Blue Ribbon Task Force Delays Action on MPA Selection until a November Meeting
• Protection and Fishing Interests Engaged in Vigorous Debate
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
After three days of debate, discussion and input that included hours of public testimony from fishing advocates and Marine Protected Area proponents, the Blue Ribbon Task Force, appointed to choose one of three Marine Life Protection Act Initiative implementation plans to present to the Department of Fish and Game, opted to postpone their final decision until November.
A resolution to send all three proposals to the DFG was passed early on the third day. The task force then began the process of constructing its own proposal, using elements of Proposal 1, viewed as a compromise between conservation and utilization proponents, and Proposal 2, the plan favored by the fishing community. The BRTF finally concluded that they required more time to make a final decision. Another meeting will now be scheduled, tentatively on Nov. 10 in Los Angeles.
Throughout the three-day meeting, debate centered on a number of ecological hotspots, including Point Dume.
“It’s really fundamental for us to understand that there are key geologies in the California Bight that are network critical,” task force member Meg Caldwell said at the start of the third day of debate.
Caldwell identified the areas of primary concern as Point Conception, Goleta, Point Dume, Palos Verdes Peninsula, Laguna, La Jolla, and Catalina, but discussion quickly narrowed the debate to a tug-of-war between conservation and fishing interests, centering on Palos Verdes and Point Dume, described by science advisory team co-chair Steven Murray as “the most difficult geography we have to deal with.”
“Surrounded by the densest populations we’ve had to deal with in the MPLA process, and some of the biggest marinas, these are important habitat,” Murray said. “Dume is tied to Palos Verdes, It’s not a replacement for Palos Verdes, it has a paucity of rock but encompasses a lot of beach and other habitat. It’s a critical area in terms of gaps.”
Local recreational spearfishers, kayakers and the commercial fishing community have argued passionately in support of keeping popular Point Dume fishing areas open, but according to Stakeholder Group 2 representative Kevin Ketchum, the area and the waters off of Point Dume and Palos Verdes, are primarily significant as a destination for small sport boats from the bay’s two major marinas.
“This is an economic issue but also a social issue,” Ketchum said. “These waters are designed for small boats. Public policy provides small boat access, so you carry that forward, [without fishing it would be] access to what?” Ketchum said. “Public policy provides public access and these waters are designated for small boating access.”
Stakeholder Group 3 representative Garth Murphy defended his group’s plan to extend the highest level of protection—a State Marine Reserve—to the waters off Little Dume. “It’s really important to get this [eastern] side [of Point Dume] in,” he said. “This is the 100-3000 meter deep rock. This rock is superimportant. If you are going to give something up of the two, [Palos Verdes] is the one to give up.”
“The entire Malibu coast has kayak launches, access points and fishing areas of importance, as well as a good amount of kelp,” Proposal 1 representative Sarah Sikich said, countering a previous speaker’s statement that Proposal 1 would amount to a 100 percent loss of the three Malibu areas that attract kayaker use.
Sikich stated that her group’s map attempts to both protect critical areas but still maintain fishing access. “We were very careful to leave Escondido open, which is a launch spot, and areas of Big Kelp Reef, as well as areas to the other side of Escondido because of the interest of the kayak community. We understand they aren’t completely happy with it, but we thought that was what struck a balance.
“The other thing I would like to remind you of is how much community support there is for a reserve in this area,” Sikich said. “We heard numerous people last night, 30-plus people, speaking of their support, even though they fish, they also kayak, wildlife view and do other things there. The City of Malibu also supports this [map]. They actually voted to support a resolution supporting Map 1. I think you should take into consideration the non-consumptive values in the area...the vast majority and uses in this area are non-consumptive.”
The task force discussed incorporating the Proposal 2 map for Palos Verdes and applying Proposal 1 to Point Dume with some changes.
“Point Dume for sure,” Caldwell said, recommending that the final proposal move the eastern boundary of the proposed Point Dume SMR west of the Paradise Cove Pier, leaving the Big Kelp Reef open for fishing and pushing the western boundary of the proposed State Marine Conservation Area further west to capture an area of kelp forest located off of Lechusa Beach.
The recommendations were recorded, but the BRTF opted to wait until November to make a final decision.
“One of the things we don’t want to do is make a decision we aren’t prepared to make, the task force chair, Cathy Reheis-Boyd, said, at the conclusion of the marathon session. “We need time to reflect. There’s a lot here. We have more work to do. I hope you’re patient and appreciate why we’re doing this.”
Revised maps and next month’s meeting date had not been released when The News went to press, however, they will become available on the MLPA Website at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa