Bill would set fines for illegal fishing

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SAN DIEGO — A San Diego legislator introduced a bill Thursday that would authorize state Fish and Wildlife officers and lifeguards to issue tickets to people caught illegally fishing in Marine Protected Areas.

Offenses that occur in the protected areas — which encompass 16 percent of California’s shoreline, including parts of San Diego County — are misdemeanors, but overburdened prosecutors have not moved ahead on some cases, according to Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego.

AB 298 would lead to at least some punishment for violators, since tickets would result in fines, she said.

“Despite the best efforts of law enforcement, we’ve too often seen a lack of public resources lead to under-enforcement that encourages poachers to flaunt laws to protect the ocean environment,” Gonzalez said. “This legislation will give law enforcement an additional tool to hold poachers accountable and better protect California’s marine life and the health of the larger ocean ecosystem.”

Offenders would receive what’s akin to a traffic ticket, so prosecutors can focus on more serious cases, she said.