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Council holds firm on no-fishing zone

A City Council majority reinforced Tuesday its preference for a marine reserve that stretches along the entire coast of Laguna except for the immediate vicinity of the ocean outfall at Aliso Creek.

The council voted 4 to 1, Councilman Kelly Boyd opposed, to reiterate its position and its opposition to modifications recommended by the Blue Ribbon Task Force to allow fishing on the southern 1.3 miles of the city’s shoreline.

The council’s decision was to be communicated to the city’s marine protection officer, Laguna’s representative at Fish and Game Commission meetings Wednesday and Thursday in Monterey.

“This is bigger than the city,” Environmental Committee member Greg O’Loughlin said.

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His support for the city’s position was echoed by 13 speakers, including South Lagunans Ginger and Tom Osborne, Rick Conkey and Bill Rihn.

“The South Laguna Civic Assn. has never wavered in its support,” said Rihn, president of the group.

American Legion Post Commandant Dave Connell was among the opponents of the fishing ban. He called the supporters environmental extremists.

Don Beres was equally opposed, but he took a less combative stance.

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“Your hearts are in the right place, but chasing a handful of fishers off the beaches is wrong,” Beres said.

The initial period for the reserve designation is five years, after which it will be reviewed for possible revision.

Mayor Elizabeth Pearson called it a “time out” to help restore marine life and the ocean to health.

The council also asked to have language protecting beach maintenance and public safety activities included in the general rules and regulations governing the designated reserve.

An alternative to the city’s position was presented as a preferred alternative to the Fish and Game Commission on Dec. 9 and was endorsed by the commission on a 3-2 vote.

The alternative creates a reserve from Abalone Point at the northern boundary of the city to Seacliff Drive in South Laguna, just south of Table Rock Beach. It omits from the reserve shoreline Seacliff Drive to south Three Arch Bay, which would be added to the Dana Point State Marine Conservation Area.

Recreational lobster fishing by hoop net or diving and the take of urchins by diving, finfish by hook and line, and spear is permitted in the conservation area. The commercial take of lobster by trap, urchin by diving, coastal pelagic finfish and market squid by pelagic round haul nets is also permitted.

The Department of Fish and Game presentation at a March 3 meeting of the Fish and Game Commission indicted the department had some concerns about the Task Force’s alternative: specifically that the ongoing activities in Laguna may result in takes or cause injury, preventing its designation as a reserve, according to the staff report.

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Regulatory language has been recommended, but commissioners are concerned that would not be enough protection for the city’s coves that fall below the mean high tide line.

The department is also requesting that the commission extend the Laguna Beach Marine Protection Act shape so it is perpendicular to the coastline, the report noted.

That could mean shrinking the shoreline southern boundary even more to offset the offshore gain.

Commissioners were expected to make a final ruling on the department’s unresolved issues at the meetings this week.



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