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Local Fishermen Worried About Marine Life Protection Plan


A plan to redesign protected areas and improve conservation along California's coastline has caused a lot of concern within the local commercial fishing industry. Regardless of which marine areas become protected, local fishing profits are predicted to drop by more than 30 percent. We discuss the compelling arguments on both sides of the debate.

GLORIA PENNER (Host): A series of meetings took place this week in Long Beach to come up with a plan to protect marine life along the coast. This could have a major effect on San Diego’s coast, its passenger fishing fleet, its commercial fishing industry and their revenues. And it all has to do with closing fishing areas off Del Mar, Encinitas, La Jolla, and Sunset Cliffs but a decision on what areas to close was unexpectedly postponed. So let’s start with why close those particular areas, Barbara, before we talk about the postponement.

BARBARA BRY (Associate Publisher, Well, it’s interesting. To prepare for this topic, I had to learn a whole new set of acronyms: MLPA, BRTF, SCRSG, DFG. I’ll explain them all later, but it’s like a whole new language. And what’s in – what the environmental community is arguing is we need to be more stringent in the areas that you just mentioned, Gloria, in order to, you know, protect the wild – the sea life, which includes fish, shellfish, you know, plants and all of that. And they would argue that, you know, these – you know, we’re having troubles with these – with all of this and so we need to, you know, have more stringent regulations.

PENNER: Okay, but the meetings took place but a decision was postponed so it must be tougher than it seems, Andrew, am I – for them to make a decision. Okay, well, let’s close the fishing off La Jolla.

ANDREW DONOHUE (Editor, Yeah, well, let’s not forget this law first went into action in 1999 so it has taken quite a long time to get down this path but you’re dealing with some pretty sensitive issues. I mean, you’re dealing with, first of all, the livelihood of an industry. Second of all, you’re dealing with a resource that is not infinite and one that if that industry is going to survive in the long term to decades and decades in the future, we’re actually going to need to have those fish around for them to fish.

PENNER: But I have to tell you, I read an op-ed piece in the Union-Tribune in which – and I don’t have it with me right now, but in which somebody from the fishing industry basically said, hey, you know, this law was passed ten years ago and since then there’s not really been a problem with over-fishing, that the stocks have been replenished. There really is no crisis. Tony?

TONY PERRY (San Diego Bureau Chief, Los Angeles Times): Projections are always difficult. How many projections have we had that Lindbergh Field will be so maxed no one will be able to get in or out, and none of those projections have come to pass. All I know about fish is that when I go to Rubio’s I order the fish taco but I will defer to my betters, my colleagues who won a Pulitzer Prize by pointing out how very dire things are in the ocean and with the fishing industry and the fish population. And that series really cried out for somebody doing something, so I will defer to people who’ve actually gone fishing or know something about this. And I think this commission that is empowered to do this, there’s a lot of variables, you know, and there’s a lot of what area? I mean, we still don’t know La Jolla, how bad La Jolla will be hit by this or how well it will be protected depending on how you look at it.

PENNER: Well, before we, you know, we simplify it, say it’s a fisher – fishing industry versus environmentalists, there are lots of other things to talk about. We’ll be back in a moment to continue the discussion and take your phone calls at 1-888-895-5727.

PENNER: This is the Editors Roundtable. I’m Gloria Penner and I’m here with somebody who really knows something and that’s Tony Perry. He’s with the Los Angeles Times.

DONOHUE: And then there’s the rest of us.

PENNER: That’s Andrew Donohue just speaking up there, from And the other woman on this panel, Barbara Bry, who is with We’re talking about this attempt by a state panel to impose or perhaps not impose sections in the coastal areas to preserve fish, to grow fish, to basically preserve marine life. They’re having a problem, I guess, getting it all set up because they’ve delayed the decision and this act was actually passed by the state 10 years ago. The controversy has polarized the environmentalists and the fishing industry, and we’re talking about that right now because that decision is supposed to come down the line within weeks. It was supposed to come down the line this week and it was postponed. So as we’re discussing it, let’s take your calls and see what you have to say about it. And we’ll start with Marjon in La Jolla. Marjon, you’re on with the editors.

MARJON (Caller, La Jolla): Yes, good morning, Gloria. Good morning, Tony.

PERRY: Good morning.

MARJON: I think – and congratulations to Barbara for learning all those acronyms. I just wanted to give my full support to the state initiative. I think one dimension of this big project that probably hasn’t – is not apparent to most listeners is the fact of swimmers’ safety. It’s not just about helping the marine life basically replenish itself. I’m talking about specifically spear fishing near marine protected – current marine protected areas or the MPAs. I mean, in most countries throughout the world and, in fact, even in Florida they don’t allow any spear fishing activity within a three mile radius of where people swim, and that’s obvious for safety reasons. Now here in most of California and La Jolla, where I live, spear fishing is allowed right next to families, children, who are using the beach area and I cannot say how unsafe this is.


MARJON: There have been several accidents…

PENNER: Marjon, okay, we’ve got it. And I hate to cut you off but our time is short today because we are doing the fundraising and I want to be sure that we get back to them. At this point, spear fishing, you know, I hadn’t really thought much about that. Barbara Bry, had you?

BRY: I hadn’t really thought much about it and, certainly, the blue ribbon task force can, you know, when they submit their recommendation to the California Fish & Game Commission, which actually has the final authority to make a decision, can, you know, make a recommend that fish, you know, spear fishing either continue or be forbidden.

DONOHUE: It sounds scary.

BRY: Yeah, it does.

DONOHUE: If what she’s saying is true, I hope they fix it.

PENNER: Okay. Well, Andrew, while I have you here, think about this. What is the risk that with fewer areas open for anglers, for fishers, and if they confine fishing to just a few areas, that increased traffic in those areas might pose a problem itself?

DONOHUE: I suppose it could. I hadn’t thought about that either but, I mean, there’s plenty of regulation and safety precautions I think that they have out in the waterways.

PENNER: We’re talking about danger for the fish in that area, whether the fish there would be depleted.

BRY: So we’re going to overfish another area because we’re going to push everybody to go fish somewhere else, and I think that is one thing that the fishing industry could be arguing.

PENNER: Yeah, that was my point. Tony Perry.

PERRY: All solutions have embedded in them their own problems.

BRY: Yes.

PERRY: That’s what keeps environmental consultants at work and newspaper reporters writing about it but, yeah, that is a possibility. On the spearing, as the husband of a inveterate boogie boarder, I’m concerned about this. As I sit on the beach there in Carlsbad wrapped in my blanket and watch her out there in the surf, I’m – I don’t like this idea of that there could be spear fishers. I don’t even like the idea that there are people there with hooks casting into the water near the boogie boarders, so I guess I have a conflict on that issue.

PENNER: Okay, so, Marjon, you alerted the panel here to something that they hadn’t considered. Thank you very much for your call. Let’s hear from Becky in San Diego now. Becky, you’re on with the editors.

BECKY (Caller, San Diego): Hi there. I was just wondering because one of the main (audio dropout) is the depletion of the fish and the (audio dropout) ability of the fishing industry, why aren’t we talking more about cloning fish, particularly females that have hundreds of eggs? Why can’t that be something that would replenish the fish stock, the different species…


BECKY: …more rapidly.

PENNER: I know, your phone is breaking up so we’re going to pick up your idea from there. Replenishing fish species through cloning, Barbara.

BRY: I’m – I’d have to turn that over to the experts at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

DONOHUE: I think there’s – there are concerns, a lot of scientific concerns…


DONOHUE: …about actually eating cloned animals. They’re dealing with that, I believe, with beef right now because they don’t know the long term impacts of that, if there’s any genetic problems or if that can be harmful to the consumers.

PERRY: And we have had, again, my betters at the Los Angeles Times have written about the problems of fish-farmed fish getting into the ocean and there are genetic problems with this. Again, every solution has its problems, and that solution of fish farming and cloning and letting them loose has, certainly, some problems.

PENNER: Well, then, finally, Barbara, when you think about it, the aim here is to maximize the biological benefit while minimizing the hit to recreational and commercial fishing. Is that possible?

BRY: Well, I think – and this is a difficult situation and, you know, emotions are high on both sides. In the end, it’s going to be a compromise and, you know, everybody’s going to be disappointed and both sides are going to be disappointed and both sides are going to get something. I mean, there are three proposals before the blue ribbon task force. I mean, number three is supported by the environmental community, number two is supported by the fishing community. The task force can come up with their own hybrid out of that or they can just say let’s leave everything the way it is. And this all – You know, they’re going to meet again in November and then they make a recommendation which goes to the California Fish & Game Commission which, hopefully, will make a decision in December but they could delay that even more if they think they need more information.

PENNER: Okay, so is this the same old, same old? I mean, here it seems to be the environmentalists versus the fishing industry. Is this, again, the conflict between business interests and environmentalism? Andrew?

DONOHUE: I think it is but, I mean, we have to look at what the long term impacts of this industry would be as well. I mean, if there are – if there are very few fish in this ocean in 30 years then is there going to be any local fishing industry whatsoever?

PENNER: And that’s important because we’re told we need to eat more fish.

DONOHUE: Exactly.

PENNER: Exactly. Well, thank you very much. We’re going to wrap up this segment now and when we come back, we’re going to be talking about Tony Perry on his way to Afghanistan again. This is the Editors Roundtable. I’m Gloria Penner.

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