Judge rejects lawsuit against MPAs [Corrected]

A San Diego Superior Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit that aimed to thwart the implementation of marine-protected areas (MPAs) in Northern California under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA).

A separate lawsuit contesting MPAs in Southern California, including several in Laguna Beach, is still moving forward.

[This clarifies that the ruling was just for Northern California MPAs.]

The California League of Conservation Voters on Oct. 18 cheered Judge Ronald Prager's decision to reject the suit filed by the United Anglers of Southern California, according to a news release from the league.

The suit was also backed by the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans, a fishing equipment group. Opponents included state conservation groups and the Fish and Game Commission.

"This slam-dunk win for the state and our oceans is the end of the line for the special interests who have burdened taxpayers with lawsuits and delaying tactics and have run a short-sighted campaign of scare tactics instead of looking out for the long-term health of our oceans," California League of Conservation Voters Chief Executive Officer Warner Chabot said in a statement.

In Laguna, the issue of MPAs has been contested among city officials, residents and local anglers. All but one of the City Council members supported the regulations.

"Commercial lobster fishermen will lose 30% to 40% of their income with the 7-mile closure of Laguna's coastline," Councilman Kelly Boyd said in July. "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."

Implementation of the MPAs include regulations adopted last December that ban fishing and, in some cases, prohibit taking plants, animals and other marine life (including shells) from certain coastal areas.

The MPAs for the Southern California coast, including beaches from Santa Barbara County to the U.S./Mexico border, are scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1.

For more information on marine protected areas, visit http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/southcoast.asp.

Barbara Diamond contributed to this report.


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