SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California created another group of ocean protection zones on Wednesday, putting the finishing touches on a vast network of protected areas that dot the sea from Mexico to the Oregon border.
The Fish & Game Commission voted unanimously to approve the new zones off the state’s far north coast from Point Arena in Mendocino County to the Oregon border, where fishing is restricted or banned outright in areas.
“We are poised to return California’s marine resources to the sustainable abundance we all once enjoyed,” said Richard Rogers, a commission member from Santa Barbara, choking up as he cast his vote after more than seven years of work on the project.
The vote was an outgrowth of the 1999 Marine Life Protection Act, which called for a system of marine protected areas along the coast based on scientific study and years of public input.
The state divided its coastline into regions that were evaluated for protection by scientists, fishermen, environmentalists and ordinary citizens. Marine protection areas were previously approved for the central and southern coasts.
Officials next set their sights on San Francisco Bay to create protection zones.
While fishermen have been vigorous opponents of new restrictions or closures in the central and southern coastal areas, Native American tribes on the north coast voiced loud concerns about the new protection zones’ effect on their traditional fishing and gathering.
The commission reached a compromise with some tribes, saying if they could provide records of their historic fishing practices they could be exempted from some restrictions.
For the Yurok Tribe, the largest in California, the approved plan was not entirely agreeable, and a number of its elders appeared before the commission to warn them that they will not allow their gathering activities to be stopped.
“We are hunters, fishers and gatherers and we have lived here since time immemorial and gathered these shores forever since creator put us here,” said David Gensaw Sr., a member of the Yurok Tribal Council.
“We’re here today to tell you that we need that subsistence, and we will continue to provide our people with that nourishment,” he said.