Lockout Has Anglers Reeling - Fishing restrictions to expand
around Channel Islands, CA
January 2003 Issue of Boat U.S., Volume VIII
By Ryck Lydecker
To submit a Letter to the Editor: LettersToEditor@boatus.com
After waiting with bated breath for over a year for a decision on
restrictions around the Channel Islands, California anglers got "knocked
flat" when the state fish and game commission voted to close
175 square miles
of ocean to all fishing, effective as of Jan. 1.
If regulators follow suit next year in adjacent federal waters, the
closed to fishing could swell to over 425 square miles.
In a 2-1 vote last Oct. 23, the commission approved a checkerboard
closed areas that, according to Tom Raftican, president of United
Southern California, locks up more than 25% of the best fishing waters
the five islands off Santa Barbara.
Even catch- and- release fishing is prohibited in these areas and
points to "extreme environmentalists" with a no-compromise
agenda for the
drive to close more coastal waters in California and elsewhere.
"Fishermen in other states had better take notice because they
Raftican warns. "We're just the first domino to fall."
Indeed similar management plans that include total closures, to preserve
stocks and protect habitat, are in the talking stages in Oregon,
Massachusetts and Florida.
But in the Channel Islands case, two years of non-stop talking --
sides represented in a formal consensus-building process -- fell apart
11th hour, throwing the decision back to the commission.
"We were at the table for two years as part of an 18 member
Working Group," Raftican says. "Our job was to reach consensus
measures, including closures, that would help stocks of overfished
In California the designation Marine Reserve means that all types
are banned. Raftican's group has supported reserves in some cases
state waters where closures can be supported by scientific evidence,
And by the end of the Channel Islands process, anglers had agreed
to a plan
setting aside what they thought was a reasonable portion of the state
federal waters that compromise the Channel Islands National Marine
"It was tough but we believed we had arrived at an agreement
all sides could
live with," Raftican says. "Anglers had agreed to closing
just over 17% of
sanctuary waters but on the last morning of the working group process,
"One of the environmental representatives showed up with a whole
new map that
called for closing over 30% of the area," Raftican continues.
budge and that killed any hope of reaching consensus."
As a result of that maneuver, in May 2001, the Marine Reserve Working
disbanded and the California Fish and Game Commission had to settle
matter. In the intervening 15 months the commission's staff developed
alternative plans which it put out for public comment.
An economic impact study commissioned by the American Sportfishing
Association determined that the closures could cost as much as $50
annually in lost angler spending. Nonetheless, the "preferred
which closes some 25% of sanctuary waters, is what passed and that
some of the best fishing areas off southern California, Raftican maintains.
Even more troubling than the decision, he says, is that the five-member
and Wildlife Commission voted with only three members present. The
missing commissioners -- one called away on business and the other
-- are appointed as sportfishing representatives and that only added
"The most important vote of the last decade and they couldn't
Raftican observes. "Yet 300 anglers could take time off work
to attend the
The association bused in fishermen-all wearing red tee shirts--for
Barbara meeting, much as it had done earlier in the year to demonstrate
opposition to wide spread closures then being proposed for inshore
waters all along the coast (see "Anglers Debone No-Take Zone,"
Magazine, July 2002).
But in that case, anglers and other "stakeholders" felt
they had been left
out of discussions from the beginning and the Commission agreed to
fresh with a whole new collaborative process that now includes all
In the Channel Islands decisions, however, it appears the only option
the anglers is legal action, perhaps a lawsuit contesting the voting
procedure. At press time, Raftican said his organization had not yet
on a course of action.
The increasingly contentious issue of marine protected areas like
California's will be the subject of a national meeting next month.
the second marine recreational fishing symposium to be sponsored by
National Marine Fisheries Service, will provide a forum for anglers,
scientists and fishery managers to discuss Marine Protected Areas
as tools in
The symposium will be held Feb. 23-26 in St. Petersburg Beach, Florida.
more information, contact email@example.com or write: RecFish II,
Marine Fisheries Service, SSMC3, Room 14752, 1315 East-West Highway,
Spring, MD 20910
Boat Owners Association of the United States: "535,000 members"
880 South Pickett Street
Alexandria, VA 22304