For nearly the entire past year a panel of marine experts have been putting together proposals for redesigning California’s system of marine protected areas along the southern coast. The areas include Ocean Beach and Sunset Cliffs, and other parts of San Diego County. The OB coast is considered one of the chief areas of contention.
The experts have come up with three proposals for marine sanctuaries – and all of them would more than double the space to be set aside for protecting sea life on the Southern California coast. The trio of proposals would provide from 380 to 413 square miles of near-shore waters as safety zones for species — more than twice the current amount of 182 squares miles.
A week ago the panel met in Long Beach on October 22nd, and after holding the hearing for three days and having hours of comments on the establishment of a so-called Marine Protected Area, put off a recommendation on the hotly debated proposals. Additional time was needed, panel members said, to assess the options. Panelists specifically requested a scientific analysis of numerous proposed changes to habitat maps that extend from Santa Barbara County to the U.S.-Mexico border.
“One thing we don’t want to do is make a decision when we’re not prepared,” Catherine Reheis-Boyd, chairwoman of the Blue Ribbon Task Force told the media. “We had a lot of questions, got a lot of feedback, and we have a lot more work to do.”
They will meet again in Los Angeles on November 10th in the hopes of making their recommendation. The eventual recommendation will go to the California Fish and Game Commission for a final decision in December.
The three proposals have dramatic differences in the specific zones that would have a reduction or elimination of harvest. The San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Mike Lee labeled the Ocean Beach coast as having “major discrepancies in suggested rules….” Famosa Slough is also covered by the proposals.
Other areas of large contention include the La Jolla coast, where environmentalists want to place a partial closure despite its rich fishing area. Lee said: “There also are major discrepancies in suggested rules for North County lagoons, the areas off Del Mar and Encinitas, the mouth of the Tijuana River and the Ocean Beach coast.”
All the proposals are being developed under the Marine Life Protection Act, a 1999 state law to bolster marine conservation along California’s 1,100-mile coastline. The Act calls for redesigning offshore protected zones to rebuild stocks of fish and other sea life. “It’s been contentious from the start because various groups have stakes in virtually every square foot of Southern California’s coastal waters,” Lee opined.