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Surfing Soapbox: Fishing ban won’t bring back fish

On a glistening sunny morning in Sayulita, Mexico, the day after speaking at Mexico’s first green school (Costa Verde international school) which is committed to sustainability, her words still echoed through my head.

We had held an essay contest for the children about the importance of preserving our beaches and oceans. With her words fresh in my mind, I looked out toward the ocean that morning to see two men diving for oysters. Everything about this moment seemed so pure and honest to me: what life used to be like in Laguna. The night before, the same two men were out diving for spiney lobster.

Growing up on the beach, I know this way of life very well. I was born into it. You will never convince me that the recreational fishermen or lobstermen have over-fished our 7-mile stretch of ocean. It’s just not that easy. Laguna Beach is not and will never be a fishing destination.

There are a multitude of factors in the depletion of fisheries in Laguna Beach, and all one has to do is swim out a couple hundred feet and look toward land.


One can’t help but feel like the ocean is the bottom of the drain for all the houses stacked on one another and all the urban runoff that filters into our ocean.

If you think it’s as easy as just banning fishing off our coast to return the marine life to what it once was, you are sadly mistaken.

When you factor in ocean currents and all of the big net fishing that surrounds us, most of the fish don’t stand a chance. If you really want to begin preserving our ocean and marine life, we need to take a closer look at ourselves and what we all contribute to our depleted marine life in Laguna.

You can ban fishing, but until we begin to address some of the real sources of marine life depletion, such as urban runoff and Aliso Creek, you will only be putting a temporary bandage on things — and taking away a culture and a way of life for those who care about it the most.


It’s been a week, and the little girl’s words still echo through my mind.

She asked, “Do you really think that the grown-ups care about what we have to say?”

Sadly, I don’t.

JAMES PRIBRAM is a Laguna Beach native, professional surfer and John Kelly Environmental Award winner. His websites include AlohaSchoolofSurfing and ECOWarrior He can be reached at Jamo@Aloha