La Jolla fishing area likely to be affected
September 26, 2009
Kenny Jeavons (left) and Peter Halmay arrived back in San Diego Bay after a day of harvesting sea urchins. (Nelvin C. Cepeda / Union-Tribune)
Online: For more details about the proposed marine protected areas, go to dfg.ca.gov/mlpa
Space set aside for protecting sea life on the Southern California coast would more than double under a trio of proposals for marine sanctuaries released to the public this week.
The three strategies would provide from 380 to 413 square miles of near-shore waters as safety zones for species — more than twice the current amount of 182 squares miles. Managers of the state-sponsored project posted maps, comments and related documents on the state Department of Fish and Game's Web site late Thursday.
“One proposal is minimal, one is maximum, and somewhere in the middle is the other one,” said Peter Halmay, an urchin fisherman based in Point Loma. “Now the (interest groups) are going to start tugging and pulling.”
The strategies differ dramatically in the specific areas where they would reduce or eliminate harvest, a point that will be central as the selection process winds toward conclusion next year.
Major local battlegrounds include the La Jolla coast, a rich fishing area that conservationists want to partly close. There also are major discrepancies in suggested rules for North County lagoons, the areas off Del Mar and Encinitas, the mouth of the Tijuana River and the Ocean Beach coast.
The blueprints are part of the Marine Life Protection Act, a 1999 state law to bolster marine conservation along California's 1,100-mile coastline.
It calls for redesigning offshore protected zones to rebuild stocks of fish and other sea life. It's been contentious from the start because various groups have stakes in virtually every square foot of Southern California's coastal waters.
The latest documents don't include a detailed economic analysis of potential effects on commercial and recreational fishermen. That is supposed to be completed by Oct. 6, when a group of scientific experts meets in Los Angeles to assess the three proposals.
Science team members will push the strategies to a statewide task force charged with helping select the best option. That panel gathers in Long Beach on Oct. 20-22 and will take public comments.
The preferred options will go to the California Fish and Game Commission, which is expected to adopt a final version next year.
The proposals are the result of roughly a year of research and negotiations by a “stakeholder group” that includes commercial fishermen, ecologists, government officials, recreational fishermen and others. In the latest round of map-making, they divided into three groups — one that tilted toward fishermen, one that favored conservationists and a third dubbed the “middle ground.”
The subcommittees outlined 40 to 52 marine protected areas, which include “no-take” reserves and areas that allow some forms of harvest.
There are currently 42 reserves that cover about 7.7 percent of the near-shore waters of Southern California.
In general, fishing groups support the fewest limits and conservationists want more restrictions.
“Marine protected areas act like ecological savings accounts,” said Kate Hanley, who represents San Diego Coastkeeper on the stakeholder group. “By investing in these accounts — if we put them in the right place and protect the right species — we are more likely to generate interest and provide for a sustainable future.”
Hanley said that from the start, her goal was to create the maximum ecological benefit at the lowest socioeconomic cost. “I am very proud to have been part of this process because I do think it's a legacy,” Hanley said.
Chuck Grosse, a recreational angler in Carlsbad, likes the map with the least restrictions because it gives “fishermen from Point Loma and Mission Bay basically direct access to their standard fishing grounds.”
He remains skeptical about the whole enterprise.
“It's misguided,” he said. “The money being spent on this process would be better spent solving other problems that affect fisheries, like (poor) water quality.”