it got out of the lake, could devastate the salmon and steelhead fisheries downstream, not to mention all the other fish resources in the state.''

The state Fish and Game Commission, which mandates regulations for the DFG, has largely been in charge of managing recreational activities, including sport-fishing takes, while the state legislature oversees laws managing commercial harvesting.

That process will change Jan. 1. That's when a bill Wilson signed into law Sept. 30 will put the handling of commercial regulatory changes squarely on the shoulders of the Fish and Game Commission.

``The legislative process is so time consuming that sometimes you can't get a law change in place to prevent further loss or damage to your resource,'' said Jack Edwards, spokesman for the DFG's state headquarters in Sacramento.

The Marine Life Management Act is being cheered by many environmental groups and commercial anglers alike for having the potential to greatly expedite the course of making alterations to commercial-fishing regulations.

``The benefit is that it takes the politics out of the process,'' said Tom Raftican, president of United Anglers of Southern California, a saltwater fish-preservation group. ``The state had a broad mandate to deal with all the issues that effect California, whereas the Fish and Game Commission deals directly with our marine resources.''

``(It) is the most significant advance in fisheries management in nearly a half a century.''

Among the law's other benefits, it:

Provides a scientific peer review process for fishery-management plans.

Requires that the Fish and Game Commission adopt such a plan for white seabass by 2002.

Assures interim nearshore rockfish fishery standards.

``No longer will the state stand aside while important fisheries - public trust resources - are experiencing dramatic declines,'' said assemblyman Fred Keeley (D-Boulder Creek), author of the Marine Life Management Act. ``This is good news for the health of the marine environment and good news for the coastal economy.''

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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 8, 1998
Words:830
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