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Underwater Reminiscing and the Fishing Ban

Editor,

Thank you Laguna Beach City Council for the vision to vote for strict marine protections for the coastline of Laguna Beach.

Many people have voiced anger at such restrictions, so I’d like to share my story of the two worlds still found in the mists of Avalon, our unprotected Catalina Island neighbor.

I’ve become one of the old timers, having first sailed to Catalina in 1975 when 30 or more leopard sharks churned the crystal clear waters of Cherry Cove.  Barracudas, abalone, lobster, and fish waves of hundreds of a species glided before your eyes when you put on a mask and snorkel.  Often it felt like millions in the gardens of kelp and sea grasses, opal eye, bass, anchovies, mackerel, large sheephead, halibut; you name it, Catalina had it in abundance.  The cannon at Avalon fired five or six times a day to acknowledge a marlin, bigger than a man, caught by some lucky sport fisherman.  At anchorages from Avalon to Emerald along the entire coast of Catalina, the water was as clear as a swimming pool and teaming with fish.

Today, seen from the deck of a boat in the coves filled with white buoys, surrounded by jet skis, fishing boats with 10 or more rods in the water and 5 o’clock whistles that announce the summer fun zone, one might think not much has changed since Wrigley bought and protected Catalina from development.  The island is still breathtakingly beautiful. I have sailed there every summer for the last 15 years.

And just as in Laguna Beach, where I snorkeled along the reef from Oak Street to Main Beach, the green tint of the water over 10 years has changed, reveals the old world is still there, no longer in abundance or crystal clear water, but still a wonder that humbles the visitor.  A shovelnose shark glides by in one of the kelp gardens, maybe one instead of 20 bat rays rest in the sand.  A few small bass dart near the grass covered rocks.  Even a single sheephead or leopard shark on a lucky day may be spotted.  The abalones are gone.  The fish waves are gone.  The silent beauty, if one lets go of what was, is still breathtaking, even in its permanent green filter.  The only fish in increased abundance is the garibaldi, protected against fishermen since 1995.  Protection works.

Thank you Laguna Beach for creating a no-take zone marine reserve where our ocean may begin to restore itself.  It’s not too late yet.

Marni Magda, Laguna Beach

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