Marine life protected areas to include expanded area off La Jolla


Conservation groups were the first to put the word out Tuesday evening that the Marine Life Protection Act Blue Ribbon Task Force voted unanimously to recommend a compromise marine protected area plan that includes areas off La Jolla and Swami’s Reef.

Meeting in Los Angeles the five-member task force voted after getting additional scientific information Monday on options for San Diego, Orange County and Santa Monica Bay, according to a press release from San Diego Coastkeepers, the Ocean Conservancy and the National Resources Defense Council.

In the end, the group supported scientists who recommended protections for south La Jolla, Swamis Reef north of Del Mar and Point Dume, the press release noted. But they left out the Rocky Point area off Palos Verdes to accommodate fisherman, the release noted.

“The plan recommended by the Task Force — known as the “preferred alternative” — was designed to balance the needs of ocean users and sea life, and leaves nearly 90 percent of coastal waters open for fishing,” the release added.

The task force had reviewed three plans last month that were created after a lengthy process involving “stakeholder” meetings to gather ideas. Those plans ranged from one that conservationists supported most strongly to one backed by recreational and commercial fisherman and a third compromise proposal.

But on Tuesday, they arrived at a mixture of four options that were proposed after three days of hearings in October ended with a request for more information.

Kate Hanley of San Diego Coastkeeper said Tuesday evening that the panel “mixed and matched” and came up with a plan that includes seven square miles south of WindanSea beach.

“Marine protected areas are good for sea life and for business, since coastal tourism and recreation drive so many jobs and dollars in southern California,” she said the earlier press released. “I’m glad the Task Force recognized the economic and environmental value of protecting iconic places, but would have liked to see more protections for south La Jolla’s kelp forest.”

The plan will undergo further analysis before it is considered on Dec. 9 by the California Fish & Game Commission. The public will have a chance to have a say before a final decision is reached next year.