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|California Fish and Game Commission pass final Southern California Marine Life Protected Areas|
|Environment and Resources
|WEDNESDAY, 22 DECEMBER 2010 18:34|
|Southern California’s coastline now has more Marine Life Protected Areas (MLPA), with several falling on San Diego County’s shores.
More than four years in planning, the California Fish and Game Commission passed regulations creating 36 new Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in the California South Coast Study Region in Santa Barbara on Dec. 15 with a 3-2 vote.
Many of these areas generated heavy debate amongst communities, with environmentalists, scientists, commercial and recreational fishermen, and residents joining into the fray on how best to protect the future of coastal natural habitats, preserve local economy and provide public recreational freedom.
Regional boundaries extend from Point Conception to the California-Mexico border. Regulations were adopted as part of the Marine Life Management Act of 1998, which focused on maintaining the health of marine ecosystems and biodiversity in order to sustain resources. This passage encompasses about 187 square miles of state waters in the region.
Planning groups for the expansions of MLPAs include the Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRFT), Science Advisory Team (SAT), Regional Stakeholder Group, Statewide Interests Group, and the California Fish and Game Commission. New regulations were passed following more than 50 days of meetings with formal public comment and are expected to go into effect mid-2011.
Fish and Game Commissioners Dan Richards and President Jim Kellogg voted against adopting the Commission’s Integrated Preferred Alternative (IPA) proposed regulation. Richards named three distinct reasons for his “no” vote.
“First and foremost, the protection of the ocean and its habitat is as important to Kellogg and myself as [it is to] the other commissioners,” said Richards. “What we are looking for is a fair, transparent process for all constituents – a plan that truly considers the economic impact of this decision and an adaptive management plan that can be properly funded and implemented.”
The Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) states that the IPA includes changes in allowable fishing and other uses: “Though these changes may result in economic impacts to commercial fishing interest and ocean-dependent fishing businesses, these impacts have been evaluated and minimized during the design of the proposed Project IPA and alternatives.”
Richards argues that the EIR does not address the negative economic impacts on the fishing industry and the actual impact is unknown.
“The economic impact here is huge,” Richards said. “This plan will put thousands of Californians out of work.”