Thursday, December 15, 2005
What do you get when you put a bunch of fishermen in the same room with environmentalists, scuba divers, underwater photographers, marine biologists, harbormasters, business owners, and kelp harvesters—and then ask this diverse, adversarial group to come up with a plan to protect the Central Coast’s marine resources?
Surprisingly, the answer isn’t a big fight. Late last week, 56 stakeholders emerged from a two-day session at Beach Resort Monterey with three proposals for the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), which will be forwarded to the state’s Blue Ribbon Task Force and Science Advisory Board in January.
The task force and advisory boards will review the proposals and select a preferred alternative, which will then be forwarded to the state Department of Fish and Game (DFG).
DFG’s Paul Riley calls the stakeholders’ work “impressive.”
“Considering how compressed their timeframe was, they’ve done an excellent job,” Riley says. “These stakeholders have other jobs and they’ve devoted a lot of their time to this process.”
The three proposals were culled from a slough of plans, which ran the gamut from minimal to extreme levels of protection.
The first, primarily authored by fishermen, is the least restrictive. It protects 222 square miles, including 16 marine reserves, or no-take zones; one marine park, which allows recreational fishing; and 18 marine conservation areas that would restrict which species of fish could be caught.
The second proposal, promoted by Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary officials, would provide 218 square miles of protected areas, including 18 no-take zones, three parks and 13 conservation areas.
The most conservative of the three proposal comes from the Otter Project’s Steve Shimek and the Ocean Conservancy’s Kaitilin Gaffney. It would protect 256 square miles of water with 22 no-take zones, two underwater parks and nine conservation areas.
According to Riley, the stakeholders will submit further revisions, if any, to these packages on Dec. 15 and then the Science Advisory Board and the Blue Ribbon Task Force will address the plans at their next meetings in January. The task force will make its recommendations by late March and a preferred package will be decided on by May.
“There will be a public hearing and six-month public comment process beginning in Spring 2006,” Riley says.
The Fish and Game Commission is expected to finalize the new system of marine protected areas by the end of 2006.
In 2004, the California legislature directed the DFG to renew its commitment to the 1999 Marine Life Protection Act. The Central Coast was chosen as the litmus test for this process and last week’s decision was the first step in establishing a new mandate for the DFG.
Number of animals currently up for adoption at SPCA Monterey County, including 25 dogs, 85 cats, one rooster, eight guinea pigs, two hamsters, three horses, 11 rabbits, one sheep and one rat. Source: SPCA of Monterey County