Friday, September 11, 2009

Proposed sea areas to protect are mapped out

State law says no fishing to be allowed

By Zeke Barlow, Ventura County Star
September 11, 2009

After months of debate about the merits of setting aside parcels of the ocean versus allowing fishing to continue as-is, the process of establishing new marine protected areas got one step closer to completion Thursday when three maps were proposed as potential finalized blueprints for protecting the ocean.

From these three maps, one will likely be selected next month to be recommended to the California Fish and Game Commission, which will decide which to implement in about a year.

A new network of marine protected areas is mandated under the Marine Life Protection Act, a law that sets aside areas of the ocean to have varying levels of restrictions on fishing.

The idea is that in the areas where no fishing is allowed, fish will be able to thrive and help regenerate other populations outside the area.

The final three maps distinctly show the varying interests represented.

The map drawn up by conservationists puts more restrictions on the sea, and the one fishers put together permitted more uses throughout the area.

A third is a compromise of the two. The maps will be available for public viewing in a few weeks.

“Probably no one is going to get all they wanted, but no one is going to leave here unheard and with their fingerprints on the outcome,” said Greg Helms, program manager with the Ocean Conservancy.

Helms said the process will grant everyone in the state equal rights to the ocean, from scuba divers and environmentalists to fishers and communities whose economies rely on the sea.

“It’s important to understand that all Californians are co-owners of these resources, and the use of these resources is a privilege,” he said.

“We are creating a consensus right now in the ocean.”

But Joel Greenberg, chairman of the Southern California chapter of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, said the entire process of shutting fishers out of certain areas is to their disadvantage.

“If we win, we lose because we are giving up enormous amounts of valuable coastal areas that are important for recreation,” he said.

He argued the effects go beyond fishers to the communities that depend on fishing for revenue and tourism.

Bruce Steele has been fishing urchins off Santa Barbara for more than 30 years.

Although he said that the new regulations would likely force some people out of work, he also said he was OK with setting aside certain areas of the ocean for preservation.

“If there are some areas we don’t go in the world, that’s OK with me,” he said, adding that the fish populations in those areas will likely bounce back in large numbers.

But he said to put all the blame for the problems in the ocean solely on the shoulders of fishers is to forget all the impacts that everyone has on the ocean, including pollution, climate change and storm-water runoff.

“All humans are having effects on the ocean,” Steele said.

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