Hearing on protecting coastline draws a full house



Staff Writer

About 1,000 people attended an all-day California Fish and Game Commission meeting Oct. 20 in San Diego to weigh in on creating marine protected areas (MPAs) throughout Southern California. The proposal includes areas from La Jolla to Encinitas.

More than 700 speaker slips were turned in by students, surfers, elected officials, divers, fisherman, business leaders and conservationists. They expressed opinions on several proposed alternatives seeking boundaries of alternating size for a network of MPAs to be created along the Southern California coastline.

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 with the goal of increasing its effectiveness at protecting the state’s marine life, habitats and ecosystems.

Two different types of areas for ocean protection have been proposed along the San Diego coast: State Marine Reserves (SMRs) allowing no extraction or fishing whatsoever; and State Marine Conservation Areas (SMCAs) allowing limited fishing. Recreational surfing, kayaking and non-consumptive diving would not be restricted in either zone.

Part of the proposal includes a seven-mile no-take zone from south La Jolla near WindanSea Beach to Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach is proposed, prompting fishermen to warn making that area off limits to fishing will “herd” users together into tightly compacted areas.

Anglers of all stripes testified at the Oct. 20 public hearing. Some conceded the necessity for MPAs to protect dwindling fish and other species allowing them to grow and replenish. But others referred to creation of MPAs along the San Diego coast as “an anti-fishing initiative.” One asked, “Why punish fishermen for failed management policies of the past?”

San Diego Coastkeeper, an environmental nonprofit advocating for clean water, is lobbying for maximum ocean protection.

“According to a Public Policy Institute of California poll, more than 70 percent of Southern Californians support strong marine protection,” Coastkeeper spokeswoman Kate Hanley wrote in an e-mail. ”That was certainly reflected in the diversity of ocean user groups speaking up yesterday asking for the greatest possible protections along our coast.

With more than 60 public meetings and 100 hours of comment over the past two years, it’s time for the commission to set in place a strong network of marine protected areas that the public wants.”

The final Fish & Game Commission meeting, where it will sign into law the network of marine protected areas in Southern California, will take place in Santa Barbara in December.