If you live on the coast - or just care about it - you have an opportunity to make your voice heard right now on a very important topic that stands to set rules for what parts of our coast will become marine protected areas.
A Blue Ribbon Task Force and the Fish and Game Commission have been meeting for months to come up with a proposal for preserving habitat while keeping coastal waters open to fishing. Three teams - one called "the conservation group," one the fishing group and one the "middle ground" group - have come up with preliminary plans that were presented last month.
The ideas vary, from one that leaves the area off Del Mar out of the picture but includes a protected area near the San Dieguito and San Elijo lagoons and one near Swami's. The other two groups want Del Mar included as a reserve. There's differing opinion too on what should be done off La Jolla and points north.
To no one's surprise, the gap between the fishing group and the conservationists is large.
Now the plans are being reviewed for science and socio-economic impacts. Then there will be a task force meeting from Oct. 20 to 22 in Long Beach. A plan will be presented to Fish and Game in December.
Meanwhile, community members are being asked to submit comments by mail or e-mail if they can't make the October meeting.
This could be one of those "speak now or forever hold your peace" kind of moments. Once the protected areas are defined, it's not likely they'll change again anytime soon.
The proposals can be viewed at www.dfg.ca.gov/
mlpa. The site includes links to enable you to get involved, comment or just view archived sessions or live Web casts.
Obviously, this isn't an overnight process. But if you take the time now to let your ideas be known, there's a better likelihood of a document that meets the community's desires coming out at the end.
So speak now!