I would like to comment on the need for a Marine Reserve for all of Laguna Beach including South Laguna. I believe that I speak with some knowledge of fishing.
I come from a family and have many friends that are commercial fishermen in the state of Washington and Alaska. I and my wife and 2 sons routinely fish the ocean waters of Alaska, Mexico, Central America, Florida and the Caribbean. In addition, we have fished the waters from Laguna to San Clemente for the past 30 years, 10 of which we had our own 26-foot fishing boat moored in Dana Point. I feel that we have knowledge of both commercial and sport ocean fishing.
We have witnessed the ocean sport fishing in our area become a small fraction of what is it has been in the past. This fishery has declined to the point where I would say that there are almost no fish left in our local ocean. Let me give you a few examples: in the past it was common to see 30 to 50 private small boats on a week-end fishing the area between Dana Point and San Clemente, it was also common to see clusters of charter boats fishing over a single large school of fish with many sport fishermen grouped around them, it was common for charter boat customers to come in from half day boats with gunny sacks filled with fish, as private boaters we also had wonderful fishing and one day we caught a marlin one mile off Dana pint . Our local waters were teeming with pelagic and bottom fish. I often saw large schools of feeding fish and diving birds as I drove Coast Highway daily to my job at UCI. Today, seldom do you see even one small private sport fishing boat and few charter boats fishing our ocean. In fact, we sold our boat several years ago because of the collapse of the fish populations. We do, however, occasionally go out on half-day boats from Dana Point. I am sorry to say that often there is not one legal fish caught by any angler on the boat. So we still go out now and then but mostly for the fun of being out on the ocean and not with the idea that we will actually catch some legal fish. You have to go elsewhere i.e. San Diego to find good fishing.
Many in the sport fishing community share our experience and conclusions about the problems in our local oceans. Because of the disastrous state of our local ocean our family supports the creation of the Marine Reserve including all of Laguna and south Laguna to help restore the fish populations in our local waters. It does not make sense to protect main Laguna waters and not south Laguna. Without protection, the few fish remaining in the south Laguna waters will be completely depleted because what people still fish will be concentrated into this small area. We feel it makes much more sense to protect the whole coast of Laguna and allow this whole area to recover and serve as a nursery and source of fish to help restore the other depleted areas. Laguna costal waters represent a good nursery for restoration of kelp and fish populations.
G. Morrie Granger
South Laguna, California
Recreational fishing and a strong appreciation for the wealth of sea life off the coast of Southern California has long been an important part of my family’s life. About 10 years ago I dropped my first lobster net off the San Clemente pier and enjoyed a satisfying and delicious catch. But in recent years, the nets have come home the same way they left: empty.
This decline in size and abundance, and not just in lobsters, is alarming. The 2007-2008 commercial lobster season landings totaled 675,000 pounds, down 25 percent from the previous season, and we’re seeing similar declines in nearly all commercially fished species. The ocean and marine life are important to the foundation of Orange County’s economy, supporting tourism and commercial and sport fishing industries. Certainly the ocean faces threats in addition to overfishing: habitat destruction, global warming and acidification to name a few. But it is unarguable that the numbers are down, and we have been watching this decline for years. That’s why it is so important that we take proactive steps now.
Creating marine protected areas is a powerful tool that, combined with other efforts, can help ensure we have a healthy, productive ocean far into the future. California’s Marine Life Protection Act will protect underwater nurseries, places where sea life can grow big, old and fat – the three crucial characteristics needed for reproduction rates to match catch rates – while adding the benefits of pristine habitat.
The Marine Life Protection Act planning process is in the home stretch here in Southern California. Local stakeholders have been working for nearly a year to map out a network of underwater parks, or Marine Protected Areas, that will help reseed our ocean. The proposal will be completed on September 10. California’s vision for a network of Marine Protected Areas is supported by cutting edge science: a network of ocean sanctuaries will allow fish and shellfish populations to grow and spill out into neighboring waters, boosting the viability of local industry while leaving the vast majority of ocean waters open to fishing.
The South Coast plan is being crafted by local stakeholders: fishermen, conservationists, scientists and recreational ocean users. The process is built around reaching a final plan that is acceptable to diverse interest groups and those with a stake in the health of the ocean. As we approach the finish line on the MLPA process, I hope everyone involved can maintain a focus on the desired outcome: a healthy ocean, the basis for a lifestyle that we can pass on to our children and they to theirs.
The time has come to build a system that uses the best available science and promises a strong future for our marine resources. It is for this reason that I support the placement of a Marine Reserve for the entire Laguna Beach coastline. A strong network of Marine Protected Areas along the California coast is the smart thing to do, for our future and the future vitality of our coastal waters.