Zone 1 in place for California's no-fishing plan
It is trying to protect its world-famous bounty of fish with marine protected areas.
Fishermen in small towns along the central coast fear they will no longer be able to supply local restaurants with respectable "catches of the day."Skip to next paragraph
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Waterfront boating operators say scenic tours and sport fishing could become too expensive or go extinct. And some local officials say the "quaint fishing village" look could fade into yesteryear, replaced by communities of modern condos.
But leading environmental groups say the new plan is the only way to sustain California's marine resources and world-famous bounty of rockfish, squid, tuna, jack mackerel, and hake.
Eight years after California made world headlines with landmark legislation to create a mosaic of no-fishing zones along its coast, the first step of its giant master plan kicked in last Friday. The state will ban or severely restrict fishing in more than 200 square miles of ocean off the central coast from San Luis Obispo to Monterey.
"This is the first big step in helping California ensure that it will have sustainable marine resources into the future," says John Ugoretz, habitat and conservation program manager for the California Department of Fish and Game. "While some people feel we are taking away their freedom and don't like the idea … we think that is a short-term sacrifice and that this is a must if our children and grandchildren want to have a healthy environment and a place to fish."
Long pushed by state environmentalists who have wanted to protect the ecosystem off the California coast – including undersea plants, waterfowl, seals, and birds – the preservation issue really caught fire in December 2006, when widespread reports came out that one-third of the world's fish species have declined by more than 90 percent. But there has also been disagreement over key issues – including precisely where the zones should be and what fish need to be protected or exempted – and animosity has arisen over which groups of stakeholders are making the most sacrifices.
"We keep hearing from the environmentalists that everyone has to compromise a little to make this all work, but we [fishermen] seem to be the only ones who make sacrifices," says Vern Goehring, manager of the California Fisheries Coalition, which represents fishing associations and seafood processors.
First zone of five
Made up of marine protected areas (MPAs), the newly designated zone off the central coast is the first of five that will eventually line the entire 1,100-mile coastline of California. It is mandated by the Marine Life Protection Act, which passed by a 2-to-1 margin in the state Legislature in 1999.
The state Fish and Game Commission approved this first region in April after years of negotiations with coastal residents, fishermen, scientists, and environmentalists. Similar rounds of discussions are now under way concerning the next zone, which will cover state waters extending three miles from the shore and from San Mateo County to Mendocino County.