As lobster season ramps up, so are San Diego Coastkeeper patrols, making sure fisherman are respecting the city’s marine protected areas (MPAs).
Since 2012, 11 areas off San Diego County’s coast have been deemed MPAs because they hold some biological value – such as breeding grounds – that needs to be protected.
“They’re essentially state parks but in the water, so we like to see how people are using those,” said Kristin Kuhn, community engagement coordinator for San Diego Coastkeeper. Each MPA has a different set of restrictions.
On Monday, Kuhn and her colleague Matt O’Malley set off on their first boat patrol of lobster season to see if anyone was breaking the rules within the two MPAs by La Jolla, where lobster fishing is not allowed.
Sometimes, fishermen do not realize where they are casting traps is off limits. At other times, they don’t care.
“About 80 percent of the time we’re out there, we’re seeing some poaching,” said O’Malley.
While surveying the area Monday, the duo did not spot any boats or fishermen in the protected areas, but they found about half a dozen lobster traps in the middle of the reserve.
San Diego Coastkeeper is not an enforcement agency, but they do like to educate people and can report rule breaking to the Californians Turning in Poachers hotline.
“We want to see the MPAs succeed, the marine protected areas succeed, and we're an important part of that,” said O’Malley.
After the three-hour boat ride, San Diego Coastkeeper officials came together with volunteers that had been monitoring activity from the shore and discussed what they observed on the trip.
To learn more about the local MPAs and to see a map, click here.