Cooperatove Conservation Project

Morro Bay, Protecting Priority Habitats

Trawlers, environmentalists cooperate to set aside large no-trawl zones

Location: Far West Region: California

Project Summary: Environmentalists and trawl fishermen combined science and economics to come up with no-trawl zones that protect priority habitats, while keeping enough areas open to keep fishermen in business.
Click for Full Size
Resource Challenge
The waters off the central California coast contain some of the most biologically diverse habitats in the region, which support many commercially valuable species.  The Sustainable Fisheries Act mandates action to minimize the adverse impacts of fishing on essential fish habitat.  Rather than having measures imposed by the government, environmentalists and fishermen wanted to discuss and analyze in detail possible no-trawl areas that would protect priority habitats while at the same time leaving enough productive fishing grounds open to sustain the fishery and the coastal economy of Morro Bay that depends on it.
Examples of Key Partners

Trawl fishermen from the Morro Bay Commercial Fisherman's Organization, The Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense, Pacific Fishery Management Council, NOAA-Fisheries

Results and Accomplishments
Through a participatory process based on science, advanced Geographical Information Systems analysis, detailed economic data, and good-faith discussions, the primary partners agreed to 3 large no-trawl zones in the waters betwen Point Sur and Point Conception off the central California coast.  These no-trawl zones comprise 3.8 million acres and will protect most of the priority conservation areas identified by Environmental Defense and The Nature Conservancy, including underwater canyons, pinnacles, rocky reefs, seamounts (underwater mountains with incredible marine life), and coral gardens.

Environmentalists offered to purchase trawl vessels and permits in order to reduce the economic impact of establishing large no-trawl zones in this area. However, this may have reduced the landings of certain species like Dover Sole to levels that would imperil the survival of fish receiving and transport infrastructure in central California ports. The participatory process with the trawl fisherman yielded a solution that protects underwater habitats while providing hope of preserving the working waterfronts and proud fishing heritage of the central California coast.

Project Contact
Rod Fujita
Senior Scientist
Environmental Defense
5655 College Avenue, Suite 304
Oakland, CA 94618
(510) 658-8008


To request additions or corrections to this case study email the Administrator