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Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures
net hangs off fishing trawler into green water

Sharing Our Waters

Chris Hoeflinger
COMMERCIAL FISHER

Growing up on California’s central coast, Chris Hoeflinger spent his childhood fishing and skin diving off the rocky coastline. He would later find his livelihood in commercial fishing, harvesting fisheries along the California coast, including the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, where he primarily fished rockfish. This family of more than 60 different bottom-dwelling food fishes is the standard type used in “fish and chips” on the West Coast. For decades, the fish proved to be highly profitable for commercial fishers.

When regulatory government agencies, including the Pacific Fisheries Management Council and the California Department of Fish and Game, began instituting a series of regulations limiting rockfish harvesting in 2001, Hoeflinger turned to red crab. After state legislation resulted in 10 “no-take” zones in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, Hoeflinger said he had no choice but to quit fishing in the sanctuary altogether. “About 45 percent of my fishing areas got taken away by those protected areas,” says Hoeflinger. He adds that the territorial nature of fishing made it difficult to simply move to another area of the sanctuary, where there were already long-established fishers. Instead, Hoeflinger moved his fishing activities outside of the sanctuary. The change, says Hoefligner, forced him to remortgage and take a second mortgage out on his home, and downscale to a smaller boat. “It’s been a heavy burden,” he says.

In the review process for the creation of marine reserves, Hoeflinger argued that the state and the fishing industry create a capacity-reduction program and offer displaced fishers monetary buyouts. “There wasn’t support for that because it puts a cost on marine zoning, and people don’t want to see that,” he says. “So what happens? As a business man, I have to shoulder the burden.”

Hoeflinger still visits the sanctuary for recreational purposes, such as surfing. Asked whether he might fish there again some day, he says, “It’s possible, but, for now, I’ve just lost too much turf.”