Friday, February 27, 2009

KSBY-TV 3 NBC San Luis Obispo

Residents on Central Coast debate the Marine Life Protection Act

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Reported by: Melissa Mecija

Ocean conservation topped the agenda during a meeting regarding the California Marine Life Protection Act.

There are 47 marine protected areas in Southern California. The Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) requires California's system of marine protected areas to be redesigned. The MLPA Initiative is now studying an area from Point Concepcion in Santa Barbara County to the California/Mexico border.

There are more than 1,000 miles of California coast. Some of those marine protected areas would mean no fishing zones. Thursday, both sides debated about what is best for California.

California's beautiful coast is one of the state's claims to fame. The fishermen survive on the ocean. Sport fishers and free divers, like Iaon Pohlit, say the water is like their second home.

"It's part of our heritage in Santa Barbara," Pohlit said.

Pohlit is concerned about regulations which may limit his sport.

"They're looking to do 30 to 50 percent closure on the shore access here in Santa Barbara," Pohlit said. "It seems like the people with the most money in this situation have the loudest voice, so it's the little people that really count. It is the individual citizen that stands to lose the most in this situation."

For commercial fishermen like Jeff Massen, it is a balancing act-making sure their livelihood as well as ocean resources are not threatened.

"We're negotiating, we're discussing, we're free thinking and we're trying to develop the best possible habitat," Massen said.

On the other side, the task force with the MLPA says it is about survival of the ocean and the life in it.

"We want to rebuild sustainable fisheries so we can enjoy a healthy commercial and recreational fishing industry here in California," said Mike Chrisman, secretary for Natural Resources.

Although no decisions were made Thursday, Chrisman says this process is all about you.

"Shareholders and interested parties are a part of this process, have been from the beginning," Chrisman said.

This discussion is expected to last well into 2009.

All the meetings are public. The next session of the Blue Ribbon Task Force is in April.

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