October 2009 home page


Whose Beach Is It?
Don Mosier | Del Mar Councilmember

Why is the relatively poor fish habitat off Del Mar’s shoreline being considered for protection under California’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) when the more abundant kelp bed fish habitats off La Jolla and Point Loma are not? And why should we care?

The process for designating protected areas involves a balancing act between conservation values and economic impacts, and stakeholders participating in the MLPA process include both conservationists and very vocal fishing interests, but not cities like Del Mar. Fishing interests prefer to protect areas that have lower fish populations and therefore less impact on their livelihood and pastime. As a result the nine nautical square mile area off Del Mar, which has very few fish habitats and therefore very little impact on fishing interests, is included in two of the three protection plans now being considered for Southern California, from Point Conception south. The newly restored San Dieguito Lagoon to the north and the Los Penasquitos Marsh to the south of Del Mar are in all three plans, designated as State Marine Reserves (SMR).

Our City Council certainly supports the conservation values of the MLPA, and we support the San Dieguito Lagoon’s proposed designation as a Reserve. The designation will increase protection for the fish and birds repopulating both the Lagoon and River. Therefore we are on record as supporting the one proposal that includes the Lagoon as a protected reserve but not the two plans that include our entire shoreline.

Aside from a permanent no fishing zone surrounding Del Mar, the City Council is concerned that the designation will prohibit sand dredging and replenishment, putting our sandstone bluffs in peril. Further, the designation might include asking our lifeguards to enforce the protection since the State does not have the resources to do the job.

The MLPA was passed in 1999 to protect the California’s marine life and habitat. Not much happened until a public/ private partnership between the State and the Resources Legacy Foundation provided funding in 2003 to begin the process of identifying protected areas. Most of the private funding went into the planning process while enforcement by the State is severely underfunded. For example, only 4 of the 22 requested wardens for the Central Coast, the first area of the state with designated protected areas, have been hired. The process for southern California began last fall and will be completed in December. The California Department of Fish and Game has final authority for the designation and enforcement of the protected areas.

More information about the MLPA process and links to videos of past meetings are available at:



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