The Northern and Southern California Chapters of the Recreational Fishing Alliance have joined forces with the Ventura County Commercial Fishermen´s Association (VCCFA), in a lawsuit against the DFG Commission. The suit is drafted and will be filed forthwith. The VCCFA and RFA have raised serious legal issues with the Commission and DFG´s handling of the Channel Island´s Marine Reserve process. There are major problems with the draft Environmental Impact Report and the EIR selectively includes information that supports the proposed project and excludes from consideration the negative aspects associated with the placement of large marine reserves in the absence of mitigating measures. The Channel Island National Marine Sanctuary process was not included in the Marine Life Protection Act. CINMS was started before the passage of the MLPA, and is the first attempt at creating a statewide network of marine reserves along the California coast.

The RFA believes that MPAs can benefit the recreational fisheries and fishery resources if: the participation of all stakeholders is enjoined; effective planning and design are provided, and: regular monitoring, assessment, enforcement, and the proper funding in place.

Designed correctly, MPAs can be useful for fishery conservation/management purposes as a part of a fishery management plan and could be implemented with the endorsement of the recreational fishing community if they accommodate the following: A) There must be a clear identification of the conservation problem, not a perception of a problem. Traditional management practices (gear restrictions, quotas, bag limits, closed seasons etc.) have been evaluated and do not provide sufficient conservation and management remedies to the affected stocks of fish; (B) The proposal for a specifically-identified MPA must include measurable criteria to determine the conservation benefit to the affected stocks of fish and contain economic impact information on how the proposed actions would affect fishermen; (C) The proposal also should allow for other types of recreational fishing, such as trolling for pelagic species, or spearfishing, that would not have an impact on demersal stocks of concern. (D) Any closed areas within a MPA should be established with a sunset provision. On that date-certain, the zones will automatically reopen unless there is scientific proof that the closure should remain in effect and those findings are communicated to the public through a process integrating substantial public review and comment; (E) The plan provides a timetable for periodic review of the continued need for any closed area at least once every three years and an estimated time-line for removing the closure; (F) The closed area is no larger than that which is supported by the best available scientific information.

You might ask, why is RFA NorCal concerned about the Channel Islands? Number one, many of us from Northern California dive and fish the Channel Islands. Number two, with the Shelf closure for the next 170 years, the Cow Cod Conservation Area, and with the nearshore rockfish closure, all fishermen and spearfishermen need to unite together to fight this never ending attempt to turn the Pacific Ocean into a no fishing zone.

Randy Fry President, RFA, N. California Chapter.