Monday, August 17, 2009

EDITORIAL: Compromise key to coast management

A delicate but necessary struggle over Neptune's bounty has been playing out near our beaches recently.

The third round of discussions over the state-mandated marine protection areas for the coastal region from Point Conception to the U.S.-Mexico border convened last week in Carlsbad. The process ---- which brings together the various stakeholders in the ocean's protection and use, including resource managers, the recreation and fishing industries and the general public ---- will set protections on specific regions with the advice of the best science available.

The discussion will result in three recommendations that will be forwarded to the State Fish and Game Commission for a final call on what restrictions apply where.

We believe everyone shares this common interest: We need to maintain healthy ecosystems in our sea and robust fisheries, particularly along our coasts. If we do so, each of the stakeholders can benefit.

The difficulty, of course, is in balancing competing interests: Commercial (a small but valuable piece of the local economy) and recreational fishers, surfers and beachgoers, environmental activists, boaters, scientists, governments and the general public each have disparate needs.

The axiomatic "tragedy of the commons" can too easily apply. Unchecked or unregulated use of a thing "owned" by everybody and accessible by everyone but without any corresponding obligation of care, can lead to the resource being quickly exploited, consumed and left barren.

That is the problem with the ocean's fisheries.

So how should this play out?

We want to see compromises that do not destroy any of the stakeholders, including commercial fishers.

For instance, we would like to see compromises in the designated areas that allow some habitats to be shared (we are mindful that as fisheries recover inside a protected area, the fishing is better off the edges of those areas, too).

We support Del Mar's desire to ensure that the sand pit off its beaches remains available for sand replenishment. Tourism is too important to this economy.

We also urge that a robust analysis and review process be implemented to assess whether a given habitat has recovered enough to allow broader use.

There is good news in good stewardship. Recent scientific reports signal that the world's fisheries are responding to measures to protect them, and the planet seems to be moving away from a total fisheries collapse.

That should comfort those watching and participating in this process ---- this good, hard work will have rewards.

Do you agree?

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