Jan 4 2012

Will expanded SoCal marine reserves work?

California spiny lobsters are the subject of a study by San Diego scientists and lobstermen to assess the impact of marine reserves on sealife. - Photo courtesy of California Sea Grant

 

 Written by Mike Lee | Science-and-Environment Reporter

 

Hotly contested fishing restrictions take effect across Southern California waters on Sunday, when stretches of ocean offshore of La Jolla, Point Loma and elsewhere will be closed to harvest.

New and expanded sanctuaries were designed to improve marine life and coastal ecosystems, but there’s sharp disagreement about how well they will work.

That debate has spurred a multimillion-dollar network of research projects designed to look across several species and types of habitats — an initiative that includes an unusual alliance between lobstermen and San Diego scientists.

Despite harvesters’ dislike of no-fishing rules, some of them are helping tag tens of thousands of lobsters in the expanded reserve system so their growth and movement patterns can be tracked.

“It’s in everyone’s best interest to establish a good baseline,” said Rodger Healy, president of the California Lobster and Trap Fishermen’s Association, who is based in Dana Point. “It seems like it’s working. Hopefully, this is something that is going to be a template for the future.”

Like many other recreational and commercial fishermen, Healy distrusted the reserve-setting process, which started in Southern California three years ago and included several emotionally charged public meetings. Ocean “users” said the process was rigged against them, while conservation groups urged larger off-limits zones.

In the end, the state Fish and Game Commission adopted 52 marine protected areas and special closures that cover roughly 354 square miles of state waters. That’s about 15 percent of the nearshore region from Point Conception in Santa Barbara County to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Efforts by some anglers to invalidate the process in court so far have failed, leaving lobstermen such as San Diego-based Shad Catarius to fret about their livelihoods. He figures he’ll lose a third of his income when traps are outlawed in customary harvest spots and open zones become more crowded.

“Instead of there being 100 traps in an area, you could have 200 or 300 traps,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of tempers out there.”

Read the rest of the story on the San Diego Union-Tribune.

 

 

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