MLPA process comes to an end, closures ‘approved’

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Essentially, the fishing industry lost considerable chunks of viable fishing grounds today, some 350 square miles (close to 15% of California’s coast) of coastal water will become State Marine Reserves or State Marine Conservation Areas. In total, 49 separate areas will become MPAs at some point in 2011, although an official timetable has yet to be announced by the Department of Fish and Game. In San Diego County, areas effected include the Point Loma Kelp off the tip of Point Loma infront of the Cabrillo Monument, which will now be labeled the Carbillo State Marine Reserve, an expansion of the Marine Reserve in La Jolla and Scripps, South La Jolla, and areas of San Elijo among others. North of San Diego, extremely large areas of Point Conception in Santa Barbara and Malibu’s Point Dume became new MPAs. The new closure areas are too numerous to list, for a map of the South Coast’s MPAs included in the vote tonight, click here.

The process was heated to say the least, and a spirited and committed group of anglers backed by numerous national organizations fought to protect the rights of anglers for approximately 2 years. While today’s vote marks a loss of fishing grounds, it didn’t end quite as bad as it could have been if not for the fight that the fishing industry put up. Conservationalists had proposed maps with bigger and more intrusive closure areas, but folks like Marc Mills of Shimano, Tommy Gomes of Uni Goop, Paul Lebowitz of the Kayak Fishing Association of California and Wendy Tochihara of Izorline who served on the Regional Stake Holders Group helped negotiate as much access to the coastal fishing grounds as possible. They dedicated a large part of their lives to this process for more than two years. Their efforts should be applauded and recognized for preventing more widespread closures.

Despite the vote, the process is probably not over. As mentioned, the process is likely to be challenged in court based on the premise that the Blue Ribbon Task Force (the group appointed by the commission to conduct hearings and ultimately submit a recommendation of closure areas to the DFG Commission) held closed-door meetings to determine their recommendation in a process that was supposed to be completely transparent. Attorneys representing the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans warned the commission today that a vote in support of the IPA would be challenged in court, but despite the warning, the majority vote was reached as expected.

Hours worth of reading material is available online on the DFG’s website, and undoubtedly there is more to come. To read more on the South Coast MLPA and its process, vew the DFG’s South Coast MLPA page here. For an introduction to the MLPA, click here.

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