Friday, December 4, 2009

Fish and Game to cast final vote on marine protected areas

The proposal calls for a State Marine Reserve designation for the ocean from Malibu's Westward Beach to just outside Paradise Cove.

By Jonathan Friedman, The Malibu Times
December 2, 2009

Conservationists and fishing advocates are gearing up for next Wednesday's California Department of Fish and Game Commission hearing on a proposal to ban fishing off various parts of the Southern California coast, including Point Dume. Rallying cries for both sides of the argument can be found throughout cyberspace.

The five-member commission will vote on a controversial proposal approved last month by the Marine Life Protection Act Blue Ribbon Task Force. The proposal called for the designation of various Marine Protection Areas, or MPAs, for portions of the ocean from Point Conception in Santa Barbara to the Mexican border. Commercial and recreational fishing advocates blasted the recommendation as too restrictive. Various environmental groups gave the proposal partial praise, although they criticized portions of the decision for not being restrictive enough.

The proposal calls for a State Marine Reserve, or SMR, designation for the ocean from Malibu's Westward Beach to just outside Paradise Cove. A SMR is a “no take zone” in which fishing of all kinds is prohibited. Recreational activities such as boating, swimming, diving or kayaking are allowed. Also, boats with caught fish onboard can pass through the area.

A less restrictive State Marine Conservation Area, or SMCA, has been proposed for the stretch of ocean from Westward Beach to Lechuza Beach. This allows for the recreational take of pelagic finfish, Pacific bonito and White Sea bass. Commercial fishermen could take coastal pelagic finfish, market squid and swordfish.

Other proposed SMRs include Laguna Beach and Point Conception. No fishing restrictions were proposed for the Palos Verdes Peninsula and most of Catalina Island. A complete list of the proposed SMR and SMCA designations and other information can be found online at

Heal the Bay, which has been a strong advocate for fishing restrictions because of evidence it says exists regarding species population decline, has a posting on its Web site encouraging people to attend the hearing. The site also has a form letter advocates can send to the commissioners. The letter states support for the portions of the recommendation designating SMRs and SMCAs, while the writer is “extremely disappointed” that other areas are not protected.

“Please attend this final hearing to show your support for MPAs that are effective, based on science, and good for fishing,” Heal the Bay states on its Web site.

Meanwhile, various commercial and recreational fishing advocacy Web sites instruct people to attend the hearing and lobby the commission to oppose the task force's recommendation.

“The final decision is up to the Fish and Game Commission-and this is where every angler and boater can make a difference,” a statement reads on, which calls itself “California's boating and fishing and news.”

The statement continues, “Make YOUR voice heard by sending an e-mail NOW, to ensure that the commission acts to represent the needs and wants of sport anglers and boaters-and not just environmental activists who seek a major curtailment of fishing in the entire region.”

Next week's hearing should be a colorful event if last month's task force hearing is any indication. At that session, people wore T-shirts and held signs stating their viewpoints. Two men got into a shoving match and had to be escorted outside by security.

The hearing will take place at the ABC Ballroom in the Radisson Hotel - LAX, located at 6225 West Century Blvd. It is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Viewers can view a live Web cast of the hearing at Shortly after the conclusion of the session, an archived video of the hearing will appear on the site.

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