By Ambrosia Sarabia, The Log
December 22, 2009
Many sport anglers who had encouraged members of the California Fish and Game Commission to select the best of four alternative maps for Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) sanctuary areas left the meeting unsatisfied when the commission selected an alternative that closed prime fishing waters off Laguna Beach and Point Dume.
Closures to Come— Marina Life Protection Act (MLPA) closures will have a major impact on anglers who currently fish off Laguna Beach, if the Blue Ribbon Task Force’s proposed no-take zones map is approved in 2010.
The widely criticized closures are the ones recommended by the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force last month. The plan, cobbled together from both environmentalist and fishing stakeholder group recommendations, would close nearly 400 square miles of ocean off the Southern California coastline to fishing.
Speakers both for and against selected closures outlined in four plans -- three proposals recommended by stakeholders after months of discussion and one designed by the Blue Ribbon Task Force -- packed the conference room and addressed the commission, one by one. Many displayed their chosen map, holding bright-colored signs.
“This is a professional event, and I ask that those attempting to get on camera such as at a sports event refrain from doing so,” Fish and Game Commission chairman Richard Rogers said at one point during the meeting.
In a 3-1 vote, the commission moved to send the Blue Ribbon Task Force’s selected map through the environmental impact review process. The other three plans will serve as alternatives.
“It was no surprise, actually,” said Paul Romanowski, a recreational fisherman and a member of the California Fisheries Coalition. “It is definitely a mix of all three proposals -- and there are some things on it that we don’t like, but some are things that we developed during the first round a year ago.”
Last month, the Blue Ribbon Task Force reviewed three alternatives, which were proposed by environmentalists, anglers and other stakeholders. The task force decided to develop its own Integrated Preferred Alternative (IPA) plan and recommended it to the commission.
The action upset many anglers and boaters.
For the past several months, rallies have been held throughout Southern California where those in favor of retaining open-take areas joined to show their support for Proposal 2, which had the fewest closures when compared to Proposals 1 and 3.
Three groups were created to oversee specific elements of the Marine Life Protection Act: the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Science Advisory Team and the South Coast Regional Stakeholder Group.
For many anglers, such as Romanowski, the shape of the Laguna no-take zone has been the most unsettling piece of the current plan. Under the current outline, a ban will be placed on fishing along 6 miles of the Laguna Beach coastline.
The decision also places restrictions on the Bolsa Chica area.
“It is unfeasible and unreasonable, and it would be a devastating blow to all coastal users in Laguna, if it were to go through as it is drawn,” Romanowski said. “It shuts off 30-35 public access points in Laguna, and there would be no handicap access for fishing.”
Other changes that Romanowski would like see addressed include safety, feasibility and legal issues concerning Point Dume and Scripps Pier.
The San Diego region will not have a protected area off Del Mar, but a protected zone off south La Jolla will be created.
In Los Angeles County, areas off the back side of Catalina Island would remain open to sportfishing for yellowtail and swordfish, but other species such as sea urchin and sea cucumber will not be allowed to be removed from the area. The kelp forest and rocky reef habitats off Palos Verdes Peninsula would also remain open to anglers.
Leslie Page, of Redondo Beach Marina, asked commissioners to help her select which employees to terminate if Proposal 2 is not selected.
“It breaks my heart,” Page said. “My harbor and marina will not be able to support them.”
Once a review of the closure plan is, the commission will vote to establish the new fishing regulations. The report is not expected to be completed until late 2010.