View Full Version : MPAs touted as boon to fishermen, but perhaps not

10-15-2007, 12:03 PM
I keep hearing how the marine protected areas along California's coast will spell good news for recreational fishermen as the fish populations eventually recover and spread out even beyond the protected areas.

But this morning I read a lengthy article about the Marine Life Protection Act, and I am now wondering if we are just being fed a line of bull. During the two years of MLPA negotiations, in which commercial and recreational fishing interests were represented, the fishermen were disappointed that the MLPA process didn't take into account the role coastal development, destruction of habitat in watersheds and runoff pollution had in depleting fish populations. They felt like they were carrying the cross for the sins of the entire state, while development firms, agricultural interests and polluting industries were let off the hook.

So, the opportunity to study the effects of "human activity" on marine ecosystems is pretty much limited to "fishermen activity." This is supported by a quote from the article:

"While scientists have studied the waters off California's shore for decades, there has never been a set of untarnished ecosystems that can serve as controls for testing hypotheses related to how fishing impacts the web of mineral, plant and animal life beneath the waves."

"Untarnished"??? It is fair to say "unfished," but all the other things that have impact will still be there.

Mark Carr, a prominent associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCSC, says, "We'll finally be able to test whether and to what extent fishing has an impact on the ecosystem."

The article went on to state that Carr hopes to isolate the effects of fishing by comparing data from protected areas with data from non-protected areas. It also went on to say that this information might finally "put to rest" the fishermen's claim that the MPAs were based on questionable science.

Of course, factors such as climate change, cyclical weather patterns, the resilience of a fish species to pollution and trans-species interactions, as well as the previously-mentioned factors, are either impossible to control or next-to-impossible, so little wonder that fishing is indeed, bearing the cross. It was the one thing that could be most easily put into the cross-hairs.

The scientists fully expect to see an increase in fish populations in the MPAs, and it is my guess, since those same scientists are saying they mainly want to see if fishing makes a difference, they will use this information to slap on the table and say, "See? Here's the science you requested. Now we have the ammunition to ban fishing anywhere we want."

It doesn't take a rocket scientist, or even a study, to know that if a party boat comes into port with 400 rockfish, that there are 400 rockfish fewer in their habitat. Yes, fishing does reduce the numbers. But what's most important is the sustainability of the population. Of course areas banned to fishing are going to show higher populations. (How are they going to judge that, however? By diving and taking a census? It seems the populations are calculated in fishing zones by the folks strolling around with clipboards tallying the take of fishermen.)

The article also stated that the results from the new experiments can be used to "tweak the regulatory framework managing those ecosystems." Three guesses as to what "tweaking the regulatory framework" means for us fishermen.

All they have to do is show that an unfished zone has more fish in it than one that is open to fishing, and they will use those "scientific findings" to back whatever future bans and restrictions they want, reasonable or not.

The DFG is at least 45 wardens short of the number they will need to enforce the new rules. I had always wondered how they were going to keep their jobs as fishermen continue to be restricted and banned, but now I can see how. Wardens will be increasing in number, not losing their jobs, by patrolling around guarding the ecosystem against all us evil fishermen.

The money we pay in license fees, for the right to fish, will be going toward the enforcement costs of the new restrictions and closures. Pretty sweet deal. (Now, if the state could only find a way to have prison inmates pay for their own costs, that would really be doing something!)

One might think that I am against fish conservation but I am not. I am only naive enough to expect it to be done fairly.