Expansion of Laguna's protected waters approved

Proposed regulations for the South Coast Marine Protected Areas cleared a state review on Dec. 8, expanding existing protections to most of Laguna's coastline.

Implementation of the regulations in the areas designated for the protection of marine life and habitat take effect Jan. 1. The overriding rule is "no take," which means no fish, no shells and, to be on the safe side, no nothing.

"We already have a reserve and some marine protection areas, and the new areas are an expansion of that, which may make enforcement easier with it all (the Laguna coastline) the same," said Marine Safety Department Chief Kevin Snow. "There will be no more swimming around from Shaw's Cove to Diver's Cove and the rules change."

Enforcement of the rules is the province of the state Department of Fish and Game.

"They will be looking at how enforcement will work in all the Marine Life Protection Areas," Snow said.

City marine safety, police, animal control and the city's marine protection officer can cite for violations, as they have done on previously protected local beaches.

"It is like any other beach enforcement infraction, such as dogs or alcohol on the beach," Snow said. "But our main thrust is educating the public. We want to get the word out: The message to the people is 'no take.'"

Compliance is the goal, Snow said.

Laguna Beach has three designated protected areas:

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Area 4

This area ranges from Smithcliffs Road south to Camel Point and is officially designated as the Laguna Beach State Marine Conservation Area.

It is unlawful in this "Type C" area to injure, damage, take or possess any specified living, geological or cultural marine resources for certain commercial and/or recreational purposes.

Also, any commercial and/or recreational uses that would threaten the species of interest, natural community, habitat or geological features may be restricted by the Marine Safety Department in Laguna.

Desired achievements by the managing agency:

•Protect or restore rare, threatened or endangered native plants, animals or habitats in marine areas.

•Protect or restore outstanding, representative or imperiled marine species, communities, habitats and ecosystems.

•Protect or restore diverse marine gene pools.

•Contribute to the understanding and management of marine resources and ecosystems by providing the opportunity for scientific research in outstanding, representative or imperiled marine habitats or ecosystems.

•Preserve outstanding or unique geological features.

•Provide for sustainable-living marine resource harvest.

Permitted uses in a Type C area are research, education and recreational activities, and certain commercial and recreational harvest of marine resources.

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Area 5

This area is known as the Heisler Park State Marine Reserve. The northern border is Hawthorne Drive/the north end of Picnic Beach. It stretches south to the gazebo and Bird Rock, angling south to include all fingering reefs to Broadway.

This "Type A" designated reserve is defined as a "no-take" area, an essential element of the Marine Life Protection Act system because it protects habitat and ecosystems; enhances recreational and educational opportunities; provides a reference point against which scientists can measure changes elsewhere in the marine environment; provides a sanctuary for fish and other sea life; conserves biological diversity; and may help rebuild depleted fisheries.

It is illegal to injure, damage, take or possess any living, geological or cultural marine resource, except under a permit or specific authorization from the managing agency for research, restoration or monitoring purposes.

While the reserve shall be open to the public for managed enjoyment and study, some access and use (such as walking, swimming, boating and diving) may be restricted to protect marine resources.

Permitted uses include research, restoration and monitoring by the managing agency. Educational activities and other forms of non-consumptive human use may be permitted by the designating entity or managing agency in a manner consistent with the protection of all marine resources.

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Area 6

This is known as the South Laguna Beach State Marine Conservation Area.

It ranges from Camel Point south to Table Rock Drive in the middle of Table Rock Beach. It is designated as a Type 3 Marine Conservation Area.

It has the same limitations as the Laguna Beach State Marine Conservation Area.

For more information, visit OCMarineProtection.org.

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