The sanctuaries plan would nearly double areas that ban or limit fishing off Southern California. (Photo: NOAA)
Panel votes to expand habitat sanctuaries off Southern California
Thursday, November 12, 2009, 17:30 (GMT + 9)
A California blue-ribbon panel voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve landmark fishing and harvesting restrictions off the coast of Southern California. This would create protected areas for depleted marine species while also leaving certain areas open for fishing.
The five-member panel will recommend making the 250mi-coastline economically and ecologically sustainable to the California Fish and Game Commission.
The commission will then tackle the plan on 9 December; it is expected to back it, although the completion of the change may take several months.
The state commission may make its final determination next summer or fall.
“We are doing something really unprecedented,” said Meg Caldwell, a blue ribbon panel member from Stanford Law School. “This is not just for ourselves and all the various users . . . but for communities that have lived with and lived in these systems for thousands of years and for future generations as well.”
The plan was developed amid turbulent discussions between environmentalists and the fishing industry over access to the ocean, kelp beds and submarine canyons as well as parking lot and restroom locations that could affect water quality, larval production and marine health between Santa Barbara and the Mexican border, Los Angeles Times reports.
Fishing interests are concerned about maps limiting coastal hook-and-line fishing and deep-sea trawler access. The stocks in the protected areas, that is, lobster, urchin, squid, sea bass, sheepshead, yellowtail and swordfish, are considered important target stocks for recreational and commercial fishing.
Commercial fishers said unemployment and business closures will come their way as a result of the new measures.
“It hurts us really bad,” said Wendy Tochihara, a member of the stakeholder group who represented a fishing-line company in Paramount. “It's just unfathomable that they could just blatantly disregard the socioeconomics in some of these areas.”
“I am going to do my best to talk to the Fish and Game Commission and state our case,” she added.
In the meantime, environmentalists are claiming scientific guidelines to ascertain ocean health are being sacrificed in favour of the fishing industry by some of the panelists.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors are backing the protection of habitat, specifically those located on both sides of Malibu’s Point Dume. The Board, however, supports leaving the waters off the Palos Verdes Peninsula open to fishing.
Officials will have a hard time enforcing the new restrictions, claimed a representative for state officials.
"We do not have the resources to enforce regulations currently on the books. This is a matter that jeopardises officer safety," lobbyist for the California Fish and Game Wardens Association (CFGWA) George L Osborn told the panel.
Photo Courtesy of FIS Member National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA/NMFS