Friday, October 30, 2009

Blue whale's death incites local emotions, interest and research

By TONY REED, Fort Bragg Advocate-News
10/29/2009

The news that a 73-foot-long female blue whale had washed ashore Oct. 19 after colliding with a research vessel has resulted in dozens of calls, comments and emails to the newspaper office.

Comments vary from demands for a full investigation into the whale's death, to speculation about the ship's purpose and requests for directions to the whale's location. Online, news of the incident has circulated the globe, generating a lot of speculation, allegations and curiosity.

According to National Marine Fisheries Service reports, the crew of the Pacific Star reported that they had felt a shudder in the 78-foot vessel before spotting a surfacing whale nearby. Hours later, the whale drifted ashore south of Fort Bragg, still bleeding from wounds to its back. The Pacific Star is currently mapping the ocean floor to update the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's navigational maps. The information will also be available to the public and will be used for Marine Life Protection Act mandates.

Neighboring property owner Larry Wagner contacted media representative soon after the whale washed into a narrow cove. Wagner's whale photos have appeared on news websites around the world.

Humboldt State University researcher Thor Holmes brought a team to Fort Bragg soon afterward to collect samples, measurements and photos. He reported that the whale likely bled to death from two large cuts into its vertebrae about 25 feet from its fluke. He also said the female had recently given birth, and appeared to be in good health prior to the collision.

A time and place for research

"As a marine scientist I can appreciate the value of highly detailed bathymetric mapping, but I think the Pacific Star's research cruise is clearly ill-timed," College of the Redwoods Marine Science Professor Greg Grantham said in an email to the newspaper. "The Pacific Star is currently conducting research in the heart of the migratory corridors of both the blue whale and Humpback whale at the time of year (September and October) when they are commonly found here in their greatest numbers."

Joe Cordaro, a wildlife biologist at the National Marine Fisheries Service in Long Beach, had a somewhat different take on the question of migration and research areas.

"We do not know a lot about the blue whale's migratory path as opposed to the gray whale. We do know that blue whales migrate between Central America and California, Oregon, and Washington, and use the West Coast areas as feeding grounds," he said by email. "They start appearing in our waters in early summer and start heading south between September and December. But they do not migrate in an orderly fashion as do gray whales and they occur farther offshore than gray whales. To the best of my knowledge, the area where this whale was hit is not known to be a major congregating area for blue whales."

"Seismic surveys of this intensity are known to disorient whales, and there is credible scientific evidence that their hearing may be permanently damaged by close exposure to seismic survey devices," said Grantham. "Both of these species are protected by the Endangered Species Act and The Marine Mammal Protection Act, and at a minimum there should have been an observer onboard the Pacific Star to ensure that seismic surveying was halted when whales were sighted in the vicinity."

"It is important to emphasize that we were not performing a seismic survey, when this incident occurred. We were conducting a hydrographic survey, which is very different than a seismic survey," said James Hailstones, operations manager at Fugro Pelagos, the company NMFS contracted to do the mapping research. "The latter uses a high energy seismic source to penetrate the seafloor, while a hydrographic survey uses a low energy sound source (at a relatively high frequency) to measure the depth to the seafloor."

Grantham suggested that if no observers were present on the ship at the time, the crew was "clearly negligent."

When asked, Hailstones said a lookout was on duty at the time of the collision, and that commercial vessels always have one.

"Blue whales are not deep- or prolonged-divers like sperm whales, and if a blue whale was in the area an observer should have had ample opportunity to sight the individual," Grantham said. "A fundamental understanding of the behavior of this species should make it apparent that the disruption of their feeding and migration was inevitable."

What they were doing

Hailstones commented on the concern that sonar instruments may injure or disorient whales and dolphins. He said that while he is not a marine biologist, the vessel uses systems with similar power as many commercial fish finders, bottom detectors and echosounders.

"I can tell you the instrument we use is high frequency at 400 kilohertz," he said. "It's very low power, about the same as most vessel's depthfinders." Calling the Pacific Star's instruments, "off-the-shelf," Hailstones said they are very different from the Navy's higher-power sonar systems.

What happened

Hailstones described the incident by saying the vessel was moving in a straight line at 5.5 nautical miles per hour (6.5 miles per hour) in broad daylight when the crew felt "a shudder."

"We didn't hit it straight on," he said. "It surfaced under the stern."

He said the ship's hydrographic equipment also didn't detect any movement, because it's designed to survey the ocean floor in "a very narrow cone."

Moments later, the whale appeared at the stern, causing the vessel to stop and move a safe distance away, he said. After observing it for some time, the crew decided there was nothing they could do to help and carried on, Hailstones said.

"I can honestly say that, not only were the people on the vessel very distressed, but the office here and the management company tells us it's a very sad incident," he said. "We can't think of anything we could have done differently for a different outcome. This is a very, very sad incident."

Asked if mapping is restricted during migration seasons, Hailstones said, "We do have a standing order that if we see whale activity, everything stops, but there is nothing in place for migration areas."

"The scientific research is being conducted under a grant from the Hydrographic Survey Division of the National Ocean Service in partnership with the California Ocean Protection Council," said Cordaro. "No permit was issued as there was no expectation that the survey work would be a threat to large whales, as we have never before documented a ship strike between a hydrographic survey vessel and a large whale of any species."

Addressing a local rumor that the Pacific Star is a fishing vessel, Hailstones said it's currently serving as a platform for mapping. At the suggestion of a reader, Hailstones was asked if a cage could be built around ship's propellers.

"Anything is possible," he said, "but a cage would cut the propeller's power output tremendously."

Asked if the vessel was mapping for offshore oil drilling exploration, Hailstones chuckled.

"That's a complete negative," he said, noting that the equipment for locating oil is very different from surface-mapping hydrography and requires special permits. "To do that, you need geophysical equipment that maps the strata under the sea floor."

He said that anyone applying for permits to use geophysical instruments to locate oil would not be approved.

"It'll never happen," he said. "We've been collecting data for two years. We're not looking for anything."

The Pacific Star crew is made up of nine operating crewmembers and nine hydrographers.

The National Marine Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement in Santa Rosa is conducting an investigation into the circumstances regarding the incident and has not released any findings or determinations.

Fugro Pelagos performs hydrographic and airborne laser mapping services. More information about the firm can be found online at www.fugro-pelagos.com.

"We [NMFS] routinely partner with the U.S. Coast Guard to issue a Notice to Mariners to be aware of the presence of whales in areas where blue whales tend to congregate, such as in the Santa Barbara Channel. There are no immediate plans to issue a NTM in the Fort Bragg area or along the Mendocino coast," Cordaro said.

Property, onlooker issues

In the nearby Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens store on Oct. 23, employee Cynthia Lambie fielded dozens of questions from visitors wanting to know how to get to the whale. She repeatedly told them that it was bordered by private property and that it could not be seen from the Gardens, which are located south of Fort Bragg.

A letter to Chamber of Commerce members, Executive Director Debra De Graw wrote that, if asked, business operators should say "the whale is not accessible by foot to the public, as there are no public trails to this area."

"As you know, the Chamber has a great respect and appreciation for the whales that migrate and feed off our shores, and each year we celebrate the Gray Whale Migration through our Whale Festivals," DeGraw's letter to chamber members stated. "Our staff is saddened by the death of this gentle giant and hope that people will respect the fact that it is not accessible and let it rest in peace."

Southeast of the location on Ocean Drive, several motorists parked at the Belinda Point easement and trekked about a half-mile to the bluffs but found nothing. Several who passed this reporter asked for better directions to its location.

"We drove from Santa Rosa to see the whale," one woman said, after being told the area was surrounded by private property. She then approached a landscaping crew on Ocean Drive to ask the same questions.

Jerry and Wilma Zari own the house and property less than 200 feet from the whale's location, and have had to contact the Sheriff's Office repeatedly to deal with trespassers.

"We've had about a dozen calls," said Sheriff's Lt. Dennis Bushnell. "When our deputies get down there, they usually find more people arriving."

The property, along with several others, is accessible through a private gate at Schoeffer Lane and Ocean Drive. The steel gate can only be opened with a digital keypad. However, Zari said it didn't stop some people.

He said that two unnamed kids had set up a card table near the Belinda Point over the weekend and were selling maps to the whale's location.

"They were telling people that they could get to it through the gate, [and] if they waited, someone would open it," Zari said. "People pushed on the gate until they bent it. We've had flocks of people in here, it's just been a zoo."

Zari noted that neighboring property owners are concerned for people's safety, along with their own liability.

"It's a dangerous location," he said, noting that they have allowed some people on the property to conduct research, take photos, and film video for publication.

Asked if high ocean swells had moved the whale Friday, neighboring property owner Larry Wagner said he hoped it would wash out to sea.

"We really don't want it rotting in front of our house," he said by phone.

As of Tuesday Oct. 27, Humboldt State University students, locals and others had pulled the bloated whale onshore and began segmenting it and removing the parts.

According to City Manager Linda Ruffing, the group plans to bring the whale up the bluffs in segments so that it can be buried to allow microorganisms to clean to bones. The idea is that the skeleton will be reassembled for display locally.

Part three of this series will detail that effort and plans for the skeletal remains. In the interests of documenting the historic data, the newspaper has photographed and will publish images of the process some may find to be graphic in nature.

MLPA process worries locals

Timeline for public input questioned on eve of workshop

By Kurt Madar, Daily Triplicate
October 29, 2009

A change in the process for creating marine protected areas on the North Coast has opponents of additional protections feeling sidelined.

But representatives of the Marine Life Protection Act, the legislation responsible for crafting MPAs, claim the change was intended to al­low those same critics more ac­cess to the pro­cess.

The change pushes to the front end the opportunity for interested parties to create their own protection proposals.

The North Coast is the fourth of five regions where MPAs are being created. In the first three, the so-called external-proposal process was not started first, instead happening in conjunction with the rest of the process.

Part of the Marine Life Protection Act process is forming a Science Advisory Team (SAT) and a Regional Stakeholder Group, both of which will be responsible for developing a proposal for the location and types of MPAs along the North Coast.

Those MPAs could go so far as to impose no-take zones.

External proposals for potential MPAs are developed by individuals and groups outside of the SAT or stakeholder groups.

“We are starting the external process first, which we haven’t done before,” said MLPA Initiative Representative Annelore Reisewitz.
Responding to critics who said they were faced with premature deadlines for external proposals, North Coast legislators intervened, resulting in a postponement of the deadline from from December to Feb, 1, 2010.

Assembleyman Wesley Chesbro and state Sen. Patricia Wiggins said they were working to ensure that North Coast groups have enough time to provide input on the process.

The extension was announced by California Secretary for Natural Resources Mike Chrisman on Monday.

“I’ve had several conversations with Secretary Chrisman encouraging him to extend the process to give North Coast fishermen, conservation groups and tribes more time to prepare proposals,” Chesbro said. “I would have preferred a longer extension, but this is certainly an improvement.

“I remain concerned about the North Coast community having full input in this process.”

While MLPA officials tout starting the external process first as an effort to get local groups more involved than in previous study regions, those same local groups feel it actually works to marginalize their input.

“It seems unusual to require the external arrays to be submitted so early in the process,” said Crescent City Harbormaster Richard Young. “I think starting early in the process is good, but closing early is problematic because not all the info is available to all the players.”

“We need more info, we need to know the bottom topography, we need to know where people fish. The question is, how are people going to develop proposals without knowing what the constraints on the system are?”

As part of the MLPA process, the SAT advises the regional stakeholder group on what the requirements for size, distance and location of MPAs are.

Locals worry that without that information, any external proposals will be unacceptable.

Young also pointed out that crab season is fast approaching, and the need for fishermen to be out at sea makes it hard for them to participate in a process that directly affects their livelihood.

Local near-shore fishermen Kenyon Hensel, who has been intimately involved in the MLPA process, feels front-loading the external proposal process is an attempt to get it over with quicker, and not an effort to involve local interests.

“They just don’t seem to care,” Hensel said. “It’s a ploy to get this over as soon as possible. Once again it just shows that they care more about the southern part of the state than the North Coast.”

“External proposals have no effect on the final product,” Hensel said. “It is simply window-dressing to show that they care about public input.”

Three types of MPAs could be established on the North Coast.

The three levels of protection are primarily based on the severity of the take limit. From least restrictive to most, they include marine conservation areas, marine parks, and marine reserves (which would be no-take areas).

The MLPA Initiative is holding a workshop today from 4:30-8:30 p.m. at the Flynn Center in the Board of Supervisors Chamber, 981 H St.

The training workshop will cover development of the key components of possible external MPA proposals — including science and feasibility guidelines — and training in MarineMap, the MLPA Initiative’s online mapping tool.

MLPA Initiative officials not only announced the deadline extension for external proposals this week, they also released the names of those who will serve on the North Coast SAT.

The only member from Crescent City is Craig Strong of Crescent Coastal Research, a wildlife consulting business.

Strong could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The rest of the SAT hails from all along the West Coast, with members coming from other North Coast communities and as far away as Seattle and Santa Cruz.

Young, who had applied to be an SAT member, thinks it’s rather strange that only one person from Crescent City was chosen to be part of a group that will ultimately have a major effect on the area.

“I guess they could only find one qualified scientist in the entire community,” Young said sarcastically. “Maybe other folks didn’t come forward.”

California Department of Fish and Game Director Donald Koch feels that the appointees are eminently qualified.

“The scientists I have appointed to the advisory team are each uniquely qualified for this important task,” Koch said in a statement. “Their experience and expertise in marine resources conservation make them well-suited to provide accurate, insightful advice and will help ensure that all decisions made in the coming months will be firmly rooted in the best available science.”

The North Coast SAT’s first meeting will be Friday in Eureka. According to Reisewitz, it will be a joint meeting of the North and South Coast SATs.

“The combined meeting is so that the South Coast team can provide insight to the process for the newly formed North Coast SAT,” Reisewitz said.

More information and an agenda for the Friday meeting may be found at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/meetings_n.asp.

State lobster fishery in a pinch for help

By Ed Zieralski, San Diego Union-Tribune
October 30, 2009

If you're interested in the lobster fishery in California, the Department of Fish & Game has a deal for you.

Because of budget cutbacks and lack of funds, the DFG is looking for “resources and partners” to help develop a spiny lobster Fisheries Management Plan. The DFG considers the California spiny lobster to be a key species because it supports recreational (divers and hoop netters) and commercial fisheries in the state.

Any Fisheries Management Plan will integrate new marine-protected areas that are formed from the South Coast Region of the Marine Life Protection Act. The DFG doesn't have money to pay for that process, either, and has relied on funds from the environmental community to keep that blueprint up and running. Just like the marine protected area closures, any lobster plan would be voted on by the state's Fish and Game Commission.

The difference between the MLPA and the lobster plan is the DFG wants to maintain control and not let it get hijacked by environmentalists the way the MLPA process has.

“When it comes to the lobster Fisheries Management Plan, the DFG is into conservation, not preservation,” said Kristine Barsky, senior biologist in charge of developing the plan.

“We're interested in a sustainable resource that is available to all — recreational fishermen and commercial fishermen and to those who like to photograph it in its environment.”

Barsky said, thus far, the main organization that has stepped forward to help has been the Environmental Defense Fund. That should raise the pinchers of every lobster fisherman, be they recreational divers, hoop netters or commercial fishermen.

The California Lobster and Trap Fishermen's Association tried to get $300 added to their lobster permits to raise money for the Fisheries Management Plan, but after both houses of the state Legislature passed AB 571, the bill was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Barsky said diving groups have come forward with input and have pledged to help, but hoop netters have been missing in action.

“With hoop netters, it's not like we can go to one group and and say this is what we're doing,” Barsky said.

So, if you or your organization care to get involved with the DFG on the important matter of the lobster fishery, contact Kristine Barsky, senior biologist, 2419 Harbor Blvd., No. 149, Ventura, CA 93001 or kbarsky@dfg.ca.gov or call her at (805) 985-3114.

Third Division Bay District race a clash of enviro-titans – October 28, 2009

By Kevin L. Hoover, Arcata Eye
October 28, 2009

The hotly contested race for the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District Board pits two Arcatans with unassailable environmental credentials against each other, stressing longstanding friendships and laying bare generational divisions.

For Third Division voters, the race is a referendum on two very different philosophies for Humboldt Bay’s future.

Dan Hauser, former state assemblymember and Arcata city manager, is challenging incumbent environmental engineer Mike Wilson for the Bay District seat.

As anyone who’s kept up with current events knows, Hauser advocates for development of a shipping port on the bay, which would work with a restored rail line. Hauser contends that port/rail development can be done without compromise to the environment, and that restoration of the shipping infrastructure is the best bet for long-term job creation and retention. That platform has won him strong support from conservatives, labor and some business interests.

Wilson believes that environmental restoration and trail development are more stable underpinnings for long-term economic stability. He is skeptical of both the environmental and economic viability of any large-scale port/rail development. His emphasis on natural values has earned him the backing of most of the environmental community, alternative transportation advocates and many in the health care field.


Dan Hauser

Having followed Bay District business for years, Dan Hauser’s sense of duty has led him to interrupt his idyllic Arcata existence with a return to public service.

Once on the Bay District commission, Hauser said, he’d work with bay-neighboring communities to scope out opportunities for creation of living-wage jobs.
Vast, untapped potential is waiting to be exploited, Hauser said. “Our bay is one of the last possible resources for economic development in our area,” he said. “I see opportunities for coastal-dependent industries, shipping, safety and certainly the environment and natural values. It’s an extension of the restoration of the creation of the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary. That can be expanded greatly around the bay.”

Hauser thinks he’s the kind of environmentalist who the pro-development commission majority could work with. “I’ve had long experience with putting together coalitions of people with diverse backgrounds and interests,” he said.

“Getting people to work together rather than against each other, especially in Sacramento.”

Hauser isn’t willing to take a back seat to Wilson in trail advocacy. But he thinks the idea of co-locating rail and a trail on U.S. Highway 101’s west side is impractical for both. “You’d have to fill wetlands, and that’s something that’s extremely difficult and inappropriate to do,” he said.

He’d flop the trail over to the spacious east side of 101. “The east side has much more opportunities for a transportation trail, but helping people access the vast amount of territory we’ve purchased for wildlife habitat and wildlife viewing opportunities along that east side,” he said.

The trail route would take a left turn where Janes Creek meets Samoa Boulevard, and utilize the improvements to that street as part of the long-planned Gateway Project. It would pass over the freeway bridge, which is slated for sidewalk widening, then head south through City- and Caltrans-owned lands, and continue to Eureka.

Hauser wants to hold the proposed Redwood Marine Terminal up for critical analysis, while being mindful of the economic potential of a “scaled-down” version. “In the same way that we just improved the airport, I think we can include the shipping opportunities on Humboldt Bay.”

He doesn’t foresee the Bay District being able to use much of the excess water capacity suddenly available from the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District. “That’s going to be a very difficult thing,” he said, and aquaculture – farming of marine life – creates limited demand. “Ninety-nine percent of the aquaculture opportunities use salt water, not fresh water. I don’t believe we’re going to be raising trout or catfish, and those would be the only real fresh water opportunities.”

He does believe saltwater aquaculture should be pursued, but is clearly more enthused about brawnier industries.

Short-sea shipping, he said, is a “great idea as a start towards long-term shipping.”
The Marine Life Protection Act is heavily flawed in several ways, Hauser said. Besides lacking enforcement provisions and buy-in from user groups, “I really don’t like to see something like this being pushed by a private organization with state backing,” he said. He predicts possible blocking by court action until the MLPA can be revised to improve community participation.

Hauser says he’ll capitalize on his contacts with influential state and federal policymakers to maximize Humboldt Bay’s economic and environmental potential. “I have a tremendous number of contacts in Sacramento and in Washington,” he said. These include “the various agencies as well as legislators that I believe can help us on the North Coast.”

His decades of experience on issues now relevant to the bay will well-serve the district, he said. Co-creation of the Marsh and Arcata’s successful Aldergrove Industrial Park are only part of the story. Largely forgotten is Hauser’s key role in preventing development of Bayside’s bottomlands via the ATOPAK development in the 1970s. That would have consisted of a Holiday Inn, mobile home park, shopping center and apartments.

He thinks his opponent’s emphasis on development of light industry is laudable, but beyond the scope of the Bay District’s charter. “The Harbor District has certain tools and cities and counties have certain tools,” he said. “Development of light industry, non harbor-related, is something that we took advantage of in creating Aldergrove Industrial Park. But the Harbor District can’t do zoning. It doesn’t have a redevelopment agency.”

It can, he said, work to assist neighboring communities, but not to the extent advertised by Wilson. “The Harbor District has to use the tools that it has,” he said.
Hauser holds that industrialization of the bay can be accomplished without imperiling sensitive ecosystems by enforcement of protective regulations to prevent introduction of non-native species which he helped create as a state assemblymember.

“Those are already in state law, in fact I was instrumental in getting that into state and federal law, that you can no longer dump bilge water in the enclosed bays of any of our western ports,” he said. Invasive species aren’t only introduced by shipping, he noted, and he’s all for aggressive prevention and eradication strategies.

He's stoic aboutsome of his longtime associats, such as Jim Test, Alex Stillman and others having endorsed Wilson. "Some were a surprise, some weren't," he said, not naming names. He doesn't want to discuss specifics so as not to complicate ongoing relationships.

All in all, Hauser thinks that between his clarity of vision, track record and legislative skills, he’s the prime choice for the job. “I believe I have an obligation to use my experience, contacts and expertise to improve job opportunities, economic development and the environment of the bay region,” he said.


Mike Wilson

His first four years as a bay commissioner are just a start, according to Mike Wilson. Asked about his accomplishments over the past four years, his first response has to do with broadening the scope of economic development via the district’s Economic Development Committee. That body’s focus is encouraging existing business and infrastructure around the bay.

That includes short-sea shipping, with the bay district administering a regional program executed by Humboldt Maritime Logistics, LLC. The existing Schneider Dock could handle the business, which might infuse $20 million a year into the district for further infrastructure development.

That scale of shipping, using barges, is do-able, Wilson says, as opposed to the much grander Redwood Marine Terminal the district’s pro-development majority has approved. While he’s on the committee to review consultants for an EIR, “we don’t have any money to do the study and there’s no customers identified for it,” Wilson said. “I would say it’s very tenuous.” He regrets that the district hasn’t expanded its investigation into uses of the terminal site for genuinely sustainable and productive enterprises such as light manufacturing, aquaculture or a business park.

Aquaculture is poised to grow on the bay, with good-paying, low-impact jobs. “That’s where I would focus my energies,” Wilson said, “on things we do well and can do better.”

Unfortunately, the opportunity presented by the 60 million gallons of fresh water per day that the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District has to find a use for is not one the Bay District can readily capitalize on. “There’s not a lot of industries that use that much water,” he said.

Wilson becomes animated when discussing progress on establishing the Humboldt Bay Trail. The multi-group task force’s work has already jiggled loose grant funding for the Arcata section, and Wilson is eager to move forward with the extension to Bracut.

Plans for water trails are moving forward as well, with a new dock to be installed at the Marsh. Studies of the bay’s tide gates will both help protect sensitive areas during oil spills and prioritize the gates for upgrades, improving fish passage. “We can re-connect the bay to the watersheds and expand wetland and estuary restoration,” Wilson said. “That provides more employment as well as natural resources.”

Apart from specific projects, Wilson is proud to have shaken up the district’s insular culture. “I’ve worked hard to bring more transparency to the district,” he said. “We know more about the functions of the district than we did in the four years prior and even the 30 years prior.”

Fiscal responsibility is still lacking, he said. “The direction the district has been going in has cost the public a lot of money and has produced relatively little,” he said. The vaunted rail and container-port favored by the board’s majority is a dead end, Wilson believes, and will collapse of its own preposterousness sooner or later, he believes, and he’d like it to be sooner.

“We don’t have a budget that will last more than a few years if we continue down this track,” he said. “That’s the reality.”

He thinks the Bay District commission has been so focused on the mammoth port/rail dream that it has failed to deliver on smaller, more attainable features that would genuinely serve bay residents. “They forget that ultimately, we need to provide services for the communities that pay for us.”

Because of the lack of realistic direction, big budget cuts loom, and a major refocusing ought to be undertaken. “The realities are going to necessitate a different plan,” he said.

He’d like to repurpose the Maritime Commerce Director position toward cultivating grassroots economic development. “We need to build the businesses around the bay that will necessitate shipping, not the ‘build it and they’ll come model,’ which hasn’t worked.”
On the environmental side, Wilson doesn’t think the district is doing enough to plan for climate change and sea level rise. The community, he says, has outpaced the district in awareness of the coming challenge, and he’d like to tap into that.

Repairing dilapidated levees may be a waste of resources. “We have to ask ourselves, ‘Is this really a good strategy for the long term, and should we be considering a retreat strategy for sea level rise?’”

But therein lies opportunity, too, as near-bay landowners might cultivate peat to lock up carbon, then sell the credits. It’s just one idea. But the real bonanza, he said, will be the multi-modal trail, which scores as practical infrastructure and a huge quality-of-life factor in attracting and retaining new business.

He thinks the Marine Life Protection Act can work as long as it’s based on science and has buy-in from fishermen and others who derive their livelihood from the ocean.

The 3–2 split on controversial items, with him and Pat Higgins in the minority, might change pending the results of the Fourth Division race. Nonetheless, he sees the commission majority reluctantly migrating closer to his view of bay development out of practical necessity. “All three of them are more open to a new direction than my opponent is,” he said. “I think we’re going to see a shift.”

While Wilson respects Hauser’s accomplishments, he sees them as part of the past and thinks his skill set and vision reflects the future. And he doesn’t feel outgunned by Hauser’s Sacramento connections. “I believe that my experience is more relevant because of the time frame,” he said. “It’s current. I’ve worked with all of the funding agencies, all of the regulatory agencies and all of state agencies that have brought tens of millions of dollars into this community,” he said. “They’re peers of mine.

The question is, ‘What’s the relevant experience?’”

Panel delays habitat decision

Task force to gather more data on coastal areas

By Dave Schwab, La Jolla Light
October 28, 2009

Saying it didn't have enough information to pick one of three proposals for marine protected areas along the Southern California coast, a state panel will gather more data before making a decision on Nov. 10.

After a year of public inquiry and three days of testimony, the five-member Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force on Oct. 22 requested further scientific analysis of habitat maps for coastal areas including La Jolla, Del Mar, Solana Beach and other areas in San Diego County.

The panel, an advisory group appointed by the governor which met in Long Beach, had been expected to choose a preferred alternative from three offered that would establish protected areas along Southern California's coastline from Santa Barbara to Mexico. All three choices, to varying degrees, would create marine protected areas, making them off-limits to fishing.

Their recommendation ultimately will go to the state Fish and Game Commission.

Joe Exline of Oceanside Anglers Club represented San Diego fishing interests at the meeting, said task force members are mixing and matching, selectively choosing components from all three plans to come up with an integrated preferred alternative that strikes a balance between ocean conservation and fishing interests.

"They are in the middle of negotiations and discussions on how to come up with that," he said.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography research scientist Ed Parnell feels its important the ocean habitat in south La Jolla, which would be preserved in proposals 1 and 3 but not in Proposal 2 favored by fishermen, be protected. "South La Jolla has the best habitat, that's where you get more conservation bang for your buck protecting ground fish species that really need it," he said. "If you're going to set aside a network of marine reserves, you have to protect habitat for these animals."

Seal advocate and civil engineer Katheryn Rhodes hopes the MLPA panel enacts Proposal 3 because it straightens the boundaries of La Jolla Cove Underwater Reserve creating a nearly 90-degree angle from La Jolla Point north and east to Scripps Pier making buoys marking the preserve "less confusing."

Chairwoman Catherine Reheis-Boyd noted the difficulty of her blue-ribbon group's task at last week's MLPA hearing.

"We've got three really good proposals," she said. "We know what the law is: But we also understand the human side of this: You've got people's livelihoods at stake."

"What we have here is a very substantial economic effect on a lot of people," agreed task force member Gregory Schem. "Balance is what we're really seeking to achieve here."

Task force member Meg Caldwell noted it is incumbent for the group to "move forward with marine protected areas that can be managed and enforced."

The Marine Life Protection Act was signed into law in 1999 to establish a series of underwater parks along the California coastline for the protection of sea life. For more than a year, environmentalists, fishermen and other ocean users have debated how to enact the MLPA in Southern California from Point Conception to the U.S.-Mexico border including La Jolla and its high-profile kelp beds.

The three options before the task force:

Proposal 1 would put three miles of Del Mar's shoreline, the San Dieguito and San Elijo lagoons in a Marine Protected Area, meaning there would be no fishing or taking of marine habitat allowed.

Proposal 2 keeps fishing open in La Jolla - with the exception of La Jolla Cove - with protected areas off parts of Point Loma and including most of Del Mar and the San Dieguito Lagoon. This has the support of commercial fishing interests and recreational anglers.

Proposal 3 would have a protected area from Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach to Neptune Park in WindanSea and from La Jolla Cove to Scripps Pier extending three miles out into the Pacific Ocean. It would shift the protected region to an area north of Del Mar. Seal proponents and Coastkeeper are asking that the Children's Pool be included.

A major point of contention among stakeholders centers on the question of just how badly depleted California fish species really are.

Environmentalists insist many fish stocks are dangerously low and want as much San Diego coastline protected as possible to replenish populations. Commercial and recreational fishermen dispute that interpretation, arguing the status quo on fish species populations isn't nearly that bad, and that there are other equally important considerations; namely the economic livelihoods of commercial fishermen and the public's right to ocean access.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

MLPAs back on agenda

Marine life meeting slated for Thursday, October 29

By Kurt Madar, The Daily Triplicate
October 27, 2009

The process for creating marine protected areas along the North Coast will once again be discussed in Crescent City on Thursday.

The Marine Life Protection Act Initiative is holding three open house workshops this week, one of them here.

The MLPA process designs marine protected areas along the California coast.

The North Coast is the fourth region in California to go through the MLPA process.

Due to a significant amount of interest from local groups, the MLPA Initiative has extended the deadline for external proposals, officials an­nounced last week.

Part of the pro­cess is forming a Scientific Advisory Team (SAT) and Regional Stake­hol­der Group, both of which will be res­ponsible for dev­el­op­ing a proposal as to where marine protected areas (MPAs) should be placed.

If You Go

■ WHAT: Marine Life Protection Act Initiative open house/workshop

■ WHEN: Thursday October 29, 4:30-8:30 p.m.

■ WHERE: Board of Supervisors Chamber, Flynn Center, 981 H St., Crescent City

“After the open house where people will be able to ask questions; there will be a workshop,” said MLPA Initiative representative Annelore Reisewitz. “The workshop will provide training for individuals and groups interested in developing external proposals.”

The training workshop will cover development of the key components of possible external MPA proposals — including science and feasibility guidelines — and training in MarineMap, the MLPA Initiative’s online mapping tool.
External proposals would be developed by individuals and groups outside of the SAT or stakeholder group.

“The extension of the deadline till February 1, 2010, is completely new for this study region,” Reisewitz said. “We are starting the external process first, which we haven’t done before.”

Three types of MPAs could be established on the North Coast.

The three levels of protection are primarily based on the severity of the take limit. From least restrictive to most, they include marine conservation areas, marine parks, and marine reserves (which would be no-take areas).

All three of the open-house workshop meetings run from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. in three different locations along the North Coast study region.

The local meeting will be at the Board of Supervisors Chamber in the Flynn Center, 981 H St.

A Fort Bragg meeting will be held Tuesday and a Eureka meeting is Wednesday at the Red Lion Inn, 1929 Fourth St.

In response to the ongoing MLPA Initiative process, local near-shore fishermen had a well-attended fish feed at the fairgrounds Sunday to raise money.

The event was a fundraising effort to raise money for retaining a lawyer to ensure that local near-shore fishermen are adequately represented in the MLPA process.

“I’m really happy with the turnout,” said organizer and local fishermen Kenyon Hensel. “It’s good to see so much community support.”

Fish and Game announces MLPA science panel

The Times-Standard
10/28/2009

California Department of Fish and Game Director Donald Koch has announced a panel of science advisors to help develop marine protected areas along the North Coast.

The Marine Life Protection Act Master Plan Science Advisory Team will provide scientific support for the MLPA Initiative, Koch said in a statement.

”The scientists I have appointed to the advisory team are each uniquely qualified for this important task,” Koch said. “Their experience and expertise in marine resources conservation make them well-suited to provide accurate, insightful advice and will help ensure that all decisions made in the coming months will be firmly rooted in the best available science.”

The MLPA aims to protect different habitats along the California coast, such as rocky areas and kelp forests, as well as the species that live in them. The areas, which limit or eliminate fishing and other activities, are expected to work as a network.

The appointed members of the SAT include:

*Larry Allen, California State University Northridge, Department of Biology (Terminal Island);

*Eric Bjorkstedt, National Marine Fisheries Service (Trinidad);

*Mark Carr, University of California, Santa Cruz, Long Marine Lab (Santa Cruz);

*Chris Costello, Bren School of Environmental Science and Management (Santa Barbara);

*Kevin Fleming, California Department of Parks and Recreation, Natural Resources Division (Sacramento);

*Steve Gaines, Marine Science Institute (Santa Barbara);

*Dominic Gregorio, State Water Resources Control Board (Sacramento);

*Dawn Goley, Humboldt State University, Marine Mammal Education and Research Program (Arcata);

*David Hankin, Humboldt State University, Fisheries Biology Department (Arcata);

*John Largier, University of California, Davis, Bodega Marine Laboratory (Bodega Bay);

*Ron LeValley, Mad River Biologists (Eureka);

*Phillip Levin, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Fisheries (Seattle, Wash.);

*Steven Morgan, University of California, Davis, Bodega Marine Laboratory (Bodega Bay);

*Steven Murray, California State University Fullerton, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (Fullerton);

*Karina Nielsen, Sonoma State University, Department Of Biology (Rohnert Park);

*Peter Raimondi, University of California, Santa Cruz, Long Marine Lab (Santa Cruz);

*Steven Rumrill, South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (Charleston, Ore.);

*Astrid Scholz, Ecotrust, Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center (Portland, Ore.);

*Craig Strong, Crescent Coastal Research (Crescent City);

*Stephen Wertz, California Department of Fish and Game (Los Alamitos); and

*Will White, University of California, Davis, Bodega Marine Laboratory (Bodega Bay).

The science team's first meeting -- a joint meeting of the North Coast and South Coast teams -- will be on Oct. 30 in Eureka. More information and an agenda may be found at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/meetings_n.asp.

Science team members provide scientific advice to a regional stakeholder group on issues like where, and how large marine protect areas should be. The team members will also work closely with the stakeholder group to guide development of draft proposals.

Monday, October 26, 2009

ABC Ch. 7 in LA Features Long Beach MLPA Rally, CFC

video

NOAA Contract Boat Kills Blue Whale Off Fort Bragg

By Dan Bacher, IndyBay
October 24, 2009

Environmentalists and fishermen on California’s North Coast are calling for an independent investigation into the killing of an endangered blue whale off Fort Bragg by a mapping survey boat contracted by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The 72-foot female blue whale, a new mother, perished on Monday, October 19, after being hit by the 78-foot Pacific Star, under contract to NOAA to update maps of the ocean floor

Jim Milbury, spokesman for NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service, said the boat was doing multi-beam echo sounder surveys to update marine charts and to determine the habitat to be used in state and federal marine protected area designations.

“We know that the whale’s death was caused by the collision with the boat because the boat crew called us to report the collision,” said Milbury. “After the collision, the dead whale washed up on the beach off Fort Bragg.”

Multibeam echo sounders (MBES), like other sonar systems, transmit sound energy and analyze the return signal (echo) that has bounced off the seafloor or other objects, according to NOAA's Office of Coast Survey. Multibeam sonars emit sound waves from directly beneath a ship's hull to produce fan-shaped coverage of the seafloor.

Collisions with boats are relatively infrequent, but the Fort Bragg blue whale was the second to perish from a collision with a boat this fall and the fifth to die off the California coast this fall. On October 12, a 50-foot blue whale was found floating in a kelp bed off Big Sur along the Monterey County coast after an undetermined vessel hit it.

Three other whales washed up on southern California beaches in September. As biologists investigate the deaths, ocean advocates blame the U.S. Navy for conducting tests of high-powered sonar devices believed to cause unbearable pain to whales and other ocean mammals.

The National Geographic and other media outlets gushed that the Fort Bragg blue whale’s death provided a unique opportunity for scientists to study a whale.

“Though unable to move the blue whale, scientists and students are leaping at the research opportunity, scrambling down rock faces to take tissue samples and eventually one of the 11-foot-long (3.5-meter-long) flippers,” according to “Blue Whale Beached – Flipper to Be Amputated by Ted Chamberlain (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/10/091022-blue-whale-washed-ashore-picture-california.html).

However, fishermen, environmentalists and seaweed harvesters are outraged that the vessel, conducting surveys designed to designate habitat to be included in no-fishing zones that will kick Indian Tribes, fishermen and seaweed harvesters off their traditional areas, was negligent in trying to avoid a collision with the whale. Many believe that the sonar beams coming from the boat may have disoriented the whale, causing it to collide with the boat.

Beth Mitchell, Fort Bragg resident and the FERC coordinator of Fishermen Interested in Safe Hydrokinetics (FISH), said the recent collision by the NOAA contract boat was “almost unbelievable to me.”

“The whale was essentially the same size as the boat,” she stated. “Whales are pretty easy to see when you're out on the water, and even much smaller ones are easily seen. This one was huge.”

Blue whales are the largest mammals on Earth and possibly the largest animals ever, according to the American Cetacean Society Web site, http://www.acsonline.org.

Fearing the endangered animals could soon become extinct, the International Whaling Commission banned all hunting of blue whales in 1966. There are now an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 blue whales in the Northern Hemisphere. The longest known blue whale measured 106 feet long and 200 tons. Whales are an average life span of 80 to 90 years.

David Gurney, in his article on the Ocean Protection Coalition website (http://www.oceanprotection.org), demanded a full and independent investigation of the incident.

“Only the captain and crew of the Pacific Star know the truth of what they were doing out there that day,” said Gurney. “But according to Joe Cordaro of NOAA, the chartered vessel for the MLPA will be investigated by the Enforcement Division of, you guessed it, NOAA. Unless the public demands a full inquiry and investigation, we may never know.”

Local environmentalists and fishermen have decided to name the dead whale "Jane" after Jane Lubchenko, the NOAA administrator who is running the federal fishery “management” scheme that resulted in the whale's death.

“The NOAA vessel was mapping both federal and state waters, and part of that data will be used in the MLPA process,” said Jim Martin, West Coast Regional Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance. “I guarantee you she wants to have a federal MPA process to close large chunks of the ocean out to 200 miles. The state MLPA process is just the beginning.”

The RFA, Ocean Protection Coalition and other conservation groups have asked for a suspension of Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's fast-track MLPA process, due to lack of dedicated funding, numerous conflicts of interests by MLPA decision makers and the lack of clarity about what type of activities are allowed in reserves. This tragic incident only highlights the urgent need to suspend the corrupt and out-of-control MLPA corporate greenwashing process that is opposed by the vast majority of North Coast residents.

“How many blue whales must be killed in the name of so-called ‘ocean protection,’” asked Martin. “How many of these beautiful and magnificent animals must be sacrificed at the altar of corporate-funded marine 'protection'?”

Martin emphasized, “The whale is a metaphor for North Coast communities who have been run over by NOAA, an agency on auto pilot. The Department of Fish and Game is riding their coattails using this habitat data in the MLPA process.”

Among the communities of the North Coast dramatically impacted by the corrupt MLPA process is the Kashia Pomo Tribe, who have sustainably harvested seaweed, mussels and abalone off Stewarts Point for centuries. However, the California Fish and Game Commission in August, under orders from Governor Arnold Schwarzeneger, banned the Kashia Tribe, seaweed harvesters, fishermen and abalone divers from their traditional harvesting areas in Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

As Lester Pinola, past chairman of the Kashia Rancheria, said in a public hearing prior to the Commission August 5 vote, “What you are doing to us is taking the food out of our mouths. When the first settlers came to the coast, they didn’t how to feed themselves. Our people showed them how to eat out of the ocean. In my opinion, this was a big mistake.”

Everybody who cares about the health of our oceans and coastal communities should support a full, independent and impartial investigation of the killing of "Jane " the whale by a NOAA contract boat. At the same time, the MLPA process, rife with conflict of interests, mission creep and corruption of the democratic process, should be immediately suspended.

"How ironic it is that a rare blue whale was killed by the people who say they want to 'protect marine life,'" concluded Martin.

Enviros, Fishermen Force Governor to Extend MLPA North Coast Process


By Dan Bacher, IndyBay
October 24, 2009

Secretary for Natural Resources Mike Chrisman (right), under intense pressure from a broad coalition of environmentalists, fishermen, seaweed harvesters and Indian Tribes, said Friday the MLPA Initiative will extend the local proposal deadline for marine protected areas on the north coast.

Local groups will now have until February 1, 2010 to submit “external arrays,” or alternative proposals under the Marine Life Protection Act’s north coast process.

“While MLPA is a state law and the Schwarzenegger administration is committed to its implementation, it is also critically important that we have broad local participation,” said Mike Chrisman. “Granting an extension will afford local folks more time to prepare their proposals.” He added, “I would especially like to thank Assemblymember Wes Chesbro for the many constructive conversations we’ve had to help make this happen for his constituents.”

Chrisman said that MLPA Initiative Executive Director Ken Wiseman worked with Assemblymember Chesbro (D-North Coast) and Senator Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) to help determine the specific length of the extension.

He also said "It will address the needs of north coast interests and still meet the objectives of the memorandum of understanding that guides the MLPA Initiative."

Chrisman said California is taking a "regional approach" to redesigning MPAs along its 1,100 mile coastline, and has divided the state into five study regions; the MLPA North Coast Study Region extends from the California border with Oregon to Alder Creek near Point Arena in Mendocino County.

Environmentalists, fishermen and Indian Tribes have lambasted the fast-track MLPA process of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for being rife with conflict of interest, mission creep, racism and corruption of the Democratic process, as well as having no basis in sound science. Assemblyman Chesbro and Senator Wiggins deserve a big round of applause for pressuring the Governor to get this extension.

The Natural Resources Agency claims that the MLPA process "requires that the best readily available science be used in the redesign process, as well as the advice and assistance of scientists, resource managers, experts, stakeholders and members of the public."

However, the "best available science" has NOT been used in the process. A groundbreaking study published in the July 31 issue of Science magazine reveals that the California Current ecosystem has the lowest fishery exploitation rate of any place in the world examined by co-authors Ray Hilborn and Boris Worm and 19 other scientists.

“The drastic reductions in harvest in California have been designed to rebuild the overexploited rockfish stocks,” said Hilborn. “At present the community of groundfish is now at about 60% of its unfished biomass, far above the 30-40% level target for maximum sustained yield.”

In light of the latest scientific findings, Hilborn questions whether the widely-criticized MLPA process has much value, in light of the creation of massive no fishing zones along the entire continental shelf of California through the Pacific Fishery Management Council process and the most stringent fishing regulations of any place on the planet.

“Much of the motivation for the MLPA was concern about the state of the groundfish stocks - there is clear evidence that these can be rebuilt without MPAs resulting from the MLPA that have only recently begun to be implemented,” Hilborn said. “The benefits of the MPAs established under the MLPA will be primarily to have some areas of high abundance of species with limited mobility.”

Dr. Hilborn, a professor at the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington, and the other authors of "Rebuilding Global Fisheries" say that efforts made to reduce overfishing are succeeding in five of ten large marine ecosystems studied, including those in California, New Zealand and Iceland. Their study puts into perspective recent reports predicting a “total collapse” of global fisheries within 40 years.

The conclusions by the 21 international scientists with widely divergent views effectively counter the spurious arguments by Governor Arnold Schwarzengger and Chrisman for the urgent “need” to fast-track the controversial MLPA process because of the “dire condition” that rockfish, lingcod and other groundfish stocks are supposedly in along the California coast.

The temporary delay in the North Coast process is an important victory against Schwarzenegger, Chrisman, the Resource Legacy Foundation that funds the MLPA process, and their corporate environmentalist collaborators. Now that the momentum against the MLPA process is building, it is important for everybody to put pressure upon their legislators to indefinitely suspend the $35 million dollar process at a time that the state doesn't have enough game wardens to patrol the existing marine reserves on the Central Coast.

MLPA proposal deadline extended six weeks

The Times-Standard
10/24/2009

State Secretary of Natural Resources Mike Chrisman announced Friday that the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative will extend the deadline to submit proposals for North Coast marine protected areas.

After hearing concerns about the tight timeline from local officials and state legislators, Chrisman said the earlier deadline of Dec. 15 is being pushed forward to Feb. 1.

Chrisman said that MLPA Initiative Executive Director Ken Wiseman worked with Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata, and Sen. Patricia Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, to determine the length of the extension.

”While MLPA is a state law and the Schwarzenegger administration is committed to its implementation, it is also critically important that we have broad local participation,” Chrisman said in a statement. “Granting an extension will afford local folks more time to prepare their proposals.”

The Marine Life Protection Act calls for the designation of areas off limits to fishing and other extractive activities. The North Coast is the last region being addressed by the initiative, which has proved particularly controversial.

Chesbro said he appreciated the extension Chrisman announced, though he'd have preferred a longer period. Chesbro said he remains concerned about the North Coast being able to have a major role in the process.

”We should have a bottom-up approach that includes complete local knowledge and input. It's important that all aspects of the process be driven by local participation,” Chesbro said. “The best way to encourage stewardship is to ensure that we have a plan that is developed and supported by those most affected by it.”

Friday, October 23, 2009

MLPA task force delays vote on no-take marine reserves off Southern California


By Pete Thomas, Los Angeles Times
October 23, 2009

A state task force failed to reach consensus Thursday on a network of marine reserves and conservation zones to be established off Southern California and will reconvene Nov. 10 in the Los Angeles area to produce a version it hopes will meet conservation goals without severe economic impact.

Three proposals were up for consideration as part of the Marine Life Protection Act process, which ultimately will place no-take reserves and less-restrictive conservation zones along the California coast to protect fisheries and habitat.

That the so-called Blue Ribbon Task Force could not reach consensus, after a marathon session, shows how delicate and contentious this issue is. It did not accept any single map proposal offered by stakeholder groups but plucked parts of each and tweaked here and there and departed with a tentative map that will be scientifically evaluated before the next meeting.

It does not appear as though Rocky Point will be made into a marine reserve, as fishing interests had feared. Instead the Palos Verdes Peninsula reserve might be placed a bit more to the south off Point Vicente.

Neither will fishing closures at Santa Catalina Island be as extreme as one proposal had offered, but there will be closures at Catalina, deemed critical by conservationists. Vast parcels off the La Jolla and Laguna Beach areas also will become off-limits to fishing.

Since nothing is decided, though, it's premature to speculate as to what the final product will look like. The tentative map is expected to be posted on the Department of Fish and Game's website next week.

Whatever proposal the task force chooses must be approved by the California Fish and Game Commission.

Ocean Task Force Delays Decision on South Coast Marine Protected Area Plan

San Clemente Times
October 23, 2009

The Marine Life Protection Act Blue Ribbon Task Force, a governor-appointed advisory group, this week reviewed three marine protected area plans for coastal waters between Point Conception and the border with Mexico. After three days of meetings and six hours of public testimony, the Task Force decided to wait for further scientific analysis before recommending a preferred alternative. They will meet again on November 10 in Los Angeles.

The three plans under consideration were developed by local stakeholders after a year of study and negotiations. The Conservation Plan, or Proposal 3, would protect high quality marine habitat for maximum conservation benefits. The Fishermen’s Plan, or Proposal 2, would provide minimal protection; and the Middle Ground Plan, or Proposal 1, is a compromise between the other two.

A review by the Science Advisory Team shows that the Conservation Plan would do the best job of restoring sea life and habitats, providing the most ecological and economic benefits in the long run while leaving nearly 90 percent of coastal waters open for fishing.

“Coastal tourism and recreation drive the majority of jobs and revenue in southern California’s ocean economy,” said Greg Helms of Ocean Conservancy. “We hope, after reflection, the Blue Ribbon Task Force will recommend a strong marine protected area plan that will pay big dividends in the future in the form of more and bigger fish and enhanced recreation opportunities. ”

The debate at this week’s meeting centered on a few ecological hot spots that are vital for the overall health of southern California’s ocean: Naples Reef, waters around the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Point Dume, Laguna, and La Jolla.

“The value of Los Angeles County’s fisheries has dropped by half since 1990,” said Kate Hanley of San Diego Coastkeeper. “If we don’t protect the key breeding and feeding grounds at Rocky Point and Point Dume, the entire area could see further declines. The real cost is from inaction.”

The marine protected area plans were developed with extensive input from local communities. Each plan was evaluated for potential social and economic impacts, as well as ecological benefits. Economic modeling suggests that all of the plans under consideration would result in less than a 10 percent reduction in current fish landings for commercial and recreational fisheries in southern California.

Two recent studies have shown that non-consumptive recreation drives most of the jobs and revenue in southern California’s ocean economy.[1] A strong marine protected area network will not only protect the resources that drive coastal tourism and recreation, it will also create a new set of attractions for area visitors. La Jolla Underwater Park is already a popular destination.

“Studies have shown over 90 percent of visits to our coast are non-consumptive,” said Hanley. “Hundreds of divers, surfers, swimmers, and birders came to this week’s Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting to support the protection of their favorite ocean places. I’d encourage them to continue working—the Marine Life Protection Act is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leave a legacy of healthy oceans, and we have to get it right.”

The Marine Life Protection Act was designed to ensure the long-term health and productivity of California’s ocean. Go to www.caloceans.org or www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa for more information.

Group fails to find preferred fishing closure alternative

By Ed Zieralski, San Diego Union-Tribune
October 23, 2009

Final word won't come until next month, but San Diego County recreational and commercial fishermen may have avoided huge hits yesterday when the Marine Life Protection Act's Blue Ribbon Task Force wrapped up its three-day meeting here at the Hilton Hotel.

The task force failed to arrive at what is being called a preferred alternative of ocean-fishing closures to pass on to the state Fish & Game Commission for its Dec. 9-10 meeting. But before adjourning, the task force looked at a less severe network of fishing closures along the county's coastline than had been proposed by preservationists.

After much negotiation and discussion, the statewide task force settled on three local options for protected areas as part of the 1999 Marine Life Protection Act passed by the state Legislature. The task force will meet Nov. 10 to pick the preferred alternative that it will send to the commission along with three proposals submitted by the South Coast Regional Stakeholders and a zero, or no-action option. The commission will pick from the five proposals.

The options the task force will look at for San Diego will involve using combinations of Swami's off Encinitas, Del Mar, La Jolla, Point Loma and the Tijuana Estuary as key pieces. One of the options chosen from the stakeholders' group Proposal 2, or the “Fisherman's Proposal,” leaves La Jolla alone.

Local fishermen are not out of harm's way. Areas of the South Coast will take significant hits in terms of access and open fishing, and San Diego could still be a target.

“The economic hit the commercial passenger fishing fleet will take is huge off Point Dume, Catalina Island, Laguna and even in San Diego if the wrong sets of options are approved,” said Bob Fletcher, former president of the Sportfishing Association of California and a member of the stakeholder group. “In San Diego, we'll be devastated if they combine La Jolla and Encinitas.”

Buck Everingham of Everingham Bros. Bait Co. likely dodged critical closures off Tijuana and north La Jolla that would have severely impacted his ability to provide bait for the sportfishing fleet. Part of the compromise yesterday was that he'll be able to make bait off Imperial Beach and the Tijuana Estuary even if the area is given protection.
“I made 23 percent of my bait off Imperial Beach in 2007,” Everingham said.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, chairwoman of the task force, regretted that the group didn't reach a preferred alternative but said she didn't want to rush into it. She said she didn't want to have to think about the South Coast process on the way home. That got a response from Tommy Gomes of Catalina Offshore Products and a member of the stakeholder group.

“She's going to have to think about this on the way home,” Gomes said, “but we fishermen will be thinking about this the rest of our lives every time we get on our boats.”

REGION: Task force postpones ocean decision

Panel sets sights on Encinitas kelp beds, La Jolla

By DAVE DOWNEY, North County Times
October 22, 2009

A state panel indicated Thursday it will consider establishing a marine protected area off Swami's Beach in Encinitas that could hurt North County's lobster and sea-urchin fishing industry, but members put off a decision until next month after a lengthy meeting in Long Beach.

"The one thing we don't want to do today is make decisions when we are not prepared to make them," said Cathy Reheis-Boyd, chairwoman of a five-member task force reviewing proposals for a system of essentially wilderness areas over water.

Reheis-Boyd, who is chief operating officer for the Western States Petroleum Association, said the task force needed time to evaluate the large amount of information members received during three days of meetings, including one Thursday that lasted seven hours.

As a result, the panel will meet Nov. 10 in Los Angeles to make a decision that could have a profound impact on the future of the near-shore environment, and commercial and recreational fishing, throughout Southern California. The system of marine protected areas would stretch from Santa Barbara to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Appointed by the state's natural resources secretary, the panel has been given the difficult task of sorting through three proposals for networks of marine protected areas developed over the past year by a group of 64 stakeholders. The group was composed of environmentalists, public officials, tribal leaders, fishermen, divers, kayakers and other ocean users.

Building on the group's work, the task force is expected to forward a recommendation to the California Fish and Game Commission by December.

Ultimately, the commission will decide the matter, by next summer or fall.

Marine protected areas already exist along the Southern California coast. They cover 7.7 percent of waters the state has jurisdiction over ---- from the shore to 3 miles out.

But a landmark 1999 state law ---- the Marine Life Protection Act ---- mandated that the Fish and Game Commission redraw boundaries and expand the system, so it provides a greater level of protection for declining fish populations and fragile ocean ecosystems.

There are generally two types of protected areas: marine reserves, which ban all fishing and extractive activities such as kelp harvesting, and marine conservation areas that allow some activities but place limits on them.

Under the three proposals drawn up by the stakeholder group, the scope of protected areas would increase to the point that they would cover 16 percent to 18 percent of Southern California's offshore waters.

One proposal was developed by a group committee dominated by fishermen. A second was crafted by a committee composed mostly of conservationists. The third, a middle-ground proposal, was generated by a mixed panel.

The task force is considering mixing pieces of those proposals in developing its own preferred alternative.

And, for San Diego County, the task force is weighing three options.

The first one builds largely on the conservation proposal. It would create marine protected areas of about 10 square miles each off Swami's Beach and south La Jolla, and provide a layer of protection for the Tijuana River estuary in the South Bay.

The second idea is to take the plan advanced by fishing interests, which would create a no-fishing reserve off the coast of Del Mar but leave Swami's alone. That plan would set up another protected area off Sunset Cliffs just south of Mission Bay.

The task force's third option would borrow from the first two, combining Swami's with Sunset Cliffs.

Josh Fisher, a commercial lobster fisherman, warned that putting the Swami's kelp beds off limits would hammer local lobster and urchin fishermen.

"That Encinitas SMCA (state marine conservation area) will cripple the Oceanside fleet," Fisher said.

According to an economic analysis prepared for the state, Oceanside Harbor would be hit disproportionately compared to other Southern California ports. The analysis estimated that the profits of Oceanside commercial fisherman would be slashed by close to 30 percent.

A Swami's designation also could prevent recreational fishermen from casting their lines in the surf from a local campground.

Swami's aside, the task force faces a politically difficult decision balancing interests of conservationists, who say La Jolla is the richest and most important off-shore habitat in the region, and of anglers, many of whom consider La Jolla to be the county's best fishing hole.

To view the stakeholder group's proposals, visit www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/scrsg-dprops-r3.asp.

MLPA Update: Task Force Postpones Decision

Verna Rollinger speaks at a packed hearing over expanding marine protections, in favor of Laguna Beach City Council's request to designate the entire coast a marine reserve. Staff photo: Ted Reckas.


Pro-fishing protesters outside the conference center in Long Beach where a state panel convened to deliberate on marine protected areas. Staff photo: Ted Reckas.


Vern Goehring, Manager of California Fisheries Coalition, which represents fishing interests, is interviewed outside the conference center in downtown Long Beach where a meeting was held to deliberate on marine protected areas.



A panel charged with recommending new regulations for marine protected areas in Southern California put off making a decision late Thursday, following seven hours of deliberation over three full-day hearings in Long Beach.

“There’s nothing I’d like more than to get on that plane and not have to think about this,” said Blue Ribbon Task Force chair Cathy Reheis-Boyd, but she conceded that more time was needed for evaluation. Another public meeting over the matter was set for Nov. 10. The yet to be determined location will be somewhere in LA.

The task force was scheduled to take a final vote on three different proposals for marine regulations between Point Conception and Mexico under the 10-year-old state Marine Life Protection Act. The plans emerged over a two-year review involving a spectrum of ocean users. Commercial fishermen, recreational users and conservationists contributed testimony on the merits of the various proposals.

Major disagreements, however, over enlarging protections along the coastline, including imposing a fishing ban in the fish- and kelp-loving rocky coves of Laguna Beach, were so persistent that the task force deemed it necessary to take more time for evaluation.

“The problems of (a city-wide marine reserve in Laguna) are many, many, many fold…This is so detrimental to recreational fishing emanating out of both (Newport and Dana Point) harbors, not to mention the commercial lobster, squid and other fishing,” said Irvine resident Norris Tapp, whose fishing boat Freelance is based in Newport Harbor.

Laguna’s marine protection officer Calla Allison argued in favor of the reserve, saying that it achieved most of the requirements of the guidelines set forth by the state Fish and Game Department’s science advisory team, and still left a large portion of ocean open for fishing.

During the public comment section of Wednesday’s meeting, City Council members Verna Rollinger and Toni Iseman, former mayor Ann Christoph, and lifeguard chief Kevin Snow echoed Allison’s position, speaking before an audience estimated at 700 people by Long Beach police.
Laguna Beach’s City Council urged such a designation in June in a 4-1 vote, surfacing a deep divide in a town with a long history of lobster-harvesting and spear-fishing.

Mayor Kelly Boyd, the only dissenting council member and a long time fisherman, hoped to ask the council to take a more moderate position at this past Tuesday’s council meeting, but the agenda item was removed at the last minute. No explanation was given. Boyd had hoped to gain support for the fishermen-backed proposal, which would have expanded the marine reserve at Heisler Park to some neighboring coves but not to the entire Laguna coast.

The Blue Ribbon Task Force, comprised of six experts in environmental policy, resource management, coastal development, land use and public administration, is expected to all but finalize the scope of new regulations. Final approval comes from the state Department of Fish and Game commission, which is expected to ratify a final plan by Dec. 20.

Don Benninghoven, former task force member and recently appointed Fish and Game Commissioner, said, “The weight of having the task force make a recommendation – because the commission is aware of what they go through to get here – the commission will take that into very serious consideration."

For a proposal to be rejected at the last stage is unlikely, he said. Within the three final round proposals on the table he saw measures that would satisfy the requirements of the Marine Life Protection Act, made law in 1999 to step up protections in the wake of the collapse of the abalone fishery. “Oh sure. The basics are there in the three,” he said.

“We know how passionate you feel about this. We’ve heard that passion, we’ve felt that passion and we absolutely believe in it and embrace it,” said task force chair Cathy Reheis-Boyd, as people spilling into the aisles were ushered out of the over-capacity room.

All three current proposals afford the entire coast of Laguna with some level of legal protection and each would significantly expand the existing marine reserve at Heisler Park, though in different ways.

Proposal one, which was focused on compromise, would establish Laguna’s coast as a marine reserve – or no take zone – from Reef Point at Crystal Cove, south to Aliso Creek, and seaward in a triangle ending at a point about three miles off shore. This protects a relatively large amount of coastline, where tide pools lie, and less off shore habitat. The rest of Laguna’s coast would be a conservation area, allowing a moderate degree of fishing, extending 3/4 mile off shore.
Proposal two, written by mainly fishing interests, expands the Heisler marine reserve north to Crescent Bay, south to Cress Street and seaward in a rectangle extending roughly five and a half miles due south, leaving more coastline and near shore habitat open to consumptive use. Areas outside the reserve would be conservation areas, with a more liberal allowance for fishing than proposal one.

Proposal three, made up mostly of conservation interests, designates the whole coast of Laguna Beach as a marine reserve, extending seaward in a triangle similar to proposal one, but larger.

State panel postpones decision on Rocky Point preserve

By Melissa Pamer, Torrance Daily Breeze
10/22/2009

A state panel postponed a decision on whether areas of the Palos Verdes Peninsula may be closed to fishing under the Marine Life Protection Act in an effort to protect ocean habitat. The proposal has angered local fisherman, especially in the waters near Rocky Point, pictured, in Palos Verdes Estates. (Steve McCrank/Staff Photographer)A state panel overseeing a landmark initiative to create a network of ocean preserves has postponed a decision on the controversial closure of fishing grounds along the Southern California coastline, including a popular area off the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

At a meeting Thursday in Long Beach, the panel parsed three proposals and drew up a draft of its own plan that indicated support for keeping open Rocky Point, an area off the western face of the Peninsula that is treasured by fishermen and environmentalists who have battled for control of its prime habitat and fishing grounds.

After three days of lengthy hearings, the five-member Blue Ribbon Task Force, which is overseeing the implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act, decided it needed further scientific evaluation before it could choose a "preferred alternative" to recommend.

"One thing we don't want to do is make decisions when we're not prepared to do it," said task force Chairwoman Catherine Reheis-Boyd.

The panel plans to meet in Los Angeles in November to vote on a recommendation to send on to the state Fish and Game Commission, which has final approval over fishing closures associated with the act, known as the MLPA.

The 1999 law is designed to create a series of underwater parks along California's 1,100-mile coast where fishing would be restricted or halted in an effort to protect marine ecosystems and improve fish populations.

During the battle over implementation, environmental groups have advocated for the highest protection of habitats, saying restrictions would ultimately produce a "spillover" effect that would benefit fishing.
Meanwhile, fishermen, many of whom have been skeptical of the need for closures, worry about reduced access and economic impacts.

On Wednesday, black-shirted fishermen protested outside the hearing at the Hilton Hotel, holding signs with messages such as "Save jobs, stop closures." An estimated 1,500 people attended the meeting hoping to express their views.

The Palos Verdes Peninsula has proved to be among the most contentious areas in a region from Point Conception in Santa Barbara County to the Mexican border - the third of five sections of state coastline to be reviewed by the task force. On Thursday, the panel looked specifically at some of the more difficult areas, seeking tradeoffs.

Citing the negative economic impact of more restrictive fishing closures, the task force indicated it supports creating a no-fishing zone of nearly 20 square miles southwest of Point Vicente and south of Long Point. Included in that is an area in Abalone Cove where some take would be allowed. The plan mirrored one backed by fishing groups.

"We all knew this was tough at P.V. We've heard group after group talk about the impacts at Rocky Point," said task force member Gregory Schem.

The head of a real estate group specializing in marina and waterfront properties, Schem suggested the Peninsula might be the one place where economic concerns would force the task force to violate scientific guidelines designating the type of habitats to be preserved, as well as their size and spacing along the coast.

Without creating a marine-protected area on the western face of the Peninsula - the only headland in the Southern California region - the initiative will lose scarce deep rocky reef habitat and persistent kelp forest that is favored by many types of fish.

In exchange for supporting the fishing groups' plans in the Palos Verdes Peninsula area, the panel indicated it may support more extensive protections in Malibu at Point Dume and on Catalina Island.

"This is a huge concession at P.V. It's huge," said Meg Caldwell, a task force member who directs an environmental law program at Stanford University.

Several local fishermen said they were pleased with the direction the task force is leaning, but remained wary of other closures.

"I'm happy they're doing the right thing," said Joe Farlo, a Torrance doctor and spearfisherman who has campaigned to keep Rocky Point open.

Sarah Sikich, coastal resources director at nonprofit advocacy group Heal the Bay and one of 64 regional stakeholders who crafted the three proposals before the task force, said she was waiting for a scientific review.

Sikich had backed a plan calling for closures at Rocky Point.

"It's uncertain what's going to happen. They need to move forward with the evaluation," Sickich said.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Southern California anglers, conservationists negotiate ocean protection in Long Beach

A blue ribbon panel will vote today in Long Beach on plans to designate marine protected areas along southern California's coast.

By Molly Peterson, Southern California Public Radio
October 22, 2009

Spearfishermen, party boat captains, students, and scientists have weighed in over the last two days on proposals for protecting swaths of ocean territory from Santa Barbara to the border. But the negotiation for what goes in those proposals is at least a year and a half old. A group of 60-plus stakeholders developed three proposals – one deemed a conservation proposal, one deemed a fisherman-friendly proposal, and one deemed a compromise.

Heal the Bay staff scientist Sarah Sikich debated how to create protected marine areas on one of the three teams. Sikich helped make Map 1, what's become known as the compromise proposal. She says the plan she worked on came out of a long negotiation.

"We had to come up with interwoven compromise that represented some of each of those interests so we ended up with some protection at the canyon at Point Dume," she says. "We had very little shoreline protection in Palos Verdes because of economic concerns and allowed for squid fishing off the back of Catalina to bring in some of their interests."

Sikich says the idea behind what to protect under the MLPA is itself something interwoven, valuing the entire food web, the habitat in which different fish and species live, and the marine life itself. Still, the 10-year-old state law requires consideration of environmental, economic, and educational concerns. Sikich says in Southern California, those can all be in the same place.

"The northern side of Palos Verdes is incredibly rich. There's dense kelp forests, shallow rocky reef, and an interaction between the deep habitats and shallow habitats there," Sikich says. "You've got a similar thing up at the Point Dume headlands. Catalina's ecologically rich. Because these are ecologically rich places they're also places people love to fish, and that's what we had to balance at the end of the day."

Fishermen making comments in Long Beach on Wednesday overwhelmingly favored Map 2. Sergio Vasquez is a sportfisherman and runs a marine electronics business in Huntington Beach. He says he's worried ocean protection plans will interfere with his hobby and his business.

"Considering the way the economy's going in California, business has been very difficult as it stands," he says. "And if you take away the coastline from the sport then they're not going to want to use their boats, and the market's already flooded with boats for sale, so I'm going to have a very very hard time making a living."

The most restrictive of the maps, Map 3, closes under 10 percent of waters in the South Coast region. Vasquez says that's way too much. "We would rather not close anything," he says, "So even the sport fishermen agreeing to the proposed area number two is a huge compromise for us, because we already have regulations that we follow, so if you're talking about closing any areas for fishermen, that's a dramatic impact right there."

Nearly 50 countries use marine protected areas, or some form of spatial management in the ocean. California's already had 64 small marine reserves for some time. The 10-year-old Marine Life Protection Act has aimed to develop protected areas into a system in state waters 3 miles from California's coast.

The blue ribbon panel hearing public comment in Long Beach will vote on protected areas between Santa Barbara and the Mexican border today. Then plans for protection in Southern California go before fish and game commissioners for final approval in Sacramento.

Fishermen contest plans for Calif. ocean reserves

By JOHN ANTCZAK, Associated Press
October 22, 2009

There's nothing pacific about the ocean off Southern California these days.

A battle over how to establish marine reserves along the coast has roiled the waters with the competing interests of environmentalists, fishermen and seaside businesses.

The fight comes to a head Thursday when a panel is scheduled to recommend to the California Fish and Game Commission one of three hotly debated plans for a Marine Protected Area in the Southern California Bight.

Stretching from Point Conception northwest of Los Angeles to the Mexican border, the 250-mile-long arc of alternately scenic and heavily urbanized coast embraces islands and reefs in waters prized for fishing, recreation, conservation and research.

Environmentalists put forward the most restrictive plan while the fishing industry reluctantly backed a proposal it viewed as moderating economic impacts. A third plan was considered middle-of-the-road.

Hundreds of people with a stake in the decision packed lengthy meetings leading up to the decision, which is likely to be substantially affirmed when it goes to the commission in December.

Some feared extensive bans on fishing with serious financial consequences for commercial and sport fishing operators, harbor businesses and even tourism.

Environmentalists pushed for stringent protections to prevent the decline of hard-pressed species and argued that the concept of Marine Protected Areas has been successful elsewhere in the world, ultimately benefiting fishing.

Differences in the plans outwardly appeared small, but fishing industry representatives said some locations are so significant that putting them off limits would have a huge impact.

"What most people don't stop to think is that fish don't live and spread themselves evenly in the ocean, they congregate in choice areas," said Vern Goehring, manager of the California Fisheries Coalition, an association of 27 commercial and recreational fishing organizations.

The controversy stems from the state's 1999 Marine Life Protection Act, which found that existing protected areas had been established on a piecemeal basis and without sound scientific guidelines.

California's 1,100-mile coast was divided into five regions for re-evaluation and new Marine Protected Areas have so far been established in two of them, the central and north-central coasts.

For Southern California, three work groups created plans for a checkerboard of locations in state waters — three miles out but including islands — to protect marine life and habitat with a range of restrictions on use. Individual sites will receive various types of designation such as state marine reserve or marine conservation area.

The California Fisheries Coalition, which claims its members have a $5.5 billion impact on the state's economy, objected to the process as focusing too much on fishing and not on other things that impact the ocean, such as coastal development, water pollution and shipping.

"The way this process is being implemented the last five years is it only considers one variable affecting the ocean, and that's fishing," Goehring said.

"What we've been arguing is that the enhanced protections or regulations need to be allocated according to the degree of threat and the degree of impact," he said.

Goehring said all the proposals would have huge direct impact on fishing operators that would spread to shore-based businesses.

The coalition, however, backed one that sought "to make it so that no one fish, no one fishery, no one community or no one business takes an overwhelming hit."

Fishing hearing roils waters

OCEAN: Anglers and environmentalists square off over protected zones.

By Kristopher Hanson, Long Beach Press-Telegram
10/22/2009

10/21/09- Protestors line the sidewalk outside the Hilton Hotel where an MLPA meeting is taking place. The protestors are disputing the location of boundaries for the underwater park claiming to much fishing restrictions. Kevin Donahue, holding the blue sign says he's a regular family man who wants to protect his families right to fish. Photo by Brittany Murray / Press Telegram

LONG BEACH - Commercial fishermen, recreational anglers, restaurateurs, marine biologists and state authorities packed a raucous public hearing Wednesday as California considers expanding restrictions on fishing zones off hundreds of miles of Southern California's coast.

Between Santa Barbara and the Mexican border, three proposals being considered by an appointed five-member panel pit against each other anglers who trawl local waters for a living and simple recreation and those wanting greater protection for fragile marine ecosystems.

The panel was formed to implement marine protected areas, or MPAs, as part of the Marine Life Protection Act of 1999, a state law designed to encourage greater scientific and biological approaches to what had previously been a mismatch of laws governing marine life off California's roughly 840 miles of coastline.

Proponents of the strictest proposal, known as Map 3, which restricts significant sections surrounding the Channel Islands and Palos Verdes Peninsula from fishing, believe the area has been overly exploited, leaving fish stocks depleted and wreaking havoc on the underwater ecosystem.

They contend a more managed approach to underwater ecosystems will ultimately increase fishing opportunities by allowing depleted stocks to replenish and eventually expand beyond restricted zones.

"When you look at areas where commercial fishing has been banned or restricted for periods in the past - the northern Channel Islands is a good recent example - the scientific evidence shows that within a few years the fish populations return, the environments heal, the fish are actually bigger and healthier and the fishing industry turns out more of a profit, so it makes sense in the long-term to adopt these policies," said Charlotte Stevenson, a marine biologist with Heal the Bay.

Representatives of several South Bay cities with large commercial fishing industries, including Redondo Beach and Manhattan Beach, urged authorities to adopt Map 2, a less restrictive proposal that leaves fishing open for Rocky Point off the Palos Verdes Peninsula, one of the area's most popular fishing spots. The group built a Web site, www.keeprockypointopen.com., to support lesser restrictions.

"From our standpoint, Proposal 2 is a measured approach that protects our economy and jobs at a critical time but also supports clean oceans," said Redondo Beach Councilman Bill Brand, whose council voted unanimously to approve the less restrictive map.

The final map being considered, Map 1, is a mix of both maps 2 and 3, but it appeared to have little support during Wednesday's nearly nine-hour hearing.

A group of recreational anglers from Long Beach, who fish from sites that include the Belmont and Seal Beach piers, Rainbow Harbor and Pier J, believe Map 3 would best protect fish populations for generations to come.

"We're probably a minority among fishermen, but I think the more we get out and speak to fellow anglers and educate them about biodiversity and preserving fishing for their children and grandchildren, the more they come to support the (Map 3) submission," said Frankie Orrala, of Long Beach.

An economic study by a state-appointed committee showed commercial fishing profits could drop as much as 4.3 percent under Map 2 restrictions, and up to 8 percent if Map 3 zones were adopted, though the impacts would likely remain for only a few years until fishing populations returned and began "spilling out" from protected areas.

A similar Pew study conducted several years ago showed that when fishing restrictions were enacted off the coast of Santa Barbara, fishing profits actually grew within a few years of the underwater reserve being adopted, despite predictions that the industry would take a $100-million hit in the first year of the program.

A five-member panel is expected to make a recommendation on the new zones early today before forwarding the proposal for final consideration to the California Department of Fish and Game, whose board of commissioners will vote on changes sometime in mid- to late-2010.

The state has already divided the marine protection zones into three distinct areas representing North, Central and Southern California.

The North and Central zones, adopted by Fish and Game in August, protect key ecological sites like the Farallon Islands off San Francisco and the Northern Channel Islands while leaving more than 90 percent of coastal waters open for fishing.

To learn more about the proposals and view the maps, visit www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa.