The Marine Life Protection Act process is stirring things up in Southern California and all saltwater fishermen are wondering the same thing: Is this going to be the end of the world as we know it?
Short answer: Yes.
The areas swathed in red on the accompanying graphic are proposed "no-take" zones in a process that will play out over the next several months. (For a clearer image, click here.)
But before you sell your fishing equipment and vow to never buy another saltwater license, this map only represents a worst-case scenario. (Or, if you support of massive closures, it's a best-case scenario.)
When all is said and done, after more meetings and input from stake-holders, a different version will materialize with fewer red areas. But Southern California's billion-dollar fishing industry still will experience a severe hit.
Fishermen can count on extensive no-take areas at Catalina and San Clemente Islands; along the Palos Verdes Peninsula and off Malibu; and off south Orange County and parts of San Diego.
(The MLPA Initiative, which has already swept through Northern and Central California, has secured private funding to complete the mapping project for the Southern California region, but the state is broke and it remains unclear whether there will be enough long-term funding to fully implement the initiative.)
Those who aren't following the process are urged by sportfishing proponents to get involved by attending meetings and letting the right people know how important sportfishing is to them and their families. Then hope for the best.
-- Pete Thomas