Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Harbor grants to help fisheries research, MLPA efforts

By John Driscoll, Eureka Times-Standard
January 7, 2010

The Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District has netted $250,000 in grants to coordinate efforts during the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative process and for other related fisheries research.

A $50,000 grant from the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation will help fund the district's work with fishermen, tribes and conservation groups to develop proposals for Marine Protected Areas along the North Coast. The proposals will be submitted to the initiative and the state, which are developing a network of areas off limits or restricted to fishing and other harvesting in California waters.

The North Coast region, including virtually every elected body in Humboldt, Del Norte and Mendocino counties, has opted to try to work in a unified manner to pitch concepts for MPAs, which are supposed to cover a wide variety of nearshore habitats.

Another grant for $198,490, also from the foundation, will go toward a collaborative fisheries research program, which would draw in the district, Humboldt State University and fishermen from the three counties. The goal of the program is to gather information on fish populations -- information that is sorely lacking -- along the North Coast.

District Conservation Director Adam Wagschal said that some of that data may be gathered in time to influence the end of the MLPA process locally. But the program will be more valuable for long-term management of MPAs and other fisheries regulations. For example, the program will look at assumptions about whether fish populations are more affected closer to ports, he said.

District Commissioner Pat Higgins said that the program would begin to collect the information needed to “unlock” the richness off the coast, as access to many fish is regulated based on precaution, not because there is data showing the are struggling.

”We got a jump-start with this grant,” Higgins said.

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