By Joe Britton, San Diego News Network
October 7, 2009
A San Diego City Council committee declined today to act on an environmental group’s request to endorse the most stringent of three proposals under the state’s Marine Life Protection Act that would cut off fishing to a large swath of La Jolla.
The MLPA was signed into law in 1999 to establish a series of underwater parks along the California coastline set aside 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.
Last month, a task force whose members were appointed by the governor settled on three proposals, each carrying a varying degree of severity as to how much coastline would be off-limits to fishing. San Diego Coastkeeper wanted the council’s Natural Resources and Culture Committee to endorse “Proposal 3,” which would establish a Marine Protected Area from the southern part of La Jolla Cove to about Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach and three miles out into the Pacific Ocean.
The area is rich with kelp and wildlife and considered a prime fishing zone in San Diego.
“MPAs have been proven through numerous scientific studies to help fisheries and other ocean wildlife recover from threats like climate change, pollution runoff, loss of biodiversity and destruction of habitat,” Coastkeeper’s Jason Everitt told the committee.
Fishermen support “Proposal 2,” which would keep fishing open in La Jolla, with the exception of the already-protected La Jolla Cove, and instead create marine reserves off Del Mar and parts of Point Loma.
The task force is scheduled to vote on which marine protected area proposal it will recommend at a meeting in Long Beach Oct. 20-22. Councilwoman Marti Emerald chastised Coastkeeper for seeking the council’s endorsement so late in the game and for making a presentation she said lacked detail.
Emerald accused Coastkeeper of trying to “run a number on us.” “I think everybody in this room wants the same thing — a healthy coastline,” Emerald said. “But, I am not sure this is the approach, and you certainly didn’t make your case.”
Her sentiments were echoed by Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, who represents La Jolla, and Councilman Carl DeMaio, who said he will be “standing behind our fishing industry.” “I believe we can both protect the environment and provide for the heritage that is San Diego, which is a strong, robust fishing economy,” DeMaio said.
Coastkeeper argued that La Jolla is vital to the MLPA process and preserving marine life off San Diego. “The environmental community has made significant sacrifices in this process,” Everitt told the committee. “The line we cannot cross is La Jolla.” Dozens of people representing the fishing community turned out to testify at the hearing.
Grant Milbrand, a spear fisherman, said marine life is already thriving off La Jolla under current restrictions and further prohibitions are not needed. “I do support the Marine Life Protection Act,” he said. “I do not support taking away fair access and marine management when it is not necessary.”
Milbrand also testified that the economic impact would be “devastating.” “You would cut the legs out from under the industry,” he said, “and you would basically throw the cultural heritage out the window for no reason.”
San Diego is home to the world’s largest sportfishing fleet. Many of those boats take tourists and locals alike off La Jolla for fishing. The region also has substantial commercial fishing operations.