Hundreds of square miles of marine sanctuaries that were scheduled to take effect Oct. 1 in Southern California, including part of the Laguna Beach's coastline, will be delayed for at least several months for administrative reasons, state wildlife officials said Thursday.
The California Department of Fish and Game said the state Office of Administrative Law has had questions about the complicated package of regulations and informed the agency it would not be able to implement them by the planned start date.
"I am opposed to the whole damn thing," City Councilman Kelly Boyd said. "The later [the implementation], the better for us. And hopefully, it will be stopped."
In December, the California Fish and Game Commission adopted protections for about 15% of state waters, from Point Conception to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Under the California Marine Life Protection Act, fishing will be banned or restricted in 49 marine protected areas to protect sea life and replenish depleted fish populations.
Though it's unclear how long the delay will be, "We're looking at months rather than years, or even a year," said Jordan Traverso, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Fish and Game.
The delay is unrelated to lawsuits fishing groups have filed against the regulations, Traverso said. The commission will discuss a new start date at a meeting next month in Redding.
Southern California's marine reserves are the latest segment in a chain of sanctuaries Fish and Game officials are charged with establishing up and down the coast. They came about after years of contentious negotiations between conservation groups seeking sweeping protections for marine habitat, and commercial and recreational fishing groups trying to hold on to access to key fishing areas.
Newly protected waters will include a kelp forest off Point Dume in Malibu, Naples Reef in Santa Barbara County, a stretch of the Laguna Beach coastline and waters off south La Jolla.
The region sees the most fishing activity in the state because of its dense population and many harbors.
— Barbara Diamond also contributed to this report