Kayak fisherman with prize catch off La Jolla speaks out against marine protected areas taking effect Jan. 1


By Dave Schwab

La Jolla financial adviser and kayak fisherman Kurt Hoffman who landed “the big one,” a near-record 52.1-pound yellowtail caught off La Jolla Dec. 10, claims his catch testifies that “our fisheries are very healthy and our current regulations are working very well to protect our great local resources.”

Hoffman and other consumptive ocean users are concerned about South Coast Marine Protection Areas (MPAs), required by the 1999 Marine Life Protection Act and adopted by the California Fish and Game Commission in December 2010, which are taking effect Jan. 1, 2012.

MPAs adopted for the South Coast Region, which includes San Diego’s coastline, create no-fishing zones which detractors claim will crowd fishermen.

The MPA will expand the size of the marine reserve at south La Jolla by two city blocks — 7 square-miles of protection in total — which 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.

“A yellowtail over 50 pounds is considered a once-in-a-lifetime milestone for any local kayak angler professional or amateur,” said Hoffman noting fishing “is a very part-time endeavor for me.”

Hoffman said the old Yellowtail Derby records going back to the 1940s were checked to compare the size of his Dec. 10, 2011 catch and the largest yellowtail found was 53 pounds.

Hoffman fears introduction of the MPA in La Jolla will have negative consequences for fisherman and lobstermen, and will not produce the desired result: fish protection and repopulation of local species.

“Closing areas to fishing will do little to benefit the biomass of our highly migratory fish species and cave-based species such as lobster and abalone,” he e-mailed. “Just as the Black Sea bass has rebounded very strongly and enjoyed the La Jolla Reserve as a protected breeding ground along with the Leopard Sharks very specific breeding area, reserves are important. But vast closures are not necessary and will lead to serious enforcement issues with the very limited budget of the Fish & Game.”

Environmentalists disagree, hailing the institution of MPAs 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.

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

“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.”