MALIBU—New marine protected areas were debated and decided in December under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), significantly impacting the local fishing community, since many new areas were designated “no-take,” despite the historic fisheries located in these areas. The Point Dume fisheries were affected by the decision. On January 27, the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans challenged the marine closures on factual grounds, and filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG).

Member organizations of the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans claim the MLPA violates the California Environmental Quality Act, and moreover, that DFG lacks jurisdiction to impose such regulations.

“From the outset, it was clear that the MLPA process was set up to reach a predetermined outcome under the fiction of an allegedly open and transparent process,” said former president of the Sportfishing Association of California, Bob Fletcher. “Ignoring the information before them, the commission went forward with approving regulations to close 116 square miles of Southern California’s coastal waters to recreational fishing.”

On Wednesday, December 16, the newly designated areas were officially adopted.  According to the DFG, “Informed by recommendations generated through a two-year public planning process, the regulations will create 36 new MPAs encompassing approximately 187 square miles (8 percent) of state waters in the study region. Approximately 116 square miles (4.9 percent) have been designated as no-take state marine reserves (82.5 square miles/3.5 percent) and no-take state marine conservation areas (33.5 square miles/1.4 percent), with the remainder designated as state marine conservation areas with different take allowances and varying levels of protection.”

The lost value to the state’s fishing industry at a time of surplus may be staggering. The latest figures on market squid, a primary source of income for local fishermen, indicate that there is no genuine environmental risk, since the harvest limit of 118,000 short tons was met early last year. Prematurely reaching the harvest limit would indicate that there is an abundance of fish above and beyond the quantities removed for human consumption. Closing down fisheries would destroy the California fishing industry in an effort to protect organisms currently in plentiful supply.

The most significant blow to the fishing industry would be in the squid market, since fishermen are losing access to plentiful fisheries near Santa Barbara, the most lucrative and highly productive fishery in the state of California.  Out of an industry valued at approximately $150 million by the DFG, Santa Barbara accounts for approximately $49 million of total landings. Squid, the primary contention with local fishermen, and the most valuable species on the market, brings in about $35 million of the $49 million added to the Santa Barbara economy from fishing.  Roping off these fisheries will eliminate substantial economic worth. Point Dume is similarly productive.