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Sounding Off: Data lacking in marine protection action

January 06, 2011|By Donna Kalez
  • Angler Mark Bleeker hooks into a small fish along the sandy shores of Reef Point.
Angler Mark Bleeker hooks into a small fish along the sandy… (DON LEACH, Coastline…)

I run the day-to-day operations of Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching in Dana Point Harbor. My family has had this business in Dana Point Harbor since 1971, and we have been fishing the Laguna Beach area since the 1950s when our business was located off the San Clemente pier.

I think it is accurate to say our experienced captains and crews who fish the area daily understand this coastal area and its marine resources better than most. They fish these areas year-round and have fished through good years and bad. It is important to know that this is our livelihood and we try to protect and conserve the areas we fish and always have. Since no newspaper in Laguna Beach, or Orange County for that matter, has contacted us to obtain our perspective of the MLPA [Marine Life Protection Act] closures, I thought I would write my own letter and offer that perspective.

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Some say that the closure of the Laguna Beach coastline is a victory for fish, but in reality it is not. The fish that are being "protected" will continue to be consumed by predators. For some Laguna Beach residents this may be a victory for personal reasons of their own, but it's no victory for us or local residents who enjoy fishing. Visitors and businesses will also suffer from the economic impact of these closures.

During the MLPA process, we stayed engaged and tried to work with all groups to find the correct solution. This process refused to deal with pollution, or any other human or non-human effects on the fish population; in fact this process does not even know what it will be protecting since baseline studies in the exact area of the closure have not been done. Once an area is closed, then studies will be performed to see if and what needs protecting. Don't you think it would be good to know what is there and what needs protecting? A baseline study would tell us if any closures are actually needed prior to enacting closures.

Why not close fishing to a specific species for a limited time and then see what happens to the population size during that closure? Why not increase size limits on fish so that they have more years to reproduce? Why not lower the number of fish that can be caught per day? None of these options were considered despite numerous suggestions being offered at meeting after meeting. These ideas were simply ignored.

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