Spurred by the comments of more than a dozen local fishers, the council voted unanimously Tuesday to take a position against the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative unless significant changes are made.
"This is an issue of great importance to our community," Mayor Mike Gin said. "There are socioeconomic impacts."
Passed by the Legislature in 1999, the act calls for the creation of a network of marine protected areas along the state's coastline. Since September, a group of 64 stakeholders has mapped out proposed boundaries for no-take zones in Southern California, the third of five coastal regions to undergo a public initiative process guided by state officials.
Over the course of dozens of meetings, the popular waters off the Palos Verdes Peninsula have become a flashpoint as environmentalists and fishers try to stake their claim to the rich marine life in the area, which is vital to fishing-related businesses centered around Redondo Beach's King Harbor.
"This is one of those things that's 10 years in the making and the train's ready to run away and there are no brakes," Councilman Pat Aust said. "I want to go on record saying we're against this until it's better vetted out."
The council called for marine protected areas to be subject to regular reviews - already mandated by the legislation - that would measure economic impact and habitat improvement. Eventually, the areas should be reopened to fishing, the council said.
The city's position, set to be documented in letters to state officials, included opposition to closures north of Point Vicente. That would keep open Rocky Point, an area of scarce hard-bottom habitat that environmental groups hope to protect even as fishers and divers are fighting to maintain access.
"We need to save north Rocky Point," Redondo Beach Marina manager Leslie Page told the council. "If we close north of Point (Vicente), we're in financial trouble. We really need to make a stand."
The council voted 5-0 in favor of taking a position critical of the initiative process, with Councilman Steve Aspel absent.
The vote came after Shelley Luce, executive director of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, sought to convince the council of the importance of protecting rocky habitat - and that no-take areas could benefit those who fish on their edges.
"This is really about sustaining fish population," Luce said. "The reason people want to fish in certain places is because there's good habitat and that habitat is usually rocky."
Luce, the only voice from the environmental community, asked for the council's backing of a resolution to support protection of some rocky areas of the Santa Monica Bay. Councilman Steve Diels said that would only come if the commission backed the city's ongoing battle to keep open the Seaside Lagoon.
"I'm not shy of playing politics," Diels said.
Officials from the state initiative responded Wednesday by defending their process, saying it was well grounded in science and a thorough analysis of the socioeconomic impacts. They noted that other cities have taken different positions; the Laguna Beach council voted in June to support a no-fishing zone for the city's entire seven-mile coastline.
Program Manager Melissa Miller-Henson said the initiative's guiding body - which will forward recommendations onto the California Fish and Game Commission for a final decision - had taken into account municipal concerns.
"I certainly cannot imagine that our Blue Ribbon Task Force would ever approve a protected area that would have a devastating impact on any one community," Miller-Henson said. "We not only look at the costs, we also look at the benefits. There are benefits and some of them will offset the costs."
The task force is set to meet in Santa Monica next week to weigh six map proposals from stakeholders and determine future steps.