Fisheries Council Adopts Ocean Conservation Plan Developed by a Trio of Unlikely Partners

June 16, 2005


Jeremiah O’Brien, Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Organization, 805-772-9037
Chuck Cook, The Nature Conservancy, 805-646-8820
Rod Fujita, Environmental Defense, 510-326-6065

(June 16, 2005, Foster City, CA) - The Morro Bay Commercial Fisherman’s Organization, The Nature Conservancy and Environmental Defense applauded  the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s (PFMC) decision  to ban bottom trawling in large swaths of the ocean off the central California coast.  Trawl fishermen and environmentalists laid the groundwork for consensus before the Council vote.   As a result, this action will protect many historic fishing grounds, fishing families, livelihoods and public access to fresh local seafood while also protecting important ocean ecosystems. 

The Nature Conservancy and Environmental Defense identified the region between Point Conception and Point Sur  (the central California coast) as a high priority for ocean conservation, as it contains one of the richest assemblages of habitats and marine life in the world.  Based on an analysis of threats to biological diversity and ecological health in this region, the two groups concluded that trawling should be reduced. 

To soften the economic impacts of creating large no trawl zones, The Nature Conservancy and Environmental Defense teamed up to purchase vessels and permits from trawlers willing to sell, contingent upon a commitment by the federal government to establish no-trawl zones.  However, the Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Organization, harbormasters and other stakeholders pointed out that in the wake of the recent federal buyout of trawlers and in the face of tighter fishing regulations, an additional buyout would disrupt supplies of fish to Morro Bay and threaten the very existence of the working waterfront. 

The Fishing Heritage Group, comprised of fishermen, Environmental Defense, The Nature Conservancy, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Center for the Future of the Oceans and central coast harbormasters (Morro Bay, Port San Luis, Moss Landing, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay) was formed to discuss and work through these economic and environmental issues, and to develop ways to harmonize conservation while maintaining commercial fishing, processing and distribution in central California ports.

“The consensus plan that emerged is based on good science, good conservation values and good faith,” said Environmental Defense marine ecologist Dr. Rod Fujita.

These zones will protect 3,835,000 acres of valuable habitat, including rocky reefs, offshore banks, underwater canyons, seamounts and coral gardens that harbor a spectacular diversity of ocean life.  At the same time, enough productive  fishing grounds will remain open to allow the trawlers to continue to deliver Dover and Petrale Sole, blackcod and other delectable fish to Morro Bay.  

Chris Kubiak, a trawler who played a lead role in developing the compromise, said “we’ve shown we can all work together to protect both the environment and commercial fishing.  This deal will help us to keep supplying the country with healthy seafood.”

The Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Organization, The Nature Conservancy and Environmental Defense all anticipate that this will open up opportunities for marketing “ocean-friendly” seafood, maintaining the working waterfront of Morro Bay and preserving the fishing heritage of this picturesque seaport.

“I am encouraged that the Pacific Fishery Management Council has adopted our consensus plan which will afford long term protection to a wide array of marine habitats and biodiversity in some of California’s last great places,” said the Nature Conservancy coastal and marine program director Chuck Cook. 

To request a copy of the no-trawl zone map, please call any of the media contacts above.