Castal MPLAs may be lost in state budget crunch


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Posted by Chris on October 26, 2003 at 10:23:46:

From today's Daily Breeze:

No-fish plan high and dry
ENVIRONMENT: Opponents of the creation of preserves find the projectís budget-related stall encouraging news
.

By Lee Peterson
DAILY BREEZE

An ambitious plan to establish a string of underwater nature preserves along Californiaís coast has been left adrift by the stateís budget crisis, delaying the creation of an unprecedented network of no-fishing zones designed to restore flagging fish populations.

The project has been put in limbo, as wildlife authorities say they lack the staff to proceed with the intricate planning process involved in working out rules and borders for dozens of areas of protected waters.

Two years ago the state Department of Fish and Game launched the controversial project under the direction of the Legislature, attracting strong criticism from anglers who said the concept was flawed and would not work.

Some considered the Marine Life Protection Act high-minded and logical, a way to manage ocean resources as a whole rather than species by species, as is done now. Critics of the plan considered it wrongheaded, and welcome the delay as not only a chance to put off the creation of no-fishing zones, but to perhaps change the course of the project away from off-limits preserves to conservation zones.

At the moment we are in a complete state of flux, we are likely going to be implementing some layoffs, said Chamois Andersen, spokeswoman for the Department of Fish and Game. That is going to factor in whether we go forward with the program or not.

Fish and Game laid a great deal of groundwork, creating a set of maps for proposed areas of no fishing or limited fishing, and setting up regional working groups with representatives from every sector.

Members of those groups have been told that the process is on hold.

While Fish and Game may be in a holding pattern, the environmentalists, anglers and others who made up the working groups are considering their own ideas for the coast.

The recreational fishing community hopes to show what it says is the folly of creating no-fishing or no-take zones.

I think what this lull does is it gives us time to regroup and hopefully present these people with some good science to show that these types of (steps) donít need to be taken, said Rick Oefinger, owner of Marina del Rey Sportfishing.

Oefinger said even with the delay and the uncertainty of things at the Department of Fish and Game, the creation of preserves is probably inevitable, but hopefully they wonít be as extensive as proposed.

The plan includes proposed preserves around Catalina Island and off the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

With the delay in the statewide plan, the local group Kelp Forest Coalition hopes to push forth a plan to set up preserves around part of Catalina Island, akin to the system recently established around the rest of the Channel Islands.

We believe the future of Catalina is in the recreational use of the waters, with some areas set aside as reserves, said Jim Hall, co-founder of the Kelp Forest Coalition, who served on the Los Angeles to San Diego regional working group.

Waters off the islandís west end should be set aside as a no-take preserve, Hall said. If left alone for a few years, it would likely become a scuba-diving mecca on par with some of the best diving resorts in the world, Hall said.

The delay of the Marine Life Protection Act process should be used to gather data on the effectiveness of the preserves established around the Channel Islands, said Tom Raftican, president of the United Anglers of Southern California.

I think itís time to see if this was the panacea that everyone said it was going to be, Raftican said. I think itís extremely important to look to see if these are working before we approach any new no-take zones.

Raftican said the recreational fishing industry is not opposed to good management of fishing resources. Weíre all looking for strong fisheries and rich habitat, he said.

No-take fishing zones do nothing more than attract poachers, said Mike Fadely of Redondo Sportfishing. Without the funds to provide for a 24-hour guard, youíre just asking for trouble, he said.

If you put closures out there, you put up a red flag to anyone who wants to poach, Fadely said. There are going to be people who sneak in and out, and instead of the rod and reel, itís going to be nets.

But environmentalists say no-fishing zones are necessary to protect ocean resources, because catch limits do not work. The delay in the creation of a system of preserves is disconcerting, said Charles Moore of the Algalita Research Foundation.

I think itís a high priority and funds need to be directed toward it, Moore said.

Publish Date:October 26, 2003


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