California Gov. Jerry Brown has an opportunity early in his tenure to take a strong stand in favor of ocean protection. He shouldn't miss the chance.
In 1999, the Legislature approved the Marine Life Protection Act. It is a landmark piece of legislation that ought to be emulated by other coastal states.
That measure declared that California's ocean waters are a "vital asset to the state and nation," and that the diversity of species and ecosystems "is important to public health and well-being, ecological health, and ocean-dependent industry." The words were easy to write. The policy has been tough.
In an attempt to help marine life rebound from years of overfishing and other abuses, the California Fish and Game Commission under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been designating certain near-shore waters as marine reserves and other types of protected areas, where fishing is prohibited or limited.
Some people in the commercial and sports fishing industries have become angry, understandably so. Foes have been aggressive, funding a sophisticated lobby and public relations effort.
Brown needs to ensure that all sides get a full airing of their grievances. He needs to be particularly mindful of Indians' legitimate concerns over their ancient rights to fish on the North Coast and elsewhere. But he should be wary of attempts by fishing groups to gut the clear intent of the Marine Life Protection Act – to give no-fishing zones a chance to work, as they have elsewhere in the world.
Under Schwarzenegger, the California Fish and Game Commission established marine reserves in three regions, on the South Coast, on the North Central Coast and the Central Coast.
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