Are California Fish Hatcheries Going Broke?

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California legislators want to know if California fish hatcheries are going broke. Below is the press release about this issue from the California Sportfishing League:

August 15, 2016 (Sacramento, CA): Late last week, 14 bipartisan members of the California Legislature Outdoor Sporting Caucus expressed concern that the state’s Hatchery and Inland Fisheries Fund (HIFF) program may be at risk of insolvency and called on the California Fish and Game Commission for detailed analysis of revenues and expenditures. The letter is in response to claims by the Department of Finance that the HIFF program could be insolvent by fiscal year 2018-19.

“We are writing to express concern regarding the solvency of the Hatchery and Inland Fisheries Fund which is overseen by the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW). According to the Department of Finance, this fund is operating at an annual loss and is perilously close to insolvency. This would dangerously impact California freshwater anglers,” wrote the bipartisan group of California State Legislators.

The HIFF is financed by California fishing licenses, which according to a California Sportfishing League (CSL) study is the most expensive license in the nation, with permits. CSL’s study also concluded that annual fishing licenses have decline over 55% since 1980, which jeopardizes its ability to qualify for federal grants as sales continue to decline.

“California’s hatchery programs are at risk as the state continues to make fishing less accessible and more costly,” said Marko Mlikotin, CSL’s executive director. “DFW’s leadership does not seem too concerned that as fewer Californians fish, the state receives less money for hatchery and conservation programs. Greater attention is needed to reforming California’s costly and antiquated fishing license program.”

For the past several years, CSL has called on DFW to reform its costly and antiquated fishing license program. It has sponsored legislation that would encourage greater participation rates by transitioning fishing licenses from an annual fishing license program to a 12-month license program, and discounting licenses for teenagers (SB 345), and veterans (AB 1844). Despite overwhelming support in committees, DFW opposed the reforms and both bills died on the Senate Appropriations suspense calendar last week.

Despite the Department of Finance’s assessment, the DFW has told the California Fish and Game Commission that it may take almost [up to] a year for them to report back to the commission as to whether their hatchery programs are at risk of being insolvent.

“It is remarkable that DFW can’t tell State Legislators what anglers’ license fees are paying for and whether their hatchery programs are solvent or not. When the state is stocking fewer and smaller fish, anglers know that there is a real problem,” said Mlikotin. “If the state’s hatchery programs goes broke, it would not only harm recreational fishing, but all the communities that depend on it for jobs and tourism.”

The California Sportfishing League (CSL) is a nonprofit coalition of fresh and saltwater anglers, and small business owners devoted to protecting access to recreational fishing. Recreational fishing contributes over $4.9 billion annually to California’s economy, a major of outdoor tourism and jobs.

The Caucus letter can be found by visiting the news section of CSL’s website

Contact: Marko Mlikotin, 916.799.7574