Plan proposes limits on coastal fishing

State blueprint would cut commerical permits,ban angling
in some areas in effort to restore 19 species

May 10, 2002
Carol Benfell
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

A sweeping proposal to restore California's dwindling coastal fisheries and protect undersea habitats was released Thursday by the state Department of Fish and Game.

The 400-page Nearshore Fishery Management Plan aims at creating a sustainable fish population. It would, among other things, cut the number of commercial fishing permits by half and prohibit recreational and commercial fishing in specified areas along the coast.

The plan focuses on 19 species of finfish, including red snapper, that live within one mile of shore.

Some 500 commercial fishing vessels and thousands of anglers will be affected when the plan becomes final, probably in August.

The nearshore plan became contentious almost the minute it was released. A previous plan was recalled in February after protests by fishermen.

"It's better than the first draft and it gives some good options for the commission to consider," said Bob Humphrey, director of the California Council of Dive Clubs. "But it still reflects an entrenched mentality that is obviously biased toward commercial fishing."

A spokesman for commercial fishermen disagreed.

"I think it's just the other way around," said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "One of the options in the plan is no commercial fishing within state waters."

The draft plan calls for:

Drastically reducing the number of commercial fishing permits until the size of the fleet more closely matches the allowable catch. The current fleet has a capacity of more than 1.9 million pounds -- double the amount that's ever been landed in a single year.

Creating marine protected areas -- no-fish zones -- along 10 percent of the Northern California coast and 15 percent of the Southern California coast. These areas would, in theory, guarantee the survival of fish species as they might possibly provide a nursery from which young fry could move to other areas of the ocean.

Regionalizing fishery management. The coast would be divided into the Northern, Central and Southern regions, each of which would be responsible for monitoring and regulating the fishery in its area.

Putting more effort into research and data gathering. The department acknowledges that it has no data on fish populations for many of the 19 fish species.

Promoting habitat protection and restoration, and recognizing the value of the nearshore ocean to those who don't fish -- passengers on sighteeing vessels, researchers, educators and environmentalists.

A public hearing on the nearshore plan is set for May 21 at the Elihu Harris State Office Building, 1515 Clay St. in Oakland.

You can reach Staff Writer Carol Benfell at 521-5259 or