After two years and 60 public meetings, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to adopt new, strict restrictions on Central Coast fishing by designating 29 coastal areas as Marine Protected Areas on April 13.
The decision bans or restricts fishing on 200 square miles about 18 percent of Central Coast waters. Ninety-four of those square miles now restrict fishing of all kinds.
"With this vote, we have taken the first step to return our ocean waters to the place they used to be an ocean full of sustainable abundance," Richard Rogers, commission president, said in a release.
However, fishermen have voiced concerns that their jobs are in danger due to the decision, citing worries about overcrowding in the existing non-regulated areas, as well as a lack of places to fish.
The decision will limit fishing in many local areas, including Vandenberg State Marine Reserve near Lompoc Point Buchon, which sits just north of Diablo Canyon and Morro Bay State Marine Recreational Area. Commission spokesperson Adrianna Shea said that the Morro Bay site allows for hunting of water fowl, and is the only marine reserve area that allows fishing.
The 32.8 square miles at Vandenberg's site will be designated a no-fishing area. The goal is to protect numerous species, from shelf rockfish to the southern sea otter.
Apart from soon-to-be-enacted fishing restrictions, the decision also launches the Marine Life Protection Act Program, which sets detailed guidelines for selecting Marine Protected Areas in the future in an effort to more effectively protect the ecosystem as a whole.
The affected areas stretch from northernmost Santa Cruz County to the Vandenberg State Marine Reserve.
The commission filed its decision with the Secretary of State, who will review it, Shea said. The commission spokesperson explained that the regulations will probably take effect in two or three months, after the Office of Administrative Law assesses whether the correct process was followed.