Marine Life Protection Act is needed to sustain fish populations


By Eric Brickenstein

Ocean Beach resident, La Jolla kayak guide

I love fishing. Whether I’m fly-fishing a backcountry stream, or in my kayak a mile offshore, a bent rod tip always brings me into the moment and calms my mind. I got my first rod and reel when I was 4, caught my first tuna when I was 10 and have had a line in the water ever since, both recreationally and professionally aboard charter boats.

Yet I’ve grown increasingly concerned that we’re fishing too aggressively to sustain over the long run. We’re seeing fewer and smaller fish, and fish being listed as threatened, or outright disappearing from California’s coastal waters.

I want to see our fishing industry thrive, and for future Californians to have their chance to fish. For that to happen, we have to create a savings plan for our ocean - setting certain places aside where fish and wildlife can grow and mature. Impartial scientific research and practical examples have shown that even small marine reserves can exponentially increase the reproductive capacity of fish populations, resulting in more and bigger fish within the reserve, and in surrounding waters as well.

There are also economic benefits: Fishing gets better in the area surrounding the reserves, and the protected areas themselves attract visitors just like parks on land.

For these reasons, I support the Marine Life Protection Act. By developing a network of protected zones along the coast, we’re taking a big step forward in our journey toward sustainable fishing in California.

Some claim that with profits on the decline and the tough economy, now is not a good time to create new protections. Yet we’ve seen the damage short-sighted decision-making can cause: the housing market crash and a devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

We’re nearing the conclusion of the MLPA process for Southern California, and I look forward to the Fish and Game Commission’s final decision on new protected areas for our coastal waters over the next few months.

If our fisheries collapse, no government bailout is going to bring them back. I challenge my fellow fishermen to consider the future of our fishing industry and the treasured pastime of sport angling.