Scientists, fishermen debate impact of larger marine protected areas

By Dave Schwab
Staff Writer

Environmentalists are hailing the California Fish and Game Commission’s 3-2 decision Dec. 15 nearly doubling the size of marine protected areas (MPAs) along Southern California’s coast — including a large section of La Jolla’s kelp beds — as a victory for fishing sustainability, while some sportfishermen and commercial users are decrying the process as a “sham” and the end result as “predetermined.”

“Not only were we opposed to the (protection) option adopted, but we were opposed to the entire process,” said Bob Fletcher, advisor to the Sportfishing Association of California. “It was supposed to be open and transparent and the reality was the decisionmaking was in closed-door meetings where no public was invited. We have evidence that the whole process was corrupt, and we’ll probably be challenging it in court.”

Meagan Wylie, San Diego Coastkeeper’s Marine Conservation Manager, viewed the commission’s decision differently.

“We’ve been working toward this historic vote for more than four years,” she said. “It’s like a savings account for our ocean — set a little aside so it can recuperate and thrive and we will all — fisherman, residents, recreational users, marine life — benefit from the interest.”

The existing La Jolla State Marine Conservation Area, prior to the Dec. 15 decision. Photo: California Department of Fish and Game

“Today’s vote will help restore southern California’s legacy of abundant sea life,” said Kaitilin Gaffney of Ocean Conservancy. “After decades of treating the ocean as inexhaustible, by protecting ocean jewels like South La Jolla … the Commission has turned the tide towards conservation.”

The Fish and Game Commission voted in favor of an Integrated Preferred Alternative (IPA), a compromise plan combining proposals from fishermen, divers, conservationists and scientists.

Before adopting the IPA into law, the FGC made several small boundary modifications to a selection of the MPAs including expanding the size of the marine reserve at south La Jolla by two city blocks so that boundaries would be more easily recognized by the public — 7 square-miles of protection in total. The reserve in south La Jolla now stretches from Palomar Avenue to Missouri Street in Pacific Beach. In addition, the historic marine protected area at La Jolla Shores, stretching to the Scripps Pier, has been retained.

On balance, the new, larger MPAs approved by the commission are likely to benefit all ocean users in the end, noted Scripps marine ecologist Ed Parnell.

“The MLPA is intended as insurance for future generations for the residential species that are easily hammered by today’s flotilla of hooks guided to their valuable habitats by GPS technology,” he said. “I look forward to the day when I can catch a great big old kelp bass once again off La Jolla and maybe even that monster white seabass that eluded me as a child …”

Click on the map above to see how the decision impacts California's coast. Image: California Department of Fish and Game

Though admitting the new, larger off-limits conservation areas will hurt commercial lobster and sea urchin fisherman to a small degree, Parnell said, “the bulk of lobster fishing occurs in the northern area of La Jolla where fishing will not be affected.”

Dave Rudie, of Catalina Offshore Products which markets sea urchin and other seafood lines locally, questioned Parnell’s assessment of the new regulations’ impact on lobster fishermen.

“It will probably take away 60 percent of the lobster harvest in La Jolla, and 20 percent of the lobster harvest in the rest of San Diego,” Rudie said, adding the new larger MPAs in La Jolla and a handful of other spots along the San Diego coast will cut into his business, but not a lot.

“I would say the effect on the sea urchin harvest in San Diego County is going to be between 5 and 10 percent,” he said adding his company havests about 700,000 pounds of sea urchins a year, a portion of which winds up on the menu in La Jolla’s sushi restaurants.

Regarding the impact of new regulations on recreational fisherman, Parnell said, “Protecting habitat that is important for more residential species means that the area between the southern and northern La Jolla MPAs will give fishermen a chance to catch some truly large kelp bass and rockfish within 5 to 10 years and will increase interest in fishing for those species again. This should be a boon to everyone and private charter companies will be able to attract even more passengers.”

In 1999, the state enacted the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) directing state agencies to reexamine and redesign California’s system of marine protected areas to increase its effectiveness at protecting California’s marine life, habitats and ecosystems.

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Posted by Dave Schwab on Dec 16, 2010. Filed under Featured Story, La Jolla, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

3 Comments for “Scientists, fishermen debate impact of larger marine protected areas”

  1. sonny

    when did the debate start

  2. fishinwithagun

    Ed Parnell…. what a moron. He obviously doesn't fish or dive…. no seabass or large calicos in la jolla? dude get out from behind your desk.. typical scripps biologist…all math no mask… i see big calicos all the time, if you can't catch seabass then you're doing it wrong, kayakers and spearfisherman take healthy harvests every year

  3. Robert

    What we need to do to protect all our fish and shell fish species is not to ban fishing for residential fisherman but ban all commercial fishing (trollers and net based fishing from boats and ships from the CA coastline). There is no way a fleet of 1/2 day boats loaded can pull as many fish from the ocean as a huge net attached to a ship.

    Just a couple weeks ago, I was surf fishing on the beach in Coronado, CA when I was happily pulling in lots of fish while watching the birds and dolphins dive for fish. An hour or so later, a huge ship rolls right up close to shore and scooped all that life up with a ship and huge net. Several campers and I was were shocked as all the doplhins, birds, and fish were pulled from the ocean before our very eyes. I didn't get one bite after that. I was camping there and watched all those birds and dolphins enjoying all that fish there all week long. After that ship came by, no fish, birds, or dolphins were seen there again.

    We need to rethink our strategy for protecting ALL ocean species ladies and gentlemen.


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