On 23 October, 2002 the California Fish Game Commission, on a
slim 2-1 vote, approved a plan to close around 175 square miles
surrounding the Channel Islands to fishing - or approximately 24
percent of the fishing grounds - to create a series of marine
protected areas (MPAs) around the isles offshore Southern California.
The decision made in Santa Barbara, with two
Commissioners absent, was to adopt the Department of Fish Game's
"Preferred Alternative No. 1." One fishing industry proposal,
submitted by Chris Miller and Harry Liquornik, was similar to what the
Commission adopted, but would not have closed as extensive an area to
fishing, provided for a more gradual phase-in, and called for
extensive monitoring to judge the effectiveness of the MPA network.
The Commission's decision of the 23rd only affects state waters; the
adoption of the Federal waters portion will come later.
Concern was raised from fishing groups that much of the water around the Channel Islands was already restricted to fishing due to the cow cod and groundfish closures. Environmentalists countered the fishing closures were not the same as MPAs and should not be considered. While MPAs may be different than fishing closures, the action by the Commission only affected fishing, but no other activities that may impact on the marine ecosystem of the Channel Islands, such as discharges, Navy sonar testing, personal watercraft (i.e., jet ski) use, or the number of vessels carrying whale watchers and other forms of "eco-tourism." PCFFA had been particularly critical of the document prepared for the selection of a Channel Islands MPA network, saying the alternatives presented:
1. fail to adequately consider all factors affecting marine life and habitats in the area and instead focus on one "extractive" activity - fishing;
2. fail to establish specific monitoring, research, or evaluation programs needed for marine protected areas and, instead, just close areas to fishing; and
3. fail to contain specific objectives and management measures necessary to determine whether MPAs are achieving the objectives of the program (the objective is not merely to "feel good").
PCFFA and the Sea Urchin Harvester's Association also submitted a list of recommendations to the Commission for whatever alternative was selected, including protocols for monitoring and evaluation. A copy of PCFFA's letter is on the organization's website at: www.pcffa.org. The Los Angeles Times article on the Commission action is at: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-reserve24oct24.story.