Laguna under new coastline restrictions

Recreational and commercial fishing will be banned along Laguna's coastline under strict rules adopted Wednesday by the California Fish and Game Commission

The commission voted 3-2 on Wednesday to adopt a network of marine protected areas, often called MPAs, along the Southern California coast. Newly protected areas from the Mexican border to Santa Barbara will connect with the existing network from Santa Barbara to the Mendocino County coast.

"I am very pleased by the decision," said Councilwoman Verna Rollinger, who attended all but one of the commission hearings held during the past year.

"I am optimistic that with the new regulations and local efforts, we will see the restoration of marine life in a short amount of time. I do feel for the people who make their living from the ocean and I want to restore the resources so they will do well in the future."

Councilman Kelly Boyd is not at all pleased by the decision. He was the only council member to vote against endorsing a preserve for all of Laguna's beaches.

"I am sitting on my deck, looking at the squid boats and we are going to take away their living," Boyd said Wednesday night by telephone. "Unbelievable!"

"This will just push overfishing to adjacent areas. I think this will be a lawsuit."

The new regulations prohibit the taking of any marine resources — no exceptions. Boats may not be launched or retrieved from designated areas at night and anchored in the preserve only in daylight hours.

Rules for adjacent Crystal Cove are more lenient.

The taking of fin fish by hook, line or spear; commercial fishing by net and spiney lobsters caught by trap will be permitted. Sea urchins also may taken.

But tidepools are off-limits in Crystal Cove as well as Laguna.

The Integrated Preferred Alternative was unanimously recommended to the Fish and Game Commission by a Blue Ribbon Task Force. The task force was created by Gov. Schwarzenegger to gather proposals from the public, including fishers, divers, conservationists and the scientific community, under the mandate of the Marine Life Protection Act that was adopted by the state Legislature in 1999.

Thousands of Californians attended task force meetings to learn more about the alternative proposals, including meetings held in Laguna.

The adopted plan leaves 90% of the coast open for fishing. But that won't help the commercial fishers nor allay the disappointment of folks who just want to throw a line at the beach, Boyd said.

As for folks who say just get in the car and go to Salt Creek, Boyd wonders how they would feel if they were told to schlep themselves and their kids to Salt Creek to swim.

"I won't even be able to take my grandson to the beach to fish," Boyd said.

Although the new regulations curtail beach activities in Laguna, the restrictions are not as severe as ones imposed in some other Southern California areas.

Wading and swimming will be prohibited in Goleta, near Santa Barbara, and at Bolsa Chica.

The new rules have a five-year sunset. Rollinger said scientists will be the ones to determine if five years are enough time to restore the ocean's health.

Boyd fears that once the rules are in place, the state will be unwilling to relinquish control.

"I don't want them telling us what we can do in our own town," Boyd said.

For more information about the new rules, visit please

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