Fishermen Get Say In No-Fish Zones

Divers, environmentalists and coastal residents also will be included on citizen panels to advise Game and Fish

February 1, 2002


Fishermen protests have prompted the state Department of Fish and Game to scrap its plan for marine sanctuaries in favor of new no-fishing zones the fishermen themselves will help create.

The 12 marine sanctuaries that scientists recommended last summer for the Sonoma, Mendocino and Marin county coasts are out, said spokeswoman Chamois Andersen.

Instead, the department is creating citizen panels to decide where fish sanctuaries should be. The social and economic impacts of sanctuaries also will be considered.

"We're taking a step back," Andersen said. "We are listening. Engaging the public is absolutely essential."

The action won praise from both fishermen and environmentalists.

"I think it's closer to what we wanted," said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations.

"We're hoping this will bring together the fishermen and the scientists. I think they both have a lot to offer," Grader said.

Environmentalists also welcome a chance to be part of the process, said Warner Chabot, vice president of the Ocean Conservancy, a San Francisco-based environmental group.

"The ocean belongs to all the people. Hopefully, with this new process, we'll all be able to sit down at the table and have a thoughtful dialogue on how to protect and restore it," Chabot said.

Fish and Game launched its proposal for a series of protected marine areas last summer during 20 workshops in coastal counties.

The idea was to prohibit fishing in areas that are vital for the survival of undersea life, such as the rocky underwater caves near Point Arena that shelter rockfish.

But local fishermen cried foul. They said Fish and Game had broken its promise to include the fishing industry in the discussions before the marine sanctuary list was drawn up.

They also said the areas designated by the scientists would not accomplish Fish and Game's goal.

"The fishing community and the public were being denied access to all these big areas based on very little and sometimes almost nothing in the way of hard figures," said Rick Powers, owner of the Bodega Bay Sport Fishing Center and the New Sea Angler, a sportfishing party boat.

The protests were repeated in many of the workshops, Andersen said. So Fish and Game is restarting the process, and will create six citizen panels, each of which focuses on a different stretch of the California coast.

The department is now seeking nominations of people who can represent ocean constituencies, including fishermen, divers, environmentalists and residents of coastal communities.

Fifteen people will be selected for each panel. The North Central California Panel will include Sonoma, Marin and Mendocino counties and stretches from Point Arena in Mendocino county south to Point Ano Nuevo in San Mateo County.

The deadline for nominations is Feb. 22, and selection is expected to be complete by March 1. Regional meetings are expected to begin the third week of March, Andersen said.

Nominations may be made in writing to John Ugoretz, Department of Fish and Game, 1933 Cliff Drive, Suite 9, Santa Barbara 93109, or by e-mail to

The deadline for completion of a report on marine protected areas is Jan. 1, 2003, an extension of an earlier date.