Feds to Increase California No-Fishing Zones
LOS ANGELES Federal authorities have unveiled a proposal to double the size of no-fishing zones around the Channel Islands off Southern California to protect marine life.
About 20 percent of the waters surrounding five islands off Ventura and Santa Barbara counties would be closed to harvest under the plan. No-fishing zones would grow to 309 square miles, and an additional 12 square miles would be set aside as a marine conservation area.
The reserves would be established in deep water to complement the shallower refuges California created around the islands three years ago. The strategy seeks to protect a variety of species, including lobsters, rockfish and abalone.
"When you close areas, the data is clear that the fish and lobster are bigger and more abundant, there's a wider variety of species and kelp is richer," said Chris Mobley, the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary superintendent.
Joel Greenberg, chairman of the Southern California chapter of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, said he's not convinced.
"I am highly skeptical about the effectiveness of marine reserves, but not unwilling to look at it and try some to see if they do what they're purported to do," Greenberg said.
Details of the plan are contained in a draft environmental impact statement the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released Friday.
While the proposal has long been expected, the document identifies specific locations for the marine reserves and invites public comment on the plan for the next 60 days.
The changes won't take effect until after public hearings Sept. 26 in Ventura and Sept. 28 in Santa Barbara, and the approval of a final environmental document.
The proposal completes an ocean management plan for the northern Channel Islands that began seven years ago. Unlike existing laws and regulations that protect specific species of fish, it designates habitat for protection.
The changes would affect nine areas extending as far as six miles from the shores of San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa and Santa Barbara islands, which make up Channel Islands National Park.
Source: Associated Press