By Jack Innis / The Log
September 16, 2009
More than 100 San Diego-area fishing enthusiasts with several dozen trailerboats participated in a convoy Sept. 5 to protest proposed regulations that, depending on the plan that received final approval, could permanently prohibit recreational angling along area shorelines to 3 miles offshore and limit fishing in South San Diego Bay.
Sportfishing enthusiasts, many with their children in tow, formed a half-mile-long trailerboat procession that began at Mission Bay, traveled down Pacific Coast Highway to Laurel Street, looped through Harbor Island, proceeded to Shelter Island Drive and stopped briefly at the Shelter Island Launch Ramp. The convoy then returned to Mission Bay’s South Shores Launch Ramp after stopping briefly at Dana Landing Launch Ramp.
Similar trailerboat convoys were conducted in Los Angeles and Orange counties to protest draconian closures now under consideration by the state.
Bill Watson, San Diego resident and father of 6- and 9-year-old boys, rallied to keep these important nearshore fishing grounds open for future generations.
“I enjoy fishing and love teaching my kids how to fish,” said Watson, who owns a plumbing company. “It’s important to have public access and be able to take my kids to La Jolla. Fishing is good recreation. It’s good father and son time. Video games are okay, but fishing is something we can do outdoors together.”
California’s well-intended Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) of 1999, designed to “improve recreational, educational and study opportunities” by creating a network of controlled fishing areas along the coastline, has already permanently closed many prime fishing areas in Central and Northern California and now threatens fishing opportunities for 17 million residents of Southern California.
Many at the rally expressed their belief that the MLPA process has been taken over by a cadre of well-funded radical environmentalists.
“Extreme environmentalists want to take public access away from your ocean,” was the message printed on several 8-foot banners towed along the route.
The message refers to the fact that the state, even when fiscally healthy, did not have the resources to implement the MLPA. When California halted work on the MLPA in 2004 due to lack of funding, the Resource Legacy Foundation (privately funded by the environmental cause-supporting Packard Foundation) offered to pick up the tab. To date, the Packard Foundation has reportedly funneled nearly $20 million into the MLPA planning process in what some believe is an attempt to buy anti-fishing regulations.
One San Diego rally participant who requested anonymity said: “If you want to talk conservation, then let’s talk conservation. The fishing community has been deeply involved in conservation of species for years. We’ve supported white seabass growout pens for more than 20 years and that species has rebounded. But this?
“This MLPA process has been wrestled away from the government by a very powerful special interest group bent on the prohibition of fishing,” the rally participant claimed. “It’s quite obvious from some proposals by environmentalists to blanket the shoreline with closed areas that the radicals are focusing on fishermen, not fish.”
However, MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force chairman Don Benninghoven issued a statement earlier this year denying that those who are funding the process have more sway than those who are not funding the process:
“Recently, the MLPA Initiative has experienced strong criticism, which is to be expected in a significant, cutting-edge effort to provide for a more balanced use of our ocean,” Benninghoven said. “We are confident in our mission to hear and consider all perspectives as we move forward in Southern California, so that we can balance efforts to provide maximum ocean protection while limiting short-term economic impacts.”
The trailerboat rallies were held in advance of a two-day meeting in Los Angeles Sept. 9 and 10. The meeting is one of several that designed to distill three different closure area proposals into a single recommendation that will be passed on to the California Department of Fish and Game Commission for approval.
If approved, the closures will likely be in effect by the end of 2010.