Friday, March 6, 2009

San Diego Union-Tribune

Proposal offered is start for fishermen

March 2, 2009

It likely will be labeled the fishermen's proposal.

How much of it makes its way into the final preferred alternative presented to the Fish and Game Commission for the Southern California section of the Marine Life Protection Act later this year remains to be seen.

But for now, the fishermen's proposal is what it is. It's a start.

What else to call an external proposal for marine protected areas that is a result of meetings that brought together commercial and recreational fishermen. The Marine Life Protection Act of 1999, which calls for a network of marine protected areas along the California coast, did something no other issue ever accomplished.

It united and galvanized commercial and recreational fishermen for the fight of their fishing lives for the fishing grounds they cherish.

They call it FIN, the Fisermen's Information Network. FIN is all about collaboration, communication, togetherness among recreational and commercial fishermen.

They put aside their differences and fishing methods and hammered out and agreed upon a proposal. They brought in one of the scientists from the science advisory team to see if the proposal is science-worthy. It is. They played by all the rules of the tangled spider web that is the MLPA.

“I'm a recreational fisherman,” said computer whiz Joe Exline,a member of the Oceanside Anglers who will present the proposal to the Regional Stakeholder Group at its meeting tomorrow in Long Beach. “But I was there with a lot of other recreational fishermen in a room with a lot of commercial fishing interests. There was a time when these two groups threw chairs at each other. But this process has brought both sides together.”

It couldn't have happened at a better time, this FIN. The MLPA process for Southern California reaches a critical time with meetings tomorrow and Wednesday in Long Beach. Here's where it is:

Thus far, the members of the Regional Stakeholders Group – made up of commercial and recreational fishermen, representatives of Indian tribes, environmentalists, city and port officials and others – have been huddled in meetings, some of which have been contentious. They were split into three smaller factions that I'm told are a mix of preservationists (or environmentalists, moderate and extreme) and conservationists (fishermen who actually use and know the ocean). That explains the contentious part.

The preservationists want to draw their maps of marine protected areas and close off as much ocean as possible. The conservationists want to continue fishing in as many areas as possible.

Think of this process as a baseball game pitting two sides who genuinely don't like each other. Let's say it's a nine-inning game.

We're in the bottom of the third inning. Lots of baseball left.

By Wednesday, the Regional Stakeholders Group is expected to have arrived at its own six proposals for marine protected areas, two each, from the three segments of the group.

Two other external proposals are expected in addition to the fishermen's proposal, giving the group nine proposals from which to work. Around October, the Regional Stakeholder Group will be asked to arrive at three proposals to give to the blue ribbon task force, which will send it to the California Fish and Game Commission for approval.

Let's see how well received this fishermen's proposal is at the meetings.

FIN goes to bat and needs a home run.

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