Monday, October 19, 2009

Balance of marine rules

Hearings in Long Beach may lead to restrictions on fishing, surfing and swimming in Laguna Beach.

The coast off Cameo Shores in Corona del Mar, left, and Pelican Hill Golf Club, right, marks the intersection of 3 marine protected areas: Robert E. Badham State Marine Conservation Area, Irvine Coast State Marine Conservation Area and the offshore Crystal Cove State Marine Conservation Area.

By Cindy Frazier, The Daily Pilot
October 13, 2009

A state-appointed blue ribbon task force will meet next week in Long Beach to recommend boundaries and rules for new marine protected areas, which encompass the coastal stretch from Newport to Laguna beaches.

A proposed set of restrictions under the 1999 Marine Life Protection Act range from a 3-mile no-fishing zone to an all-out ban on fishing, lobster catching or other water activities, such as boating and scuba diving. Surfing and swimming in Crystal Cove and off Laguna Beach would be banned, as would kayaking and canoeing in some reaches of the Back Bay.

The six-member task force, chaired by Catherine Reheis-Boyd, chief executive of the Western States Petroleum Assn., will vote on a recommendation to the California Fish and Game Commission, which is expected to make a decision in November.

The task force is trying to balance issues and concerns of environmentalists, Native American tribes, anglers and others.

The Department of Fish and Game has created three alternatives for the task force to consider:

Plan 1: Middle Ground: state marine reserve designation for all of Laguna Beach; state marine conservation area designation for Crystal Cove, Upper Newport Bay and Bolsa Chica Wetlands;

Plan 2: Fishermen’s Plan: state marine reserve designation for central Laguna Beach; conservation area designation for Crystal Cove, North and South Laguna, Bolsa Chica Wetlands, and Upper Newport Bay.

Plan 3: Conservation plan: state marine reserve designation for all of Laguna Beach, Upper Newport Bay and Bolsa Chica Wetlands; marine conservation designation for Newport Coast.

All the proposals would make some or all of Laguna Beach a state marine reserve, in which fishing or the taking of shellfish or other life would be illegal, and swimming, surfing, diving and boating could be banned.

Back Bay and Bolsa Chica Wetlands would also be subject to similar restrictions.

Marine conservation areas are also subject to possible bans on public use.

The Laguna Beach proposals have drawn the most opposition from the fishing and boating community.

The Laguna Beach City Council voted 4 to 1 on June 16 to support a marine reserve designation along the entire coast of Laguna Beach, from Abalone Point to the rocky point south of Three Arch Bay, except for about one-quarter mile in each direction at the mouth of the sewer outfall at Aliso Creek, due to the high level of pollution at that site.

The council approved the most restrictive designation because the city “has some of the only ‘key’ marine habitats, including rocky intertidal and kelp, between the Palos Verdes Peninsula and La Jolla Cove,” according to a staff report.

Part of Palos Verdes is also proposed as a marine reserve, as well as several areas in San Diego, the largest being the Del Mar reserve.

If approved as a marine reserve, Laguna Beach would be the largest — and most populated — area to be so designated in Orange County.

Laguna is a “nursery area” for life that will eventually make its way to the surrounding ocean areas, according to advocates.

Laguna Beach is considered a key to restoring the health of the ocean in the region, said Nick Fash, a marine scientist with Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay, which is championing the marine reserve designation for Laguna.

In an aerial tour of the coastline from Dana Point to Seal Beach, Fash pointed out the many tide pool and rock formations off of Laguna Beach, which he said foster many species.

Newport Beach, with its wide, sandy beaches, is not considered a particularly valuable habitat for sea life, he said.

“We want to protect the kind of sea life that grows off of Laguna Beach,” Fash said. “Newport also has sea life, but it’s not the kind we want to protect.”

He added that dredging, such as that taking place in Back Bay, would be prohibited under the protection plan, but Department of Fish and Game documents indicate that previously approved dredging may be permitted.

Laguna Beach Mayor Kelly Boyd — the only Laguna Beach council member to vote against the marine reserve designation — said he supports the Fishermen’s Plan.

Boyd, an angler, said that plan would protect the livelihoods of the fishing and charter boat businesses that operate from Newport Beach and Dana Point harbors. He believes a highly restrictive designation is not necessary because of new limits on fishing imposed in recent years.

“There are very few [fishing] boats out there, and it’s humorous that we would close down our area and put the burden on other areas,” Boyd said. “There is no need now for a conservation plan.”

The task force will meet Tuesday through Thursday at the Hilton Long Beach, 701 W. Ocean Blvd. The Tuesday meeting will start at 1:30 p.m. Meetings on the other days will begin at 8:30 a.m. Public comment is scheduled to be taken about 1:30 p.m. and at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Guidelines for public comment may be found at

Marine Protected Areas: Fast Facts


The Marine Life Protection Act requires California to reevaluate all existing marine protected areas and potentially design new areas that function as parts of a statewide network.

A regional approach is being used to redesign protected areas along California’s 1,100-mile coast, with the state divided into five study regions.

The South Coast Study Region includes state waters between Point Conception in Santa Barbara County to the California border with Mexico in San Diego County, including all offshore islands. Federal waters (those past the three-nautical mile state water boundary line) are not subject to the act.

In each study region, an appointed regional stakeholder group develops proposals, which are reviewed and evaluated by a scientific advisory team, the California Department of Fish and Game, MLPA Initiative staff, the public and a policy-level blue ribbon task force.

The act proposals are then refined and presented to the task force, which makes a recommendation to the California Fish and Game Commission.

Marine Protected Areas

Marine protected areas are designed to protect or conserve marine life and habitat. There are three types: state marine reserve, state marine park and state marine conservation area.

State marine reserves have the highest restrictions on use: It is unlawful to injure, damage, take or possess any living, geological or cultural marine resource, except under a permit or specific authorization from the managing agency for research, restoration or monitoring purposes. While, to the extent feasible, the area shall be open to the public for managed enjoyment and study, the area shall be maintained to the extent practicable in an undisturbed and unpolluted state. Therefore, access and use, such as walking, swimming, boating and diving, may be restricted to protect marine resources.

State marine parks: It is unlawful to injure, damage, take or possess any marine resources for commercial exploitation purposes. Any human use that would compromise protection of the species of interest, natural community or habitat, or geological, cultural or recreational features, may be restricted by the designating entity or managing agency.

State marine conservation areas: It is unlawful to injure, damage, take or possess any specified living, geological or cultural marine resources for certain commercial, recreational or a combination of commercial and recreational purposes. In general, any commercial and/or recreational uses that would compromise protection of the species of interest, natural community, habitat or geological features may be restricted by the designating entity or managing agency.

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