Saturday, 22 June 2024

Wiggins named chair of Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture

SACRAMENTO – State Sen. Patricia Wiggins has been named chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture.


Wiggins said she was honored to be named chair of the joint committee, which is charged with “protecting and enhancing fishery resources as well as consumers in an industry that continues to contribute to our state’s economy.”


“We’ll also oversee state and local activities related to fishing and aquaculture to address problems and ensure that those activities are in the best interest of industry and the public,” Wiggins noted.


In addition to chairing the joint committee, Wiggins has also introduced a measure – Senate Joint Resolution 4 – that would put the Legislature on record as supporting an effort in Congress to assist fishing communities, businesses, and individuals to mitigate the economic losses caused by declining Klamath River fall chinook salmon.


In brief, SJR 4 seeks to build support for legislation by Sen. Barbara Boxer and Congressman Mike Thompson to provide $60 million in relief for commercial fishermen and related industries due to the failure of the 2006 salmon fishing season.


Wiggins has also introduced a bill, SB 695, to help address the issue of understaffing of game warden positions at the state Department of Fish and Game. DFG has had difficulties recruiting and retaining game wardens, in part due to a disparity in pay compared to other law enforcement agencies. SB 695 would bring game wardens’ salaries to within 5 percent of those earned by California Highway Patrol officers.


Wiggins noted that DFG wardens are highly-trained law enforcement officers who perform a wide range of public safety and environmental protection duties throughout California and along the state's coast.


As such, they are on the front lines of protecting endangered, threatened, and critical species, and protecting species targeted by poachers – including deer, bear, crab, reptiles, sturgeon, abalone, and other species – as well as protecting California's land and water resources from dumping, pollution, and destruction.


Recent laws have added substantial new responsibilities for game wardens, yet at the same time warden vacancies are soaring. As of January warden ranks have plummeted and there are about 75 vacancies in a workforce of approximately 250.


“While California is a leader with respect to wildlife and natural resource laws, we have fallen far behind other states in our support for wardens,” Wiggins said. “California now has only one warden per 185,000, compared to one warden per 46,500 residents in Texas and one per 24,600 residents in Florida.


“Recent pay increases for wardens have been insufficient to ease the recruitment and retention crisis,” Wiggins adds. “I am convinced that we would go a long way towards solving this problem by compensating our wardens at levels comparable to those attained by other state law enforcement personnel.”


In addition to this position appointment, Wiggins also chairs the Senate Committee on Public Employment and Retirement and the Senate Select Committee on California’s Wine Industry.


Wiggins represents the state’s six-county 2nd Senate District, which includes Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Solano and Sonoma Counties. Visit her Web site at www.dist02.casen.govoffice.com.



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