It has had controversy hanging over it since talks first began on the subject four years ago, but, starting on October 1 of this year, the new and extensive state-sanctioned marine preserve/reserve system for the coast of Southern California will become a reality. The plan, which was initially approved by the California Fish and Game Commission late last year and features a variety of areas along the Santa Barbara County coast, was given its official roll-out date this week by a vote of 4 to 1 from the same commission.
Made possible by the Marine Life Protection Act, the soon-to-take-effect system of marine protected areas creates 36 specific zones in the waters between Pt. Conception and the border of Mexico — totaling some 187 square miles of ocean, roughly 8 percent of all state water in the study region. The zones were painstakingly picked to help ensure protection of underwater ecosystems and California’s vast marine heritage via a spectrum of recreational and commercial fishing restrictions. As such, the plan was met with often heated opposition from various fishing factions who fear that such rules have the potential to cripple their respective lines of work.
Santa Barbara-specific components of the plan that will become effective as of October 1 include:
- A State Marine Reserve for the waters surrounding Pt. Conception, including Cojo Reef, such that no fishing of any kind is allowed.
- A State Marine Conservation Area for waters in and around Campus Point in Goleta, from Ellwood Beach to the west and Poles to the east, such that no fishing of any kind is allowed.
- A State Marine Conservation Area for Naples Reef off the Gaviota Coast that prohibits the take of all living sea creatures except for recreational-only spearfishing of certain fish like the Pacific bonito and white seabass. Commercial kelp harvesting is also okay.
- State Marine Conservation Area for Kashtayit (near Gaviota State Park) that restricts fishing of all kinds save for recreational finfish fishing and shellfishing. (Mussels and rock scallop harvests are, however, prohibited.) Recreational kelp hand harvests will also be permitted.
- A State Marine Conservation Area for the Goleta Slough that outlaws all fishing but allows for a certain amount of dredging, habitat restoration, and assorted other maintenance efforts.
- A State Marine Reserve for the Begg Rock area off San Nicholas Island such that any and all fishing is prohibited.
For more info go to dfg.ca.gov.