Fish and Game Commission reschedules emergency meeting

Apparently a great number of California fisherfolk have a whole lot to say about the consideration of the closure of their waters, even though the state gave them just 49 hours public notice of the meeting where the issue would be discussed.

The meeting attracted heavy local attention after Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon released a Wednesday, April 8 letter he wrote to the California Department of Fish and Game on the sheriff department’s Facebook page about 10 p.m. that that evening advising the commission of his belief local leaders can best weigh the coronavirus risk and then make the decision regarding the fisheries in their communities.

Growdon wrote he feared an “arbitrary statewide or regional decision related to angling activities” could result should the commission delegate its authority to regulate fisheries to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Just a few hours later, an 8:30 a.m. Thursday, April 9 the California Fish and Game Commission announced its meeting to discuss granting authority to the California Department of Fish and Game to “delay, restrict or suspend sport or recreational fishing” due to hazards posed by the coronavirus had been rescheduled.

California residents and media seeking to participate in a webinar swamped the meeting technology and state officials decided to delay the meeting until sometime next week although the “time and platform (of next week’s meeting) have yet to be determined.”

Commission President Eric Sklar and California Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Charlton H. Bonham issued the following joint statement about 10:30 a.m. Thursday, April 9:

“We are very appreciative of the passion we heard from those who were able to join this morning’s call. It is clear that the call volume was overwhelming and the technology wasn’t ready. We acknowledge that this is a challenge as we attempt to navigate new technology for meetings. We are frustrated by what happened today and are looking for a remedy now. We understand that many members of the public and media were unable to join the call and because we also understand the importance to many of you, we need to ensure that you have an opportunity to provide input.

“We want to make sure you know that we have received a great deal of input from counties and tribes, and we are grateful for that. You can always make comment for the record at fgc@fgc.ca.gov.

“We also want to make it crystal clear that today’s proposed decision was not about banning fishing statewide or locally. 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. 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.”

According to the statement, when the meeting is rescheduled, it will be posted on the commission’s website, sent out via listserv and advised to media.

When the commission notifies the media about next week’s meeting, that information will be posted on lassennews.com.