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.

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