Public protests about potential fishery closures off the coast of the state of California (US) have led state officials to scrap a two-year process to plan a network of marine reserves, and start over. State officials agreed with recreational fishermen, commercial fishermen, and other groups that stakeholders had not had enough input in the planning process. A new process, expected to begin this month, will involve representatives from an array of stakeholder groups in the study of potential closures.
The effort to plan a series of closures stems from the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), a state law passed in October 1999 (MPA News 1:3). The MLPA requires the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) to draft a master plan for a network of MPAs in state waters; the plan must meet resource protection goals while considering the needs of interested parties. Responding to the law, DFG convened a team of scientists - referred to as the master plan team - to draw up concept maps of potential new closures. It was these maps that drew stakeholder criticism. In announcing the new inclusive process this past January, DFG Director Robert Hight said he was "wiping the slate clean."