After (Literally) Pushing and Shoving, California Panel Votes for Major Curbs on Fishing

fishing boat on coast photo

Photo via *clarity* via Flickr CC

Landmark restrictions on fishing in Southern California could mean increased protection for and replenishing of marine life. A 5-member state blue-ribbon panel voted unanimously to recommend a compromise to the Fish and Game Commission that would protect 250 miles of coastline. While the vote came much to the chagrin of those supporting fishing - with pushing and shoving actually part of the debate scene - even elected officials worked to encourage the panel to vote in favor of restrictions, showing that there could be an increasing move among lawmakers towards marine conservation that would, in the long run, benefit the fishing industry.

According to the LA Times, "The plan was forged during a year of contentious negotiations between conservationists and fishing interests over slivers of beach, access to kelp beds and submarine canyons, and the locations of parking lots and restrooms that could affect water quality, larval production and marine life between Santa Barbara and the Mexican border."

It might seem like some of these things are trivial, but each little piece of protected area matters. A particular point of debate were maps that outlined where hook-and-line fishing and deep-sea trawler access would be closed off. Shutting down these areas will give fish stocks a chance to recover from overfishing and damaged ecosystems.

The debate was heated, with two attendees actually having to be removed from the room after starting a shoving match. It shows just how passionate people get about where, when, and for what they can fish.

Who's Gonna Make Me?

The problem, of course, is enforcing the restrictions. "We do not have the resources to enforce regulations currently on the books. This is a matter that jeopardizes officer safety," said a lobbyist for the California Fish and Game Wardens Assn. Rather than jeopardizing officer safety, perhaps it is an opportunity for job growth - especially if elected officials are favoring the restrictions.

The LA Times reports Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa urged the panel to approve tough restrictions, as well as the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors who urged the panel to compromise by protecting kelp and canyon habitats on both sides of Point Dume but leaving the waters off Palos Verdes Peninsula open to fishing.

Trying to Fish Now and Fish Later

Laguna City Councilwoman Verna Rollinger seemed to sum up the situation best when it comes to compromising on marine protection measures. "I want fish in the ocean, and on my dinner plate," Rollinger said. "To do that, we have to restore the ocean."

Wendy Tochihara, a fishing advocate, stated "We are a dying breed; the average age of a commercial fisherman is 59, and it's tough work," she said. "The impacts will not stop at the docks. They will hit restaurants, markets and the gas stations where we fill up our boat fuel tanks, even the manufacturers of the nuts and bolts on the engines of our vessels."

Most likely, restaurants, markets and gas stations will still survive, considering they don't rely 100% on fish or the fishing industry to make their money. And fishermen will continue to be a "dying breed" so long as fish stocks continue to decline. These arguments don't carry very far as a reason to keep restrictions from moving forward.

The plan closes certain areas including waters off Laguna Beach and Point Dume, but will still allow fishing off Palos Verdes Peninsula and most of Catalina Island, an important area for tourism.

Fishing Everywhere Is Changing

It's not just the west coast that needs to consider protective measures. On the east coast, warming waters are pushing fish stocks farther off the coastline, forcing fishermen to boat farther out to catch them. Soon, it won't be economical to catch cod, haddock and winter flounder; instead they'll have to switch to Atlantic croaker, red hake and summer flounder.

More on Coastal Fishing Restrictions
Overfishing is Slowing, But Only in Areas With Good Fisheries Management
5 Stories About Overfishing & What Can Be Done to Stop It
World's Largest Caterer Bans 69 Endangered Fish From Its Menus

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