'No fishing' rule to start in fall

Most of Laguna's shoreline will be closed to anglers starting this fall.

The Fish and Game Commission announced June 29 that implementation of the Marine Protected Areas, or MPAs, in Southern California will begin Oct. 1 under regulations adopted in December that ban fishing and, in some cases, prohibit taking plants, animals and other marine life, including shells, from certain coastal areas.

"Commercial lobster fishermen will lose 30% to 40% of their income with the 7-mile closure of Laguna's coastline," said Councilman Kelly Boyd. "As for recreational fishing, sea mammals eat way more than a fisherman catches, and under the restrictions, a man can't even take his grandson grunion hunting."

Laguna already has no-take areas, such as Treasure Island and Main Beach tide pools. The ban is expected to start on opening day of the recreational lobster season.

That date allows for the required 60 to 90 days for the Office of Administrative Law to review and approve the new regulations, according to commission spokeswoman Jordan Traverso.

"So the commission took it upon themselves to pick Oct. 1 for implementation to allow time for outreach to ocean users," Traverso said.

The regulations affect beaches from Point Conception in Santa Barbara County to the U.S./Mexico border.

MPAs and three special closures cover about 354 square miles of state waters and represent about 15% of the regions, Traverso said.

Under the regulations, Laguna has three MPAs, said Marine Safety Chief Kevin Snow, who attended a two-hour meeting Tuesday morning with commission representatives.

"The first is from just north of El Moro to just south of Treasure Island, which is a Laguna Beach State Marine Reserve," Snow said. "It is a no-take area and goes three miles out.

"The second area is designated a Laguna Beach State Conservation Area. It runs to Sea Bluff Drive and is also a no-take area, but some maintenance activities related to the outfall will be allowed. The third goes from Sea Bluff to just past Three Arch Bay. It is also a Laguna Beach State Marine Conservation Area."

Everything south of that to Dana Point Harbor is included in the Dana Point State Marine Conservation Area, in which some fishing is allowed, Snow said.

Commercial and recreational anglers and environmentalists and business people participated in the Marine Life Protection Act planning process, which developed the network of 49 MPAs and three special closures.

Laguna's council, minus Boyd, supported the ban.

The initial period for the reserve designation is five years.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson called it a "time out" to help restore marine life and the ocean to health.

Boyd said he has heard that commercial fishers would take legal action to revoke the ban, but nothing has been filed to date.

For more information on the protected areas or the Marine Life Protection Act, visit http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/southcoast.asp.

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