Anglers will have to wait at least a year to compete in the Marina del Rey Halibut Derby.

Citing concerns with the health of Santa Monica Bay halibut, the Marina del Rey Anglers board of directors has announced that the annual Marina Halibut Derby has been put on a one-year hiatus for 2010.

“This is one of the most difficult decisions our board has ever made,” anglers group President Ken Raymond said. “After 35 years of successful MDR Halibut Derbies and months of painful discussion and soul searching, we have decided to take this action.

Incoming Marina del Rey Anglers president Josh Gerson added, “We want make sure our MDR Halibut Derby is good for our thousands of loyal participants as well as our beloved halibut. Our first obligation is to the Santa Monica Bay, the marine environment, our local halibut fishery and the communities we serve. We hope to be back in full force in 2011.”

Marina del Rey Anglers say they have hosted the Halibut Derby for tens of thousands of anglers over the years, and the money raised from the events has funded the group’s Youth Fishing Program, its White Seabass Pens in Marina del Rey and various other critical marine environmental and conservation programs.

Although the health and sustainability of halibut is good across the state, members of the club’s board of directors expressed concerns about the local Santa Monica Bay halibut and the health of Santa Monica Bay, including the Ballona Creek and associated wetlands.

“This past year we invited the top marine fishery scientists and other marine environmental scientists from various government and non-government agencies to address our club in our attempt to understand why the halibut may not be visiting our Santa Monica Bay in their historical numbers,” said Bob Godfrey, secretary and past president of the anglers board.

“We are going to keep looking at the question and for this coming year give our local Santa Monica Bay halibut a rest.”

Marina del Rey Anglers say they hope the downturn in halibut landings is a short-term cyclical issue and that the fish make a strong resurgence to allow for the derby next year.

Information, www.mdranglers.com/.

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