County to Weigh Ban on Fishing

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Worried about the future of local sport and commercial fishing, Ventura County's Fish and Game Commission is urging the Board of Supervisors to fight state creation of no-fishing zones around the Channel Islands.

Supervisors will consider that request when they meet Tuesday, but they are not expected to reach a unanimous conclusion.

Board Chairman Frank Schillo agrees with the commissioners' concerns. He plans to ask his colleagues to sign letters to the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and the state Fish and Game Commission opposing the creation of "no-take zones" at least until further research is done.

Schillo said scientists and conservationists have not adequately taken into account the effect of weather, natural predators and other factors besides fishing on the sea habitats in question.

"It's taking the easy way out--just saying 'Let's not let the fishermen fish there anymore,' " he said.

But Supervisor Steve Bennett, a strong proponent of no-take zones, said he doesn't put much stock in the industry's complaints.

"It's the same argument that has been used around the country, heavily on the East Coast, and the net result is always the collapse of whatever species was in question," Bennett said. "They used the argument with abalone and the abalone industry collapsed.

"It's the argument that we should sacrifice the long-term health of the fish stocks for short-term profits. They always say 'Prove we're over-fishing,' and then [often] when you try to get the federal government to do a comprehensive study, they fight the study because they really don't want that."

Supervisors John Flynn, Kathy Long and Judy Mikels could not be reached for comment.

Two years ago, a local advisory panel suggested creating marine reserves to protect sea habitat around the islands. But conservationists and the fishing industry deadlocked over plans. Last month, the two factions submitted rival plans to decision makers, one considerably more prohibitive than the other.

Conservationists turned out en masse at a public hearing two weeks ago to support no-take zones around the islands.

But in a letter last week to supervisors, Harbor Director Lyn Krieger, writing on behalf of Fish and Game commissioners, said supervisors should oppose all no-take zone plans at this time.

"In effect, the fishing industry is asked to pay for the negative contributions of us all, as well as natural fluctuations, with their very livelihood," the letter said.

Krieger could not be reached for further comment.

State officials, not county leaders, will decide what, if any, no-take zones to adopt. But Bennett said supervisors' collective position could affect that decision.

"If you want to create a no-take zone, you have to have substantial support to do it," he said. "I think this is probably becoming a close call. What the board does could make a difference."

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