Marine Life Protection Act could close Laguna Beach, Dana Point to fishing.
By ADAM TOWNSEND, The Orange County Register
September 5, 2009
Men and women involved in Orange County sportfishing gathered in front of Glenn's Tackle Shop in Costa Mesa on Saturday morning, writing slogans against the federal Marine Life Protection Act in soapy paint on the windows of their vehicles and preparing pamphlets and bumper stickers.
The protesters are all fisherman against, if not necessarily the act itself, its current plans for implementation in Southern California. They say official maps in the works now would make Laguna Beach, Dana Point and La Jolla down in San Diego County off-limits to sportfishing.
"Some people want to close Newport Harbor to the Dana Point breakwall," said Paul Romanowski, a diver and spear fisherman who organized the vehicle caravan from Costa Mesa to Dana Point in protest of the possible closures. "It would be closed to fishing only. If it were real environmental protection, you'd have us feeling different about it. There's no pollution, ground source pollution, no reef or kelp protection – you could still anchor in kelp beds. We don't have any protection against sewage fall."
Romanowski, as a diver, said he is passionately in favor of protecting oceans and marine life, but thinks closing the fisheries will kill the industry in Orange County and won't accomplish the goal of protecting marine life in a satisfactory way.
"If you want to talk about real conservation, we're on board," he said.
Sarah Sikich of Heal the Bay, and environmental group, is one of the stakeholders who has been participating in public meetings to hash out official maps to present to a panel selected by the California Fish and Game Commission. That panel will tweak the maps designating fishery closures for official approval by the commission itself in December.
The final round of public input sessions will be in Los Angeles this week.
Sikich said that port authorities, local governments, the tackle industry and sport fishermen have been involved in the Marine Life Protection Act's implementation process from the beginning.
"Instead of putting people behind closed doors to come up with these maps, we've done it openly," she said. "Fishermen have actually had a very strong say in this."
Sikich said that scientists have determined that protection areas have to encompass a minimum of nine miles of coastline and be spaced no more than 30 to 35 miles apart to do any good.
Southern California, she said, is the third region in which the federal Marine Life Protection Act is being put into effect in California – it was passed by Congress in the late 1990s.
She said in the two other coastal regions now in compliance with the act, only about 10 percent of the coastline ended up being closed to fishing.
But 10 percent of the coastline could end up being 75 to 100 percent of viable fisheries, said Wendy Tochihara, the national sales representative for Izorline, a tackle company.
"I'm really concerned because if we have big closures it's going to hurt the fishing industry and it's going to hurt my sales – I'm a single mom and I have two teenage daughters," she said.
Tochihara, who is also a meeting participant and was part of Saturday's caravan, said there were already many species-specific protections on the books and that the fisheries in California in general were already the most carefully managed in the country.
"Our fisheries are not depleted and not overfished – not anymore," she said.
Mike Proctor, 41, of Rancho Santa Margarita also came to join the caravan, which totaled about 15 to 20 people by the time it left Glenn's Tackle to hand out flyers in Dana Point Harbor.
"I'm just trying to get the word out," he said, helping his 3-year-old daughter untangle a balloon from her tiny, pink fishing pole. "I want to take my son out, and they want to take away our fishing rights. All I know what to do is come to meetings like this, and go to public meetings to make my voice heard."