Morro Bay honored for working to preserve fishing industry

dsneed@thetribunenews.comJune 18, 2012 

Morro Bay has received national recognition for its efforts to preserve its historic fishing industry.

The city is one of four coastal governments to receive the 2012 Walter B. Jones Memorial Award for Excellence in Coastal and Ocean Management. The awards are given every two years by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to honor noteworthy contributions to protecting and improving coasts and coastal communities.

Specifically, Morro Bay is recognized for its innovative work with commercial fishermen, The Nature Conservancy and other coastal communities to rebuild the town’s fishing industry in a more sustainable fashion after many of the West Coast’s fisheries collapsed a decade ago.

“In a time when fisheries quotas are being consolidated and landings funneled to larger ports, it is important to keep Morro Bay a viable working waterfront,” said Andrea Lueker, Morro Bay city manager.

Steps taken by the city and its partners to revitalize the fishing industry include diversifying gear types, experimenting with new gear designs to minimize environmental impacts and forming a Morro Bay Community Quota Fund to set and maintain groundfish quotas on the Central Coast. As a result of these efforts, the value of catches landed in Morro Bay has doubled.

One of the more controversial aspects of the effort was partnering with environmental group The Nature Conservancy, which bought all of Morro Bay’s trawl fishing fleet and permits. Many fishermen were reluctant to work with the group.

“This work has not been easy,” said Michael Bell, marine project director for The Nature Conservancy. “These leaders have faced huge obstacles in their effort to try a new model.”

The city was nominated for the award by Adrienne Harris, executive director of the Morro Bay National Estuary Program. No awards ceremony is planned as a cost-saving measure, Harris said.

Other governments to receive the national honor this year are the Port of Anacortes, Wash.; Naples, Fla.; and Plymouth, N.C.

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