California May Ban Fishing Around Channel Islands

By E&E Publishin

Feb. 10 - WorldCatch News Network - The California Fish and Game Commission should ban fishing in one-quarter of the waters around Channel Islands, state and federal officials will recommend Friday.

The commissioners are expected to make a decision by August on the plan to set aside 490 square miles in a network of 11 marine reserves and two marine conservation areas. The proposed no-fishing areas in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary reflect a growing consensus among scientists and government officials that limiting fishing in some ocean areas offers the best hope for reviving struggling species. A panel of scientists says the commission would have to close 30 percent to 50 percent of the waters to cover all types of underwater habitat and protect a wide variety of marine life.

The fishing industry wants the commission to allow fishermen to resume negotiations with environmentalists and biologists on mapping the network, saying only 13 percent should be placed off limits. The fishing lobby has already convinced Fish and Game officials to persuade the state Legislature to postpone this year's deadline on designing a network of marine reserves along California's entire coast to allow for more meetings on the size and location of each reserve. "There isn't one square inch of ocean that you could close and not find someone screaming that their ox is being gored," said Warner Chabot, Oceans Conservancy vice president.

The state has prohibited fishing in only 0.2 percent of California's coastal waters. A marine conservation organization commissioned a poll released today that shows 69 percent of 1,000 likely voters would favor "fully protected areas" even if it meant "you may no longer be able to fish in one of your favorite places."

Fishermen plan to show up at Friday's meeting in force to keep pressuring the commission. "If you are going to make [marine] reserves, make them so people can use them," said Sal Vallone, the owner of Bob Sands Fishing Tackle in Van Nuys, Calif. "All of their arguments have been to benefit the fish, not the public's enjoyment" (Kenneth Weiss, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 8). -- EG

© 2002 E&E Publishing. All Rights Reserved.