Friday, April 25, 2008

Ocean refuges gain ground in California

Wouldn't it be nice if fish had someplace to hide in the ocean? A safe area where invasive, high-tech fishing couldn't get them? My kids understand the idea, when they play chasing games there's always a safe "base" where they can't be chased--often daddy's leg.

In the good old days, fish could always hide somewhere. Rough ground where fishing gear would snag, or small pockets of habitat that fishermen couldn't find, like seamounts. The difficulty in finding fish provided a natural refuge, and some fish would always survive to reproduce, even if extreme overfishing prevailed elsewhere.

Nowadays, with GPS and super-high-tech sonar fish-finders, people on boats can see the eye color of a fish from a mile away. And we've lost the natural refuges and most fish have no place to hide. Only the great depths are out of reach, and fishermen are getting better at going there with their fishing gear.

Conservationists have responded to the loss of natural refuges by asking for man-made refuges, places closed to some or all fishing. It's a common sense concept championed by smart fishermen in rivers and lakes, and some courageous ocean fishing leaders. But, sadly, most ocean fishermen have chosen to fight rather than join the refuge effort. Angelo over at Saipan Blog reports the sad news that refuges won't happen right now in the Mariana Islands, and Rick at Malaria, Bed Bugs, Sea Lice and Sunsets points out a possibly nefarious effort by fishing interests to stop these refuges.

Thankfully, there is progress in California. The state's Blue Ribbon Task Force recommended a new network of Marine Protected Areas where fishing is banned or restricted to give fish a place to hide. Now the proposal goes to the Fish and Game Commission for final action, and they'll likely approve the package or something close to it.

The fantastic conservationist and blogger Kate Wing over at Switchboard blogs about the process, the people and how it warms her heart to see government in action like this. Kate, my friend, you're almost as strange as me if you like this stuff. She's got such a sharp wit, she really oughtta find a better gig than the nice but institutional Switchboard--someplace where she can really get the fur flying.


Anonymous said...

The issues of the reserves is very close to my heart. I fished recreationally here in Southern California all of my life. In 2000, when the sportfishing community declared WAR against the reserves, i quit the sport that had consumed my life. I could not tolerate being associated in any way with people so utterly selfish and self centered that they put their simple recreation before doing what is right for our very own waters.

Recreational fishermen don't get that sportfishing has an impact on fish populations. They don't get that taking the biggest and the best is altering the gene pool of their most desired species.


(loves the sea)

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