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Santa Barbara News Press
Local News

Battle over fishing ban heads for round 2



Officials at the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, where 175 square
miles of state waters are off-limits to fishing, will open public debate
this summer on doubling the size of these underwater parks, already the
largest in the West.

In July, sanctuary officials said, they will begin the environmental review
of between three and five alternatives for new marine reserves, primarily in
federal waters more than three miles off Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa,
San Miguel and Santa Barbara islands.

The reserves would complement a network of 10 no-fishing zones and two
restricted fishing zones that went into effect in state waters on April 1,
said Sean Hastings, a sanctuary spokesman.

"We're not starting from scratch," he said. "We're going to build on what
we've been talking about and planning for four years. The sanctuary approach
to this is not anti-fishing. We need to consider providing protection for
every piece of the ocean system, from the surface on down."

Public hearings to help shape the options for new marine reserves will be
held in Ventura and Santa Barbara beginning next month. The environmental
study is scheduled to be finished next winter, and a second round of
hearings will begin then.

The sanctuary, together with the Pacific Fishery Management Council, another
federal agency, is expected to make a decision by early 2005.

The state Fish and Game Commission narrowly approved the first phase of
reserves around the islands last October, capping four years of unparalleled
scientific study and debate between environmentalists and fishermen.

After a hiatus, both sides are now gearing up for phase two.

Among the likely options to be studied is the potential set-aside of 25
percent of the entire sanctuary in marine reserves, as recommended in 2001
by the state Department of Fish and Game and the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That would mean designating no-fishing
zones in an additional 250 square miles of sanctuary waters, for a total of
425 square miles in reserves.

The recommendation, billed as a compromise, was based in part on the
findings of a panel of marine scientists chosen by fishermen and
environmentalists. The experts determined that the depleted fishing stocks
at the islands would most likely make a comeback if between 30 percent and
50 percent of the sanctuary were placed in a reserve.

"Shouldn't we be erring on the side of protection?" asked Greg Helms, a
spokesman for The Ocean Conservancy, a national group that favors the 25
percent option. "It has to be a certain size to do what we scientifically
want it to do."

Studies from around the world show that the size of fish doubles inside
reserves, the population density triples and the total weight of organisms
more than quadruples, compared to unprotected areas. Since big fish produce
more eggs than small fish, scientists say, a large reserve would "export"
larvae outside its boundaries.

But as part of its environmental study, the sanctuary also will consider the
"no-action" alternative, in which fishing would be allowed to continue
unrestricted in federal waters, Mr. Hastings said.

Tom Raftican, a Santa Barbara resident who heads United Anglers of Southern
California, a nonprofit group with 40,000 members, says he does not believe
marine reserves are needed in the deep federal waters off the islands.

United Anglers agrees with the restrictions on fishing below 120 feet,
recently enacted to protect rockfish such as bocaccio, lingcod and cowcod,
Mr. Raftican said. These populations of fish have crashed in recent years.
Trawling for spot prawn also is banned.

But there should be no restrictions when it comes to the migratory fish that
swim closer to the surface, such as yellowtail, tuna, swordfish and marlin,
Mr. Raftican said. Thus, he said, any rules in federal waters should allow
some fishing, just as some fishing is allowed in Yosemite and other national

"You protect your rockfish population, but you allow access for recreational
anglers," Mr. Raftican said. "We fish not only near shore but also

Marine parks, such as the one in state waters at Painted Cave on Santa Cruz
Island, would be the best way to protect federal waters, Mr. Raftican said.
Recreational fishing for lobster and finfish is allowed at Painted Cave.

A study by NOAA last year shows that there is much less fishing in federal
waters than near the shoreline of the islands.

If fishing is banned in 25 percent of the sanctuary waters, the study says,
commercial fishermen would lose $2.2 million per year, or 7.9 percent of
their revenues. Of the total, only $117,000 would be lost in federal
waters -- and that includes spot prawn and rockfish, species that already
are off-limits.

The study also shows that there is about five times more recreational
fishing in state waters at the islands than in federal waters.

"If you can't catch rockfish in federal waters, you're pretty much shut
down," said Steve Roberson, a Ventura angler who supports the 25 percent
option. "We know we have a huge problem out there. Why not have this system
of reserves in effect, so we don't wipe out the species?

"If these guys are fighting this, it's psychological. They're just in a war
mentality. Helmets are fastened on, and if they hear the word 'reserve,'
they're not happy."


Here is the schedule for the first round of public hearings on potential
marine reserves in federal waters of the Channel Islands National Marine

* June 5, Orvene S. Carpenter Community Center, 550 Park Ave., Port Hueneme,
6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

* June 12, Faulkner Gallery, Santa Barbara Central Library, 6:30 to 9:30

* July 18, Sanctuary Advisory Council meeting, Four Points by Sheraton, 1050
Schooner Drive, Ventura, 1:30 to 4 p.m.

Written public comments on what the sanctuary's environmental impact study
should contain will be accepted from now through July 23. They may be
e-mailed to: reservesprocess@noaa.gov; faxed to 805-568-1582; or mailed to
Sean Hastings, CINMS, 113 Harbor Way, Suite 150, Santa Barbara, CA





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