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Ocean Access Protection Fund Now Taking Online Contributions

by Dan Bacher

The recently formed Ocean Access Protection Fund (OAPF) announced on August 31 the launch of its online contribution program through, allowing this division of United Anglers of Southern California (UASC) to collect online contributions for legal challenges against Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative as well as future threats to recreational access to ocean and coastal waters.

The new site was designed to make it easy for individuals, fishing clubs and businesses to make secure contributions to the OAPF using major credit cards or Paypal. “Contributions to the OAPF will be used solely to support legal action against the MLPA and other policies that restrict recreational fishing access to California waters,” said Steve Fukuto, UASC president, in a press release.

While the OAPF is being spearheaded by UASC, Fukuto said it will be representing the interests of anglers, businesses and others frustrated with the MLPA implementation process across the Southern, Central and North Central California regions.

The OAPF was created to support legal causes of action against policies that do not recognize the conservation efforts of fishermen and impact recreational anglers’ access to the ocean, according to Fukuto. The MLPA Initiative, a process ridden with conflicts of interests, mission creep and the corruption of the democratic process, is the first project being undertaken by the organizers of the fund.

UASC will direct this effort in collaboration with the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans (PSO) and its industry/conservation partners, which include — in addition to UASC — the American Sportfishing Association, Berkley Conservation Institute, supporting members of the Avalon Tuna Club, Coastside Fishing Club, International Game Fish Association, Kayak Fishing Association of California, National Marine Manufacturers Association, NorCal Kayak Anglers, Shimano Sport Fisheries Institute, Southern California Marine Association, Sportfishing Association of California and Watermen’s Alliance.

In addition to the website launch, the organization also unveiled its Mission Statement, logo and tagline — Access for All Californians.

“Establishing an identity for the OAPF is critical, and our logo is an important part of this. It clearly shows that we are fighting for ocean access for all anglers, whether they fish from the shore, pier, boat or kayak. In fact, we’re working on behalf of all people who treasure open access to our ocean and the coast, from sport divers and surfers to swimmers and beachcombers,” Fukuto added.

Legal action on behalf of California anglers has already begun. A top California law firm has been retained and has already filed suit against the flawed MLPA implementation process. The verified petition for writ of mandate and complaint was filed on May 28, 2010 at the Sacramento County Courthouse for violation of the California Public Records Act, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The first court hearing is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on October 1, 2010 in Sacramento Superior Court.

“We believe we have a strong case, an excellent legal team and a sound long-term strategy that can protect ocean access for all Californians. What we need — now more than ever — is for people throughout the state to support this important effort,” said Fukuto.

The online contribution was launched at a time when opposition to Schwarzenegger's fast-track MLPA Initiative has mushroomed on the North Coast. Over 300 people including members of 50 Tribal Nations, recreational anglers, environmentalists, commercial fishermen, immigrant seafood industry workers and human rights advocates peacefully took control of an MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force in Fort Bragg on July 21 to protest the violation of Tribal rights and corporate greenwashing that has occurred under the privately-funded initiative.

Critics of the MLPA process charge that oil industry, real estate, marina development and other corporate interests dominate the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces that develop the so-called "marine protected areas." In fact, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association, who has repeatedly called for new oil drilling off the California coast, is the chair of the South Coast task force and sits on the North Coast task force.

The fake "marine protected areas" set up under the controversial process do nothing to protect the ocean from oil drilling, water pollution, wave energy development, habitat destruction or other human uses of the ocean other than fishing. Many believe that the real purpose of the initiative is to kick fishermen and Tribal members, the staunchest defenders of the ocean, off the water to clear a path to offshore oil drilling and ocean industrialization.

To learn more about the OAPF or make a much-needed contribution, contact UASC headquarters at (562) 494-9900 or visit online at