ENCINITAS — Commercial fishermen and recreational lobster divers may soon find the reefs where their catch is most plentiful off limits. A state task force is recommending that several areas along the San Diego County coastline become protected marine sanctuaries including a nine-square-mile area of kelp beds off Encinitas waters.
Several commercial lobster fishermen out of Oceanside Harbor said the plan was overzealous. “This isn’t going to help save the (lobster) species,” Stan Banks said. “It’s going to make us work twice as hard in other areas.”
The five-member panel also voted after a contentious meeting in Los Angeles to create protected zones at San Elijo and Batiquitos lagoons. Recreational hook-and-line fishing would also be banned from the shores at Cardiff and San Elijo state beaches if the plan is ratified by the California Fish and Game Commission.
The state commission is expected to render a decision by summer of next year.
Several fishermen casting off the beach in Carlsbad this past weekend seemed perplexed by the recommendation. “I don’t see what the harm is in recreational fishing off the beaches,” Leonard Hilton said. The lifelong Oceanside resident said several of his friends had been commercial fishermen at one time or another. “This sounds like another case of the government trasmpling on the rights of citizens when there is no evidence that what they are trying to protect even needs protecting.”
Another fisherman said he was surprised at the task force’s recommendation. “I think there is a need for intelligent conservation of our natural resources, but this seems like overkill,” said William Bussell of Carlsbad.
A 64-member stakeholder group, including commercial fishing operators and environmentalists advised the task force.
Some seafood enthusiasts worried that the price of local seafood would be impacted by the decision. “It’s nice to know that so many of the restaurants still serve local catch,” Perry Wilcox said. “If every good fishing spot becomes a protected sanctuary we’re going to have to pay a lot higher prices for lobster and who knows where it will come from,” the Cardiff-by-the-Sea resident said.