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Marine Reserves Plan Concerns Local Fishing Industry

Audio

Aired 8/7/09

A plan to create more no-fishing zones along the Southern California coastline has angered many local fishermen. The goal of the plan is to protect the ocean environment, and increase local fish populations.

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

GLORIA PENNER (Host): Well, you know, now we go to a whole different subject. You may think that California officials have been so busy figuring out how to keep the state solvent that they wouldn’t have time for much else. Well, that’s not true. There’s lots of work going on to develop an extensive off-shore area along the north county coastline as a state protected marine reserve. So, Kent, first let’s understand, what are we talking about? What is a protected marine reserve?

KENT DAVY (Editor, North County Times): Okay, let me just set the background for you. 1999, there was a Marine Protection Act passed to try and protect California coastal waters.

PENNER: In the State of California.

DAVY: California, coastal waters, has jurisdiction for three miles out. There have been a number of fits and starts kind of thanks to some sort of regulation, conservation, along there. This is, in part, driven by an impulse across the globe to the threat of collapsing fisheries across the world. This latest round is a set of discussions in which they have brought stakeholders, under the Fish & Game Commission, brought stakeholders together and tried to go through and map a conservation plan that made sense. It comes down to making some recommendations for marine reserves which would ban – basically ban activity, any extractive activity from designated areas, conservation areas where you could regulate it, and other areas that would be open altogether. And…

PENNER: Extractive activity? You’re talking about fishing.

DAVY: Well, taking fish, taking sand, taking shells, taking kelp, taking anything.

PENNER: So you’re leaving it as it is.

DAVY: Leaving it as it is.

PENNER: All right, so I said along the north county coast. We’re talking about La Jolla?

DAVY: In this particular case. This is a – They are creating plan – a plan for the coastline, the thousand miles of actually shoreline from Point Conception to the Mexican border. The other four regions of the California coast are in their own processes, various points in times. This one, however, takes a look at all of this area and creates pockets of—or suggestions for pockets—reserves. La Jolla is one of the prime grounds because scientists, biologists, look at that and go, that is prime habitat that we ought to protect. The commercial fishermen and recreational fishermen, on the other hand, are going wait a minute, that’s prime ground for us to be in, and they’re making offers of other compromises like saying, okay, we’ll have a reserve, a big reserve at Del Mar instead because there’s a kelp bed at – There is some habitat that’s valuable off of Del Mar.

PENNER: I wonder, David, I mean, you know, this is all new information for me. I’ve done some reading. But it looks like the stakeholders are the scientists, the environmentalists, tourism, which could very well be hurt, fishing interests because people still make a living out of fishing. At this point, where do you see the power, David, looking at this whole issue?

DAVID ROLLAND (Editor, San Diego CityBeat): Well, that’s interesting. That’s what I – kind of what I wanted to talk about. It’s so interesting to watch. Over the last 20 years or so, I mean, the environmental side of this has really, really gained a power foothold and I think it’s partly due to the fact that environmentalism is not fringe anymore. It used to be fringe. Now environmentalism is a mainstream concern. You have – I remember not too long ago, you had Brian Bilbray talking about global warming and he sounded like an, you know, an absolute environmental liberal on your show. It’s become much more mainstream, and in California very much so. It sort of mirrors the debate over another kind of water issue, and that is water as a resource, as a product. You know, water has been fought over for forever in this state between the farmers, the cities, and the environmentalists. Back in the day, the environmentalists didn’t even have a seat at the table. It was all – it was, you know, between the farmers and the cities. And now – and, you know, now we have them protecting the delta smelt, you know, and that’s causing, you know, concerns over water consumption. And now we have this where the environmentalists do seem to have the power, and I think it’s a nice shift.

PENNER: Well, I think one of the interesting things is that if you have no fishing zones where people can’t go out and just, you know, fish, either commercially or recreationally, I’m wondering whether, Chris Reed, whether this might lead to the establishment of fish farms off the California coast because you’re hearing more and more talk about actually raising fish in fish farms so that there will be more fish in the American diet.

CHRIS REED (Editorial Writer, San Diego Union-Tribune): Well, you’ve got ambitious folks down at Mission Beach. We went on a tour of the facility down there and it’s awesome the things that they’re doing. But there’s also other people who say that, ultimately, the cost is so much cheaper that it’s going to be done in the third world, like I think Vietnam is one of the leading fish farm places. But the thing that struck me about this debate is that there’s a reasonable quality to it. All I could say is thank God the California Coastal Commission is not riding herd on this issue. I mean, they’re absolutely…

ROLLAND: Come on.

REED: There seems to be a balance here and an attempt to recognize that environmental regulations have an effect on the economy. You know, if the California Coastal Commission was holding sway, there would be no debate. You know, they would just ban fishing and who cares? So I also want to note that it doesn’t seem to me like the economic impact is quite as severe as some of the critics of this proposal have suggested. At least if you can believe the report from Ecotrust, the consultant that they hired, you know, they’re talking about a 15% decline in commercial fishing profits. That is, you know, that’s not minor but I’m also saying that’s not devastating. And I understand Oceanside would be hardest hit but anyway, so far, this just seems reasonable to me and I wish to heck these people were in charge of the California Coastal Commission.

ROLLAND: Do you – Chris, you do realize that the mission of the Coastal Commission is not to make as much money as possible by exploiting the coast, right?

REED: Well, but you do – you do realize that Peter Douglas, the executive director of the California Coastal Commission, is on record as saying it’s time we rethought the concept of property rights. Now that this man has a position of power in America, a man who doubts the constitutional commitment to property rights, I’m sorry, I think he’s an extremist.

ROLLAND: His job – his job…

REED: I think he’s a nut.

ROLLAND: …is not to protect property rights, it’s to protect the coast.

PENNER: I – My job is to allow our callers to come in, so let’s hear from Bill in Escondido. Bill, would you make it brief, please?

BILL (Caller, Escondido): Yeah, hi.

PENNER: Hi.

BILL: I’m a scuba diver, a long time scuba diver here in San Diego. I just wanted to make the comment that I do definitely support the creation of these zones here in San Diego and in Southern California. But more saliently, I’ve been diving here for 25 years and it’s important to understand that I’ve seen an incredible amount of decline in the fish population, the local fish populations, in those 25 years and I understand that decline has been happening a lot longer than that but just when I started diving here in the early eighties, lots and lots of fish life and now not so much.

PENNER: So I want to ask Kent about that. Will Bill be limited in his diving potential if these protected zones are created?

DAVY: I don’t think he’ll be limited in diving. If he was – if he was going fishing while he was diving or collecting specimens then there are limits and they can’t in any sight of the reserves. I would make this point to Bill and this is not part of the consideration of these discussions. My guess is, as an educated newsman, not a scientist, that the biggest single impact on coastal fisheries is not fishing per se, it’s not the fishing pressure either recreationally or commercial, it is the pollution that comes from our runoff, point source pollution, and the degradation of our water quality, sewers being chief among them and municipalities that can’t figure out how to run a sewer system without spills.

PENNER: What I’m concerned about, David, is will we see communities pitted against each other? I mean, if they say, for example, La Jolla’s prime area, are we going to see some sort of, you know, La Jolla against Del Mar? Trading, keeping La Jolla open for fishing, turning Del Mar into a big reserve?

ROLLAND: Yeah, I mean the shorter answer – the short answer is yes, when we have these debates over – You know, everybody wants the same thing. You know, everybody wants the valuable resource for whatever reason it is. So, yes, the shorter answer, yes. But the way I understand it, actually, from talking to Kent, you know, before the show, is that Del Mar doesn’t really have too much of a foothold and is probably going to be the one that gets – that gets the short end of the stick here because the valuable resources there are in La Jolla and Encinitas.

PENNER: You get the last comment, Kent.

DAVY: The valuable resource for Del Mar is the sand pit that’s off that shore, and the Del Mar City officials are very interested in. And their piece of it is to try and figure out how to push that marine reserve off far enough that they can still extract sand.

PENNER: Well, gentlemen, I want to thank you very much, a really fascinating conversation this morning. I want to thank David Rolland from San Diego CityBeat and Kent Davy from North County Times and Chris Reed from the San Diego Union-Tribune. Remember, in just a few minutes you’ll be able to join Maureen Cavanaugh for an extended one hour program taking your calls on healthcare reform. Our number, 1-888-895-5727. This is the Editors Roundtable. I’m Gloria Penner.

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