Calif. fisheries commissioner urged to resign
The Central Coast Fisheries Conservation Coalition (CCFCC) is calling for the resignation of California Fish and Game Commissioner Michael Sutton due to a conflict of interest with his role as VP and founding director of the Center for the Future of the Oceans at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
The CCFCC said in a press release on Tuesday Sutton reportedly recused himself from a discussion on scientific collection permits in marine protected areas (MPAs) during a committee meeting on 16 February.
“It is obvious that the aquarium has a financial stake in any decision relating to scientific collection permits in MPAs,” said CCFCC Director Harold Davis. “We find it amazing that Sutton, who has admitted that he has a conflict of interest, believes he can continue to sit on the commission and make decisions that benefit his employer.”
According to the CCFCC, the aquarium benefits financially from being allowed to collect marine life in MPAs, areas designated by the commission and restricted or prohibited to fishing, since it charges the public to view the marine life it collects and displays.
In a 19 March letter to the commission, the CCFCC said, “It would be inconsistent and irrational for Commissioner Sutton to take the position that he must recuse himself from discussions and votes concerning scientific collection permits in MPAs but that he can vote to establish the very protected areas in which restraints are placed on the general public’s use while extraction for scientific purposes by his employer is allowed.”
Sutton was appointed to the commission in May 2007 and reappointed in March 2009 to a six-year term. Prior to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, he served as program officer for the conservation and science at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation from 1999 to 2004. Sutton is considered one of the fathers of the sustainable seafood movement.