California revives plan to create string of restricted fishing zones along coast

Friday, August 27th 2004, 8:33 pm
By: News On 6

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ State wildlife officials announced plans Friday to revive a program to create marine reserves along California's 1,100-mile coast.

The program would set up restricted fishing zones expected to serve as models for protecting ocean habitat.

Plans for the state-mandated network were shelved eight months ago because of budget woes. State agencies have now secured $2 million from private donors and $500,000 in state funding.

``This governor is committed to protecting and restoring these oceans, particularly in California,'' state Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman said.

The program represents a new approach to marine conservation. Rather than protecting individual fish species, reserves seek to protect entire marine ecosystems and restore fish species depleted by overfishing, pollution and other human activities.

The marine reserves would only cover state waters, which extend 3 miles from the coast. Some experts estimate 10 to 20 percent of the coast could be off-limits to fishing.

Many commercial and recreational fishermen are opposed.

``We don't know that they're going to work. I think there needs to be more studies done,'' said Bob Strickland, president of the United Anglers of California. ``I don't like the idea that they're getting money from outside sources who have an agenda.''

Private donations were led by the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation in Sacramento.

California already has a number of protected marine areas, but many have conflicting boundaries and restrictions. The new initiative is an effort to develop a more systematic statewide approach to protecting coastal habitat, Chrisman said.

A task force will oversee planning and solicit views from fishermen, environmentalists, recreation groups and others. The task force, along with a scientific advisory board, will then draw up a new set of reserves.

A statewide plan is expected by 2011.