DFG To Release Nearshore Fishery
Management Plan For Public Review

SACRAMENTO - - The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) today released the draft Nearshore Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for public review and comment.

The Nearshore FMP has been developed by DFG for adoption by the Fish and Game Commission. The Nearshore plan is designed to guide the management of recreational and commercial harvest of marine finfish species found along California's coast. The Fish and Game Commission will be using public meetings, e?mail, letters and faxes to gain public insights on the plan.

"The Nearshore Fishery Management Plan will serve as the framework for managing the state's nearshore fishery for its long?term sustainable use," DFG Director Robert C. Hight said today. "The plan represents the work of many people, including our staff as well as a broad cross?section of the public who have a special interest in maintaining a healthy nearshore fishery in California."

The draft Nearshore FMP will be available for review by Aug. 23 on the DFG's Web site at www.dfg.ca.gov/mrd/nfmp. Copies may also be reviewed at the DFG's Marine Region offices and county libraries along the coast.

Written comments on the draft Nearshore FMP are invited through Oct. 5 and may be mailed to the attention of California Fish and Game Commission, Draft Nearshore FMP, 20 Lower Ragsdale Dr., Monterey, CA 93940; fax (831) 649?2917. Comments, including the person's name and address may also be emailed to the Commission at NearshoreFMP@dfg.ca.gov.

The plan will be presented to the Commission at its upcoming meeting Aug. 23 in Santa Barbara. Public testimony will be heard at the Aug. 23 meeting as well as on Oct. 5 at the Commission's meeting in San Diego.

In addition, DFG and the Commission will host a series of public meetings in September to receive further comments on the draft Nearshore FMP.

The September meetings are from 7 to 10 p.m. and are as follows: · Sept. 5, San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo Veteran's Memorial Building, 801 Grand Ave. · Sept. 6, Seaside, Seaside Oldemeyer Center, 986 Hilby Ave. · Sept. 12, Long Beach, Long Beach City Council Chambers, 333 W. Ocean Blvd. · Sept. 13, San Diego, Hubbs?Sea World Research Institute, Shedd Auditorium, 2595 Ingraham St. · Sept. 26, Oakland, Elihu Harris State Office Building, 1515 Clay St. · Sept. 27, Eureka, Eureka Public Marina, Wharfinger Building, Great Room, 1 Marine Way.

California's nearshore ecosystem is known as one of the most productive ocean areas in the world, encompassing 2,550 square miles and generating nearly $40 million in revenue. The Nearshore FMP aims to conserve and protect the nearshore ecosystem and its marine stocks, including certain species of rockfish, California sheephead, greenlings, cabezon, and scorpionfish.

The DFG's ecosystem approach to managing the state's nearshore fishery relies heavily on good science and is the result of landmark legislation.

The Marine Life Management Act (MLMA) of 1998 opened a new era in the management and conservation of living marine resources. The act's overriding goal is to ensure the conservation, sustainable use, and restoration of California's living marine resources, including the conservation of healthy and diverse marine ecosystems.

The Marine Life Management Act requires the Commission to adopt the Nearshore Fishery Management Plan by Jan. 1, 2002. The MLMA further directs the Commission to adopt regulations necessary to implement the plan as well as consider any proposed amendments.

During the past year, DFG biologists have been meeting with fishermen and other interested individuals and organizations across the state. At various stages in the development of the plan, the public was provided with draft copies and provided input on potential management approaches, species, and the plan's overall goals and objectives.

A Nearshore Advisory Committee, composed of commercial fishermen, recreational anglers, divers, and marine conservationists, was also established to provide DFG and the Commission with input and management recommendations for the plan.

The draft Nearshore FMP provides a series of alternatives for managing the fishery. The Commission may select any of those alternatives, modify them or request new alternatives. The alternatives selected by the Commission will determine the methods for limiting catch, managing on a regional basis, integrating marine protected areas with the management of the nearshore fishery, and sharing the resource among users. A program for restricted access in the commercial nearshore fishery will be fully developed over the next year as an important part of the nearshore plan.