California’s fishermen concerned over environmental proposal

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A group representing commercial and recreational fishermen is working to prevent California from adopting a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) that could cause substantial harm to the state’s commercial and recreational fishing industries, it reported in a recent statement.

Tomorrow, the California Fish and Game Commission (CFGC) will be conducting a public hearing in Sacramento to discuss the addition of a new network of MPAs to the state’s Central Coast region via the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, according to the California Fisheries Coalition (CFC). The CFGC is reviewing six MPA proposal packages and is slated to make its final selection by November 2006.

At Wednesday’s hearing, CFC) will be presenting a commissioned, scientific peer review report, which it said shows that restrictions in five of the six proposed packages will needlessly suffocate California’s $5 billion commercial and recreational fishing industry. The presentation and hearing will take place at 10:00 a.m. in the First Floor Auditorium at California State Building 9, located at 744 P Street in Sacramento.

Major findings of the CFC report will be presented at the hearing by one of the three scientists that conducted and authored the study, Dr. Carl Walters, a fellow of the Pew Oceans Commission. Dr. Walters and his fellow scientists found that each of the packages before the CFGC will benefit California’s marine species about equally, according to CFC. However, two proposals recommend closing 40 percent or more of the most productive fishing grounds, leaving Package 1 as the only proposal that integrates California’s strong existing protections with systems to monitor effectiveness, CFC reported.

Package 1, known as the “fisherman’s alternative,” is the result of a partnership between fishing industries and marine scientists. The system of MPAs presented in Package 1 take into consideration existing ocean policy, regulations, protections, and socio-economic impacts and their related costs, CFC stated.

CFC said its objective is to see a full and balanced implementation of the MLPA. In recommending acceptance of Package 1, the CFC is asking the CFGC and supporters of the other packages to give adequate consideration to “real costs” of imposing fisheries regulations.

The designation of new managed areas could restrict and, in some cases, eliminate many ocean-related activities including commercial and recreational fishing, threatening an estimated $5.5 billion impact on the state’s economy, according to CFC.

Sacramento-based CFC consists of 23 ocean-dependent recreational and commercial fishing associations, seafood processors, abalone growers, kelp harvesters, harbor officials, and coastal communities. Coalition membership encompasses more than 14,000 commercial fishermen, in excess of 4,000 fishing vessels, several million recreational anglers, more than 200 seafood companies, and coastal communities spanning the entire state. Approximately 172,000 people are employed by CFC partner businesses.

For more information on the MLPA Initiative and the California Fisheries Coalition, and to obtain a complete copy of the scientific peer review, visit the CFC website at www.cafisheriescoalition.org.

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