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Marine Life Protection Act panel selects hybrid

Walking a tightrope between marine conservation and preserving ocean access, a five-member state Blue Ribbon Task Force last week chose a hybrid alternative to protect San Diego’s coastline that lies between what fishing interests and environmentalists desired.

Proposed for protection is a seven-mile, no-take zone from south La Jolla near WindanSea to Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach, which fishermen warn will “herd” users together into tightly compacted areas. But the panel opted not to create a larger, nine-mile, no-take area straddling La Jolla and Pacific Beach, which scientists had sought as a way to repopulate dwindling fish species.

Swami’s in Encinitas north of Solana Beach is designated to be a State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA), allowing some types of fishing. Del Mar is not included in any of the areas.

However, Del Mar Mayor Crystal Crawford sent a letter on Friday to Ken Wiseman, executive director of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative, asking for a correction to the proposed map.

“The map upon which a final motion to adopt a recommendation on the MLPA was made did not include the San Dieguito Lagoon and river mouth as a State Marine Reserve,” Crawford wrote. The city believes the area should have been referenced as a State Marine Reserve and that the omission was an “administrative oversight” made by the Blue Ribbon Task Force and Meg Caldwell, who made the motion.

The San Dieguito Lagoon is already designated in the existing Marine Protection Area as a State Marine Park.

The blue-ribbon panel proposed setting aside two different types of areas for ocean protection:

State Marine Reserves (SMRs) allowing no extraction or fishing whatsoever.

State Marine Conservation Areas (SMCAs) allowing limited fishing.

Recreational surfing, kayaking and diving would not be restricted in either zone.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, who chaired the MLPA task force, said the group ended up taking pieces of each of the three original marine conservation proposals to construct a preferred alternative.

“It has compromises,” she said. “It has trade-offs.”

Reheis-Boyd added the panel strove to follow “science guidelines” in creating a network of marine protected areas from Point Conception in Santa Barbara County to the U.S.-Mexico border.

“The goal is to make sure the ocean resource can replenish itself,” she said.

Commercial and recreational fishermen argue the task force’s compromise will be too limiting to ocean users.

“With the scenario of the closure of the south area down by Bird Rock, that’s going to bring kayakers in with private and party (cattle) boaters,” said Brent Torgeson, co-owner of Oex Dive and Kayak Center in La Jolla Shores. “Everyone’s going to be in one area fishing. It’s going to be more impactive for sure.”

James F. Hanson of San Diego Fly Shop in Solana Beach agreed.

“It’s going to negatively affect a lot of us in a lot of different ways,” he said. “You’ll have less fishermen, which is bad for all of us shops and guides, or you’ll end up with the same amount of fishermen in less water, bringing more pressure to spots left open.”

Environmentalists and conservationists were more pleased with what the task force finally came up with.

“I think they did the best they could to meet science guidelines, while minimizing the socioeonomic consequences (to fishing),” said Kate Hanley, director of marine conservation with San Diego Coastkeeper, a coastal advocacy group.

Hanley, though, was a little disappointed the task force made the south La Jolla SMR 7 square miles instead of 9.

“That is basically an underwater Amazon rain forest,” she said. “It’s phenomenal for its biological output, and protecting its fish species will spill over into other areas.”

Scripps scientist Ed Parnell felt the task force crafted a reasonable compromise.

“None of the fishermen wanted to give up any of La Jolla,” he noted, adding areas where marine-protected, no-take areas have been created, like the Northern Channel Islands near Santa Barbara, have had positive results.

“After five years there’s been a big change,” he said adding fish species there are both larger and more numerous. “If that could happen in La Jolla that would be pretty amazing,” he added.

The MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force’s recommendation will be passed along to State Fish and Game Commission, which will next hear the issue Dec. 9 before making a final decision sometime next year.