Three final MLPA proposals being considered

The public got its first glimpse of three final round stakeholder plans for a South Coast network of marine protected areas on Sept. 25.

Each will undergo a thorough economic and scientific review before consideration by the Blue Ribbon Task Force and Fish and Game Commission.

Stakeholders have been working for more than a year to map out protected areas that will preserve key habitat while leaving the majority of coastal waters open for fishing. After two rounds of negotiations, the group was divided into three teams: one focused on conservation, one on fishing, and a third “middle ground” team was charged with creating a compromise plan with cross-interest support.

The conservation group did not include the coast adjacent to the city of Del Mar as a marine reserve but did propose marine reserves where the San Dieguito and San Elijo lagoons feed into the Pacific Ocean. It also proposed an area between Swamis and Solana Beach as a marine conservation area. The other two groups proposed the coast adjacent to Del Mar as a marine reserve.

On Sept. 10, they met in Los Angeles to hear 2 1/2 hours of public comment and finalize their plans. The conservation group focused on quality over quantity, designing an efficient network that will deliver quick and substantial benefits with fewer protected areas.

Its plan would protect ecological hot spots such as Naples Reef, Point Dume, the western half of Rocky Point and the southern half of La Jolla’s reef, while leaving nearly 90 percent of coastal waters open for fishing.

The middle ground group worked to balance the needs of different user groups, but still includes some protection for key sites such as Point Dume, Naples Reef and La Jolla.

The fishing group’s proposal would provide the least conservation benefits, since it was designed to leave all the best habitat open for consumptive use. The fishermen’s proposal fails to provide any protections at iconic places like La Jolla, the Gaviota Coast and south Laguna.

Stakeholder plans will be evaluated for science and socioeconomic impacts before the Oct. 20-22 Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting in Long Beach. The community can submit comments by mail or e-mail, or in person at the October meeting. The Task Force will recommend a preferred plan to the Fish and Game Commission in December for adoption in 2010.