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Paul Lebowitz – IT'S JUST FISHING

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Monday, November 16, 2009
MLPA Log: Coming clean at the closing bell
Thursday, January 07, 2010
Winter Wonderland

December’s Damage Assessment

The modern birthplace of kayak fishing takes an MLPA gut shot; other areas feel the painful pinch of looming closures.

December. We should be chatting up cool new products, savoring wintertime launches over uncrowded beaches and the hearty homeguard action to come and, and marveling at a near-unbelievable kayak fishing feat.

Instead of covering Dave Lamoureux’s paddle-out Cape Cod capture of a 157-lb bluefin, from a stubby sit-in recreational kayak no less, or discussing the merits of Backwater Paddle Company’s nifty Predator hand paddle (think ping-pong), an excellent tool for fishing docks, it’s once more into the MLPA breach.

It’s only fitting. On December 9 the South Coast Blue Ribbon Task Force presents its package of recommended large-scale fishing closures to the California Fish and Game Commission. They call it the Integrated Preferred Alternative but many of us consider it a looming disaster. That date will mark the end of a year of MLPA trials for Southern California’s ocean kayak anglers. It’s a year in which the community, solely through grass-roots efforts, stood proudly shoulder to shoulder at meeting after droning meeting, at times making up half of the public in attendance.

We fought hard for our fishing lives and faced down a horde of paid environmental NGO operatives, with mixed results at best. It could have been so much worse, as our opponents wanted virtually all of our precious, sheltered launch spots and productive inshore fishing areas. Next month, at the dawn of the New Year, we’ll get back to fun and games. For now, it’s time to count the likely cost. Although nothing is set in stone until the Commission completes a lengthy regulatory review process, in the two prior MLPA study regions the IPA was adopted with very few changes.

Malibu’s Pt Dume, the modern birthplace of the sport, is slated for closure. It’s akin to banning surfing in Hawaii, a tragic loss of heritage and history and one heck of a kayak fishery. The no-go zone starts just west of the Paradise Cove parking lot, taking out every inch of the area local kayak anglers consider BKR.

MLPA South Coast Regional Stakeholder Group members Sara Sikich of Heal the Bay and W. Scott Dunn, representing ‘non-consumptive’ kayakers (apparently these folks are so green, they photosynthesize), repeatedly claimed preservationist interests bent over backwards to accommodate Malibu’s kayak anglers by splitting BKR. This is false generosity at its finest, as the part they left is deep, open water seldom fished by kayak anglers.

For a short time, a true compromise was on the table. Meg Caldwell, the staunch preservationist who dominated the BRTF, seemingly agreed to a boundary at Little Dume Pt at the Oct 22 BRTF session, calling it her “bottom line.” While painful, that line would have truly split the kelp huddled in the protecting lee of Pt Dume, leaving something worthwhile for kayak anglers. A continuance gave Caldwell an opportunity to renege and Heal the Bay time to line up political cover in the form of an eleventh hour LA County Board of Supervisors motion snuck in as a supplemental agenda item.

Moving south to the West Coast’s best year-round trophy spot at La Jolla, a place of national importance, the news is somewhat better. Rather than the death penalty levied on Pt Dume’s kayak anglers, the chorus of opposition voices proved too loud to drown out.  If we ‘won’ anything (an ironic term in this game in which we lose and lose, while the other side is guaranteed victory), it is here.

The IPA leaves the northwest corner open, so those who launch at the drive-on beach at the Shores should be able to continue their dawn yellowtail patrols into the foreseeable future. Even the secretive fellows who dare the waves at Windansea will be ok. There’s a reserve plotted for south La Jolla, but it doesn’t start until roughly Winamar Avenue.

The vexing problem here is the cluster of closures added as a literal topper. Like the lid on a stovepot, the planned expansion of the existing Scripps Ecological Reserve and the new San Diego Scripps Coast Conservation Area will raise the pressure on the area left open. The north La Jolla kelp will be surrounded by closures, likely leading to dangerous crowding and compaction.

There’s more salt in the wound. The sheltered area inside La Jolla Pt will be gone, stretching the paddle through the reserve from the launch at Avenida de la Playa to 2/3 of a mile and depriving novices of a safe place to get their bearings. What’s more, the new SMCA north of Scripps Pier will shut down the option to turn right and “go north” for halibut and other good stuff. That one runs all the way to the southern end of Torrey Pines State Park, although it will be ok to make bait in it. Do you feel grateful?

Pt Dume and La Jolla are Southern California’s most important kayak fishing spots. We are slated to lose all of one and half of the other. As a group, kayak anglers pose little impact on fisheries, yet we’re lined up for a massive MLPA hit. It’s an absolute travesty.

Dana Pt, the third of Southern California’s kayak fishing crown jewels, was spared in favor of an enormous closure planned for central and northern Laguna. I can’t muster much relief; this one is focused on the shoreline, where it will take a huge bite out of the region’s trophy calico fishery. Most every beach access will go.  

These are only the biggest hits. The smaller ones dot the map. For example, the first reasonably accessible launch to come to Palos Verdes, a new coastal access at the glitzy Terranea Resort, will likely be gone before most get to know it.    

It’s premature to mourn these places. They’ll likely be open for at least another year, maybe two. That’s time enough for a farewell tour; savor these places while you can. Better yet, contact the Commission and politely let them know how you feel about bearing the brunt of the MLPA impact. Suggest ways to soften the blow. Do it now.

Photo Top: IPA Malibu
THE SPORT’S MODERN BIRTHPLACE SLATED FOR CLOSURE – Contemporary kayak fishing emerged under the protective lee of Pt Dume, every inch of which is facing an MLPA closure threat. It’s akin to banning surfing in Hawaii. Despite claims from the preservationist camp, this is no compromise. Only if the eastern boundary were moved back to Little Dume Pt would there be anything meaningful left.  

Photo Bottom: IPA La Jolla
LA JOLLA SURROUNDED, DICED AND SLICED – While the critical northwest corner should remain open at La Jolla, Southern California’s ocean kayak fishing epicenter faces many negatives. The planned expansion of the existing Scripps Ecological Reserve will lengthen the paddle out from the Shores and push novices straight into open waters. Meanwhile, closures north and south mean fewer options and dangerous compaction, as kayakers will be crowded in with private boaters, sportboats, divers and commercial traffic.

Reader Comments
I wore my green shirt for you Paul!
Another good report about the MLPA. And hopfully one of the last. Such a good yak fishing writer to have to spend so much time on current affairs. Thank you WON & Paul
John Pawlak
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