Fishing banned in Point Dume coastal waters

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The Marine Life Protection Act Blue Ribbon Taskforce voted to approve a plan that bans fishing in Point Dume coastal waters, in addition to imposing limited fishing from Westward to Lechuza beaches.

By Jonathan Friedman / Special to The Malibu Times

At a hearing that nearly broke out in violence, a state blue ribbon task force last week unanimously approved a proposal banning fishing of all kinds in ocean waters off the Point Dume coast. The restriction would cover a stretch of ocean from Westward Beach to just outside Paradise Cove. Also, the ocean from Westward Beach to Lechuza Beach was proposed for a designation that would allow limited fishing. The proposal does not restrict public access or recreational activities such as boating, swimming, diving or kayaking.

The Marine Life Protection Act Blue Ribbon Task Force’s decision on Point Dume and the rest of the California coast from Point Conception in Santa Barbara to the Mexican border will go to the California Department of Fish and Game Commission, which will meet Dec. 9 at the LAX Radisson Hotel, for final approval.

Environmentalists mostly praised the vote from the five-member panel, although there was some dissatisfaction with the decisions for other areas of the South Coast region. Like Point Dume, Laguna Beach received the Marine Protection Area, or MPA, designation. But there are no fishing restrictions proposed for the Palos Verdes Peninsula and most of Catalina Island.

Maps and descriptions of the proposed MPAs are to be posted at www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/index.asp by this Thursday.

Commercial and recreational fishing groups denounced the task force for making a decision they said will be financially devastating to those involved in fishing as well as the entire state of California.

“Traditional fishing management in the state of California has been working, and it’s not necessary to put on an extra layer of restrictions when the current system is working,” Patty A. Doerr, ocean resource policy director for the American Sportfishing Association, said in an interview this week.

Doerr and commercial fishing advocates predict economic disaster for those whose lives depend on the fishing industry. Also, they say, the state will be harmed with less money coming in from fishermen. And customers will be faced with higher prices on seafood.

Malibu Mayor Pro Tem Jefferson Wagner said in an interview on Tuesday that the fears are exaggerated.

“You can still fish in other areas,” Wagner said.

Although Wagner supports the final proposal for the most part, he said he wished Malibu officials could make the decision on fishing rules off their city’s coast. He called this an example of Malibu “once again being handed rules and regulations from an authority.”

Wagner said it also would have been a better idea had the ban been done on a “year-on, year-off basis.”

“It’s like farming where they grow one crop one year and another crop the next year,” Wagner said. “Why don’t you do something like that with the management of this area, one year on, one year off?”

Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich said in an interview this week that if the Fish and Game Commission approves the proposal, it would lead to the repopulation of fish in the Point Dume area.

“It’s a sacrifice we’re making for future fish,” Conley Ulich said. “We are custodians of the environment, and it’s a big sacrifice that Malibu is making to have a more sustainable fish community.”

Last week’s hearing at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel lasted several hours and featured dozens of speakers on both sides of the issue. Many people wore T-shirts stating their viewpoints and held signs throughout the hearing. At one point, two men who got into a shouting and shoving match, had to be escorted from the premises by security.

The MPA designation process began in 1999 with the passage of the Marine Life Protection Act. But a lack of funding and public support delayed the procedure. Funding from several organizations in 2004 led to the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative, which is currently underway.

The state has been divided into five regions for this process, including the South Coast, which contains Malibu. Each region has its own blue ribbon task force that is assigned to make a proposal to the Fish and Game Commission. The North Central Coast and Central Coast completed the process in April of this year and August 2007, respectively. Initial public outreach is beginning in the North Coast. And the process will not begin until next year for the San Francisco Bay.