Opponents decry proposed California fishing restrictions

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A California state law is expected to take effect along the coast by the end of the year banning or limiting fishing and similar activities in 10 to 15 percent of the area from Santa Barbara County to the Mexican border.

But opponents say the restrictions would hurt them more than they help anyone else - and they question why the state would make it even harder for them to make a living during these tough economic times, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The south coast, which has more than 1,000 miles of shoreline, yields seafood sold in markets around the world, including lobsters, prawns, abalones and sea urchins. The area is among several coastal regions where the state Department of Fish and Game is establishing marine protected areas as far as three miles out to sea.

The law was passed in 1999 with the intent of conserving marine biodiversity, much as some sensitive areas on land get government protection.

Advocates argue that marine protected areas are the best compromise between fishing interests and environmental needs. They say that by creating a network of shielded areas, the larvae of many types of fish will spill over into unprotected areas, resulting in more fish overall and ultimately benefiting everyone, including fishermen.

Lack of funding and questions about the fairness of the planning process delayed the program for years, but in 2007, with a push from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, implementation began along the north-central and south-central coast.

Next is the south coast. Last will be the north coast and, separately, waters off San Francisco.

The plan favored by the Fish and Game Commission along the south coast would create 387 square miles of marine-protected areas, most of which are places where nothing can be removed from the sea. The commission is scheduled to vote in the fall, with implementation likely soon after if the measure passes.

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