By Melissa Pamer, Torrance Daily Breeze
March 4, 2010
The state Fish and Game Commission this week advanced a plan to limit or end fishing in nearly 400 square miles of state coastal waters, including an area off Point Vicente and south of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
The five-member commission voted 3-2 late Wednesday to ask its staff to develop regulatory language for an "integrated preferred alternative" plan - known as the IPA - that remains controversial but has been pitched as a compromise between fishing and environmental interests.
The vote took place at a lengthy meeting in Ontario that included more than three hours of public comment, mostly from critics of the plan.
The proposed closures, which must still undergo an environmental review, are the result of months of meetings attended by stakeholders from across Southern California as part of the Marine Life Protection Act initiative.
At the meeting this week, fishing groups continued to argue that the process that produced the plan was flawed, alleging conflicts of interest, corruption and closed-door meetings.
"It's probably one of the worst public policy debacles that I have seen in my long career," said Bob Fletcher, former president of the Sportfishing Association of California and a former deputy director of the Department of Fish and Game.
Environmental groups cited new research showing well-placed marine reserves benefit fish populations and fishermen. They continued to argue for a reserve at Rocky Point, a rich marine environment off the north end of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. As a concession to socioeconomic interests, that area was traded last fall for greater protections off Malibu.
"We were disappointed that the IPA failed to meet the science guidelines, with the most egregious failure occurring at Palos Verdes by not protecting Rocky Point," said Shelley Luce, executive director of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission.
Luce and others noted complications with the Point Vicente-area reserve because of its proximity to a huge underwater pesticide dump that's now a Superfund site.
Commissioners stuck with their original indication at a meeting in December, in which they backed the IPA. Their decision means that state staff will not write complicated regulatory language for three other proposals that came out of the stakeholder process. Those three proposals will, however, get a full environmental analysis.
The commissioners made clear that they may still make changes to the marine reserve plan before it is finalized in coming months.
The commission also voted to study requests by other agencies to allow continued water-quality monitoring and other activity in the proposed reserves.
A follow-up meeting is set for April in Monterey.