SACRAMENTO — A three-quarter-mile stretch of coastline near Isthmus Cove on Santa Catalina Island, described by marine biologists as having one of the island's richest concentrations of sea life, will be set aside in January as a marine life refuge, state officials said Wednesday.
The Department of Fish and Game expects to appoint a director within the next couple of months to ensure that the sanctuary can open by the first of the year, the earliest date allowed under legislation signed by Gov. George Deukmejian on Monday.
Al Petrovich, chief of the Fish and Game's marine resources division, said the department will most likely select as director the head of the Catalina Marine Science Center, a 20-year-old research and teaching facility that abuts the refuge. The center run by USC, pushed for the refuge designation to protect sea life from divers and boaters.
The science center is currently without a head, but Ann M. Muscat, who held the post until early this year, said USC expects to replace her before the end of the year.
Fishing Boats Barred
The legislation, whose author is Sen. Robert G. Beverly (R-Manhattan Beach), creates a refuge from Chalk Cliff to Blue Cavern Point, an area that encompasses Fisherman's Cove and a 100-yard-wide strip of ocean to the east. It will prohibit unauthorized vessels from entering the area and bar divers and fishermen from taking fish or marine plants from it. Because the area offers natural protection from storms, the measure allows boats to enter the refuge during an "emergency caused by hazardous weather."
Bobette V. Nelson, a marine biologist at UC Santa Barbara, said in written comments to the Assembly that the refuge will benefit researchers and fishermen. Nelson said Fisherman's Cove will provide a breeding area for marine plants and animals that could help restock nearby waters depleted by fishing.
"Unless we have the foresight to protect some areas from exploitation, future generations will not have the chance to share our appreciation of the marine environment," Nelson said.
But Recreational fishermen, who describe the area as one of the best along the island for fishing, have opposed the designation. About 40 commercial sportfishing boats based in Redondo Beach, San Pedro and Long Beach regularly bring anglers to the area.
Muscat said it was important to bar fishing and other boats from the area because they have left trash on the ocean floor, damaged kelp beds with boat propellers and removed marine life needed for research.