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California panel adds new marine sanctuary zone

California's celebrated Pacific coast gained 30 new ocean sanctuaries Wednesday at an emotional meeting that saw conservationists prevail over state financial concerns.

The Fish and Game Commission meeting in Woodland carried a whiff of political influence after new commissioner Donald Benninghoven of Santa Barbara was the tiebreaker in the 3-2 vote.

Benninghoven was appointed the day before by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to replace Cindy Gustafson. She resigned suddenly Friday after the attorney general's office ruled her job posed a conflict of interest.

The new preserves cover 153 square miles of ocean between Half Moon Bay and Mendocino. Starting Jan. 1, fishing will be permanently banned or restricted in the zones.

The vote marks the second phase of California's celebrated Marine Life Protection Act, which in 2007 created 29 similar preserves between Santa Cruz and Lompoc. The process has been held up around the world as a model of collaboration and foresight in protecting ocean habitat.

Conservationists vowed the move would allow fisheries to bounce back from years of depletion, producing abundance for future generations.

"The planet is in peril and the oceans are the lifeblood of our planet," said Christopher Chin of the Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research and Education in San Francisco. "It's imperative we keep our ocean healthy and happy."

Others said the process should be delayed given the state's budget crisis.

Commissioners Daniel Richards and Jim Kellogg voted against the new preserves, saying California lacks the resources to manage them.

The Department of Fish and Game estimates "adequate" law enforcement in the statewide preserve network would cost $27 million in the first year and $17 million annually thereafter. It has nowhere near that level of funding.

The new state budget includes $4 million in bond funds to help launch both scientific monitoring and enforcement in the new preserves. It also includes money for 15 new game warden positions statewide. And federal and local agencies have offered to help.

But Richards, of Upland, called this inadequate.

"The magnitude of the problem vs. the offers of assistance don't match," Richards said. "I'm not going to fake it. We have zero ability to properly do this program."

His point was driven home by Todd Tognazzini, president of the California Fish and Game Wardens Association. He said the state patrol vessel in Morro Bay was unable to operate last week because game wardens were furloughed.

When it did operate Sunday, wardens caught two lawbreakers who should have known better, he said. One was a California Highway Patrol officer fishing in a limited-access Morro Bay preserve without a fishing license; the other was a State Parks superintendent fishing in the closed Point Buchon preserve. Both got warnings.

"The race to implement more areas must be stalled," Tognazzini said. "There is no scientific validity to any marine reserve unless enforcement is in place before the reserve is created."

More than 100 people testified at Wednesday's meeting, which lasted six hours. Many were fishermen who supported a smaller alternative.

Mendocino County's Point Arena fishing community is particularly concerned: It will now be bracketed by closed or restricted zones.

"It will cause severe socioeconomic impacts," said Alan Jacobs, a retired fisherman and teacher in Point Arena. "All we want is to continue our chosen lifestyles of being active participants in our marine ecosystem."


  • ieatfood wrote on 08/06/2009 10:24:31 PM:

    Fishie 1: Where are you going? You can't swim out there in the deep ocean!
    Fishie 2: Why not?
    Fishie 1: Because you might be prey for a bigger hungry fish. You must stay within the protected area and procreate!
    Fishie 2: Where's the protected area?
    Fishie 1: I dunno.

  • tab321 wrote on 08/06/2009 06:58:36 PM:

    Let me make sure I understand what this wacko state is doing. We are adding sanctuary zones to protect fish, but we are releasing 40K prisoners on the general population of California to prey on them. Makes a lot of sense to me. I think I would choose to come back as a fish.

  • steeliejim wrote on 08/06/2009 05:10:54 PM:

    Sorry surfergirl, you are wrong. I am one of those certified "enviroMENTAl wackjobs" those rightwingers refer to because I care deeply about our fisheries, rivers and oceans. Fishermen are important allies in the struggle against exploiters. The fact is that when the MLPA was passed in 1999, DFG was doing a lousy job ensuring sustainable fisheries.

    The fact is that since DFG started doing a better job with regulations, abalone and groundfish stocks are doing much better. Further, while some areas do warrant protection, usage by free divers for abalone and fishermen for bottomfish is so small on the No. Coast, it's absurd on the face of it to claim that fishermen have any negative impact.


  • ieatfood wrote on 08/06/2009 04:34:43 PM:


  • fishkilla wrote on 08/06/2009 04:19:44 PM:

    Its is nice to see so many people "up in arms" over this issue. But for those of you applauding this... it is a big paper shuffle. Nobody is there to enforce the rules! They are relying on "Education and Outreach" for any meaningful enforcement. For those of you saying this is BS, not to worry.... nobody is watching. This is just a failed attempt to create a legacy for an inept administration.

  • ieatfood wrote on 08/06/2009 02:40:21 PM:

    One more example of the environ-MENTALS fulfilling their agenda to collapse the economy of California in order to return it to a "natural" state of a hundred years ago. No jobs, no people, no population increase. Just a whole bunch of green neckers cheering the success of their plans,"Wahahaaa". They want to bankrupt California by any means possible. Approve government over spending our money, deny farmers water to further deplete tax revenues and cause food shortages, and put all the fishermen and coastal towns out of business. Then relax with a granola, a cool glass of Hetch hetchy water, and a fishing pole. What's good for them is not good for everyone. Hypocrites!

  • sunracer1957 wrote on 08/06/2009 02:19:02 PM:

    I would love to see some group of fisherman or coastal town file suit over restrain of trade or something like that. I just wonder how it would fly if there was a law that closed down a third of all golf corses because of some beetle or something being walked on. What a crock of CR@p.

  • Sick_Of_It_All wrote on 08/06/2009 12:33:06 PM:

    And no more Wardens to patrol it. Right now there is one warden for every 600 miles of California and they get furloughed. The coast line needs protection but when there is no one there to respond what is the point?

  • mnj wrote on 08/06/2009 12:21:51 PM:

    Another liberal, tree-hugging, bleeding heart bunch of whack jobs serving yet another special interest & our legislature says "OK! We're supposed to be working on reducing the budget, but hey it's such a wonderful thing to do. We don't care if there's funding, we'll just tax the people again & again until we have enough to fund this worthless program.

    • stevenmaviglio wrote on 08/06/2009 00:14:11 AM:

      Hats off to the Fish & Game for doing the right thing as stewards of our natural resources instead of bending to the whims of special interests. LIke state parks, these limited protected areas will help our fisheries recover. Science prevailed over politics for a change.


    • GAWnCA wrote on 08/06/2009 05:03:39 AM:

      stevenmaviglio wrote on 08/06/2009 00:14:11 AM: Science prevailed over politics for a change.

      You are dead wrong! Science had nothing to do with it. It was a group of radicals operating under different names, who impose their ideas and will upon the rest of us as to who should be allowed to live and who should not. These are the same left wing nut-jobs who demand the forests be allowed to grow freely causing a dense undergrowth making for worse fire hazards. The same wing nuts who move to the foothills and then cry when a mountain lion kills you.

    • egahm wrote on 08/06/2009 04:26:42 AM:

      Why don't the green weenies just close the entire coastline? That has been their goal since the late sixties. While they're at it, finish off owning private property that faces the Pacific Ocean. Commercial and recreational fishing should be verboten, so sayeth the "wise" ones. They shout from their privileged roof tops "we" the good ones are protecting our "resources". They have quite a list of accomplishments under their pc non-leather belts. They've already crippled our water supply. Destroyed several industries and march toward others. The slogan "live free or die" does not apply here, and they're working on the die part.


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