Voting to safeguard the sea

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Posted by on August 15, 2006 at 23:55:17:

In Reply to: California Establishes Network of Marine Reserves posted by on August 15, 2006 at 23:47:31:

California could become the first state in the nation to impose a broad network of No Fishing Zones along parts of the central coast.

Almost seven years of debate and study may come down to the decision being made on Tuesday evening.

The California Fish and Game Commission is expected to vote on a plan to restrict fishing from parts of the coastline, spanning from Half Moon Bay to Santa Barbara.

The California coastline is vital to the state's identity, culture and economy. That is why the California Fish and Game Commission is considering four proposals to safeguard the sea.

The idea is that severely-depleted ocean species will make a comeback if certain areas are banned from fishermen.

"I think it's a needed concept, I think that we need to start protection, we are way past due," said Pam Heatherington.

Environmentalists, like Heatherington, who is with the Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo, support the most restrictive plan.

It would set 13 percent of central coast waters, three miles out from Half Moon Bay down to Santa Barbara, off limits to commercial and recreational fishing.

"I think a little restriction now is better than no fish to catch later. I think that would sum it up," said Heatherington.

Longtime commercial fishermen like Tom Roff support the least-restrictive plan to set five percent off limits.

"We felt confident that our proposal would do two things, the first being help keep the fishermen and fisheries in our area in business, and secondly, create a set of networks which were scientifically correct," said Roff.

After a severely restricted salmon season, and years of other restrictions, fishermen said a 13 percent ban would dry up their livelihood.

"It would eliminate most commercial fishing in the central coast," said Roff.

One way or another, lives at sea hinge on the commission's decision.

Fish and Game officials favor a plan that is in the middle of the environmentalists' and fishermen's proposals, which would set eight percent of the ocean off limits.

The restrictions are required by the Marine Life Protection Act, which was passed by the state legislature in 1999.

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