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Sounding Off: Fishing ban will affect Laguna

The Laguna Beach fishing and lobster diving ban "” with its staunch support from the Laguna Beach City Council "” is now well on its way to becoming reality.

The preferred option prohibits all recreational and commercial fishing and all recreational and commercial lobster take, from Abalone Point to Aliso Creek. This constitutes an almost total ban of the fishing public’s land based access.

Ninety percent of the public access points are in the closed area and the few remaining public stairways such as at 1,000 Steps Beach don’t allow for reasonable access by a grandfather wanting to take a grandchild fishing, or for the diver with his heavy gear.

Three Arch Bay remains open, but the last time I checked a gate prevents public access there as well.

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A compromise closure labeled Proposal 2 and supported by the fishing community would have gone from Abalone Point to Cress Street and opened up six critical stairways as access points. The City Council did not support this compromise.

We will now have a ban on shore-accessed fishing and lobster diving in Laguna in more than 95% of the city previously used for such activities because very little activity takes place in the area that will remain open. If you have a boat you will have some access, but not much as most of the better Laguna fishing areas will be closed.

Councilwoman Toni Iseman continues to argue that this extreme ban was called for because it will benefit the ocean, and because 80% of the people of Laguna want it. The ocean benefit question is a difficult one to prove or disprove because the ocean is a complicated environment and because both sides can find science or lack thereof to support their view.

What the people of Laguna think about the council’s recommended ban is a much easier question to answer. All one has to do is ask. It is a shame that Iseman and the City Council (other than Mayor Kelly Boyd) never bothered to do so. Instead they talked to their normal political allies like the folks from Village Laguna, who clearly represented the closure side of the debate. They never reached out to or listened to the broader community. Worse yet, they simply dismissed two separate polls and a petition drive that gathered 1,971 signatures of Laguna folks who did not agree with the way the city council handled this important issue.

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In July, the Laguna Beach Independent ran a poll that showed 64% disagreed with the council’s marine protected area efforts and 36% agreed. A recent telephone survey showed that more than 80% of Laguna residents thought that all recreational fishing should not be banned in Laguna.

Most recently a petition drive at the local markets showed overwhelming support for sportfishing and lobster diving in Laguna. Iseman never tried to understand what the people of Laguna wanted on this issue and was quoted in a recent article that it was a “push poll in which misinformation is presented in the form of a question." (“Council members agree to disagree," Nov. 20)

I can speak directly to petition issue as I and Dave Elm, the president of United Anglers of Southern California, organized this effort. Many people and business in town supported our petition effort, including Boyd.

We made no misleading statements or questions and simply asked people to sign the petition if they disagreed with the council in their effort to close off such a large portion of the city limits to fishing and if they supported Proposal 2.

We received 1,971 signatures, more than 1,900 from residents and the balance people who work in Laguna and live outside. More than 70% of the residents we talked to in front of the markets were eager to sign and many expressed serious concern for how the council handled this.

Iseman’s statement that 80% agree with her was mentioned to me by hundreds of people who wondered out loud how she reached that conclusion as “she never talked to me or anybody I know about this and I certainly don’t agree with her."

I personally talked to about 600 residents on this closure issue. Nothing complicated about our petition. We simply talked to people as they entered one of the three markets in town.

The central thought of the vast majority was that the people of this city want to conserve the marine resource for future generations and they also want there to be balance on how that is done. They want and give and take in the process to allow for reasonable use of the resource so that fishing and lobster diving can continue as an important part of the culture, lifestyle, history and soul of this town.

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They thought the amount of closed area recommended by the council was way extreme and overly one-sided, and they supported the compromise of Proposal 2. This was not a “push poll effort" as Iseman states. It was simply the people of the city communicating their thoughts.

Iseman and crew chose not to pay attention to the polls and petitions. From the beginning their minds were made up as they only gave lip service at the original council meeting where the majority of the comments were against their recommendation they passed on a 4-1 vote. They still don’t understand how important this issue is to the majority of the people of Laguna.

My guess, based on the 600 people I talked to, is Iseman and crew will hear the people’s voice loud and clear in November as the pain and upset caused by this issue, and how it was handled, will be with the city of Laguna for many years to come.


BILL SHEDD lives in Laguna Beach.


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