Shores group backs off on MPA stance

La Jolla Shores Association board members last week decided not to take a stand on enlarged Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in and near La Jolla that would be off limits to uses such as fishing until they learn more about the proposals.

“I’m concerned about not having input from commercial fishermen and of the unintended consequences of creating these (MPA) areas,” said board member Todd Lesser. He was responding to a request from San Diego Coastkeeper, which sought the board’s support for a plan that would protect larger areas of the ocean from fishing to bolster dwindling local fish stocks. “We need to see if there is enough scientific evidence to make such a broad decision.”

Last year a five-member Blue Ribbon Task Force charged with creating a network of protected areas from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border, evaluated three alternatives ranging from one that conservationists supported calling for protecting larger stretches of ocean to one backed by recreational and commercial fisherman designating smaller areas.

In the end, the task force supported scientists who recommended protections for south La Jolla and Swamis Reef north of Del Mar. 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.

The Shores Association board voted to table the issue until they could hold a forum where those for and against designating larger sections of ocean for protection could present their cases.

In other matters, LJSA had also scheduled discussion of the controversial three-story Whitney redevelopment project. But the group also opted to postpone that discussion after developers Bob and Kim Whitney complained they hadn’t been given proper notification.

Kim Whitney read a letter to the group, an excerpt from which states, “My husband and I wonder how fair and impartial can the LJSA be when we were not informed that our project was on your agenda and we have never been requested to make a formal presentation. ... If we were not even notified, who do you expect to show up tonight to state the case for our project?”

When the Whitneys left the meeting after reading their letter the board decided that it would be appropriate to delay discussion of the project until at least next month to allow both sides to prepare presentations.