Angling groups awarded legal costs in California case

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A California Superior Court judge earlier this month ordered the Marine Life Protection Act Blue Ribbon Task Force and Master Plan Team to pay all legal fees incurred by recreational angling groups in a 2010 lawsuit to enforce the task force's and plan team's obligations under California's Public Records Act to produce information about their actions in adopting marine protected areas in the waters off the coast.

In that case, the court found in favor of Robert Fletcher, former president of the Sportfishing Association of California, ordering that information about the activities and decisions of the task force and the plan team be provided to him.

"This is a significant monetary award on our behalf, but it represents only a small portion of what we've invested in battling the unlawful MLPA process so far," said David Elm, chairman of United Anglers of Southern California and director of the Ocean Access Protection Fund, in a statement.

"Even more important than the financial ramifications of this decision is the signal that it sends," he added. "The court has now decided in our favor twice, based on the merits of our original case against the BRTF and MPT."

Earlier this year, the United Anglers of Southern California, the Coastside Fishing Club and Fletcher filed suit in San Diego County Superior Court, seeking to set aside the protection act's regulations for the North Central and South Coast study regions.

This pending suit alleges that the California Fish and Game Commission lacks the legal authority to adopt the regulations and, in the case of the South Coast regulations, alleges numerous violations of the California Environmental Quality Act in the commission's environmental review of the regulations.

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