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Balance of marine rules

Hearings in Long Beach may lead to restrictions on fishing, surfing and swimming in Laguna Beach.

October 13, 2009|By Cindy Frazier

A state-appointed blue ribbon task force will meet next week in Long Beach to recommend boundaries and rules for new marine protected areas, which encompass the coastal stretch from Newport to Laguna beaches.

A proposed set of restrictions under the 1999 Marine Life Protection Act range from a 3-mile no-fishing zone to an all-out ban on fishing, lobster catching or other water activities, such as boating and scuba diving. Surfing and swimming in Crystal Cove and off Laguna Beach would be banned, as would kayaking and canoeing in some reaches of the Back Bay.

The six-member task force, chaired by Catherine Reheis-Boyd, chief executive of the Western States Petroleum Assn., will vote on a recommendation to the California Fish and Game Commission, which is expected to make a decision in November.

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The task force is trying to balance issues and concerns of environmentalists, Native American tribes, anglers and others.

The Department of Fish and Game has created three alternatives for the task force to consider:

 Plan 1: Middle Ground: state marine reserve designation for all of Laguna Beach; state marine conservation area designation for Crystal Cove, Upper Newport Bay and Bolsa Chica Wetlands;

 Plan 2: Fishermen’s Plan: state marine reserve designation for central Laguna Beach; conservation area designation for Crystal Cove, North and South Laguna, Bolsa Chica Wetlands, and Upper Newport Bay.

 Plan 3: Conservation plan: state marine reserve designation for all of Laguna Beach, Upper Newport Bay and Bolsa Chica Wetlands; marine conservation designation for Newport Coast.

All the proposals would make some or all of Laguna Beach a state marine reserve, in which fishing or the taking of shellfish or other life would be illegal, and swimming, surfing, diving and boating could be banned.

Back Bay and Bolsa Chica Wetlands would also be subject to similar restrictions.

Marine conservation areas are also subject to possible bans on public use.

The Laguna Beach proposals have drawn the most opposition from the fishing and boating community.

The Laguna Beach City Council voted 4 to 1 on June 16 to support a marine reserve designation along the entire coast of Laguna Beach, from Abalone Point to the rocky point south of Three Arch Bay, except for about one-quarter mile in each direction at the mouth of the sewer outfall at Aliso Creek, due to the high level of pollution at that site.

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