An emergency teleconference call open to the public to discuss the possibility of imposing restrictions on fishing in California during the COVID-19 pandemic was ended abruptly Thursday morning due to call volume and technological challenges.
The California Fish & Game Commission's emergency meeting was scheduled to consider a proposal to grant the CDFW temporary authority to limit fishing in areas deemed necessary due to the coronavirus. "Because of overwhelming call volume, the call will be rescheduled," the agency said in a news release. The date of the re-scheduled meeting will be posted on the Commission’s website.
The 8:30 a.m. call attracted hundreds of callers, many of whom voiced their anger. That overwhelmed the call system as callers were urged to mute their lines, according to this report by the Sacramento Bee. Some members of the Commission board reportedly could not join the call.
Commission President Eric Sklar and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham made the following joint statement Thursday night:
"We are very appreciative of the passion we heard from those that 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."
The public can make comments for the record at firstname.lastname@example.org, the statement said.
Thursday’s chaos was apparently spurred on by the belief that the state was considering a statewide fishing ban, prompting a variety of cutting comments (listen to the audio) during the short time the call was live.
In the statement by Sklar and Bonham, the Commission says closing fishing statewide is not part of the emergency proposal:
"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. …
"Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission was set to discuss whether or not to temporarily grant authority to CDFW to decide whether to delay, restrict, or suspend sport or recreational fishing in order to prevent and mitigate public health risks that may arise when people travel for fishing trips or congregate while participating in available fishing opportunities. CDFW and the Commission have received requests from county representatives and local health authorities requesting delays to sport or recreational fish openers such as the Eastern Sierra trout opener scheduled for April 25, 2020."