By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

Commercial and sport fishermen will find some waters close to Crescent city off-limits or restricted, if a new proposal by the state Department of Fish and Game is approved.

The three meetings I have attended, where this committee has made presentations, left me with the feeling that the scientists (have) made their wish list, and the rest of us have the task of making ourselves heard, said local commercial fisherman Kenyon Hensel.

An area surrounding St. George Reef is proposed for a complete ban on fishing.

More than 11 nautical miles of coastline stretching from Point St. George to Enderts Beach will remain open to sport anglers, but commercial fishing will be limited depending on the species of fish.

A Fish and Game Web site states the department is mandated to create restricted areas because of the Marine Life Protection Act.

(The zones) weve suggested are not just around centers of population, said Paul Reilly, senior marine biologist for the department. The concept is to have enough spacing to provide better benefits for sensitive habitats.

The first zone, the Saint George Reef State Marine Reserve, would encompass nine square nautical miles and would be off-limits for commercial and sport fishermen for any species.

The second zone, the Castle Rock State Marine Conservation Area, would place restrictions on fishermen offshore from Crescent City, and for several miles north and south of town.

If there are concerns about being too close to public access areas we would like to hear them, and we have already heard some, Reilly said. This is a starting point for discussion. Were asking the public for comments on specific sites and we plan to revise these areas based on public comment.

The first opportunity for public comment for local residents will be later in the month, when Fish and Game holds a workshop in Eureka.

According to the Fish and Game Web site, recent legislation required the department to establish networks of marine protected areas in California waters to protect habitats and preserve ecosystem integrity.

The Marine Life Protection Act, assembly bill AB993, states marine life reserves, defined as no-take areas, are an essential element because they andquot;protect habitat and ecosystems, conserve biological diversity, provide a sanctuary for fish and other sea life, enhance recreational and educational opportunities, provide a reference point against which scientists can measure changes elsewhere in the marine environment, and may help rebuild depleted fisheries.

The Eureka workshop will be held at 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., July 31, at the Eureka Public Marina.

For more information about the workshop or the Marine Life Protection Act, contact Reilly at the Department of Fish and Game, 20 Lower Ragsdale Drive, Suite 100, Monterey, Calif. 93940.