SB Harbor Commission seeks to establish fishing zones

SANTA BARBARA — Stearns Wharf at Santa Barbara Harbor could soon have designated fishing zones indicating where anglers can and cannot cast a line.

Santa Barbara’s Harbor Commission unanimously supported staff’s recommendation to draft an ordinance to create fishing zones on Stearns Wharf to better provide Harbor Patrol the authority to limit where anglers can fish.

Harbor Operations Manager Mick Kronman said anglers have been allowed to freely roam the wharf and harbor area in search of a catch for more than 30 years. However, in recent months there have been occasions where anglers disregard signs and verbal warnings to move.

“[Official fishing zones would] enable [Harbor Patrol] to do the job they are trying to do. They can educate but they can’t even warn. There’s no ordinance backing them up. This will give them the tools they need to do the job,” Kronman said. “All we’re really doing here is looking to codify what has informally been designated as a fishing zone in the past.”

If the ordinance comes to pass, Stearns Wharf will feature up-to-date signage of designated fishing zones and where anglers are not allowed to cast a line.

Waterfront Director Scott Reidman noted the high volume of pedestrian and vehicular traffic on Stearns Wharf partly motivated the ordinance recommendation.

“With a million pedestrians and 250,000 vehicles visiting Stearns Wharf every year, staff believes it important to help enhance the safety of fishermen and the public by designating permitted fishing zones in areas of Stearns Wharf traditionally used for this purpose,” Reidman wrote in his memo.

If approved, the ordinance would mean changes for anglers who have historically fished along the wharf.

According to Kronman, de facto, or informal, fishing zones were established in 1981: one being near the seaward end and one at the shoreward end. Over the years, fishermen have tended to congregate in those areas and eventually began fishing from the valet parking area.

The Santa Barbara City Council must approve the proposed ordinance before it takes effect. City staff did not announce a timeline as to when the council would deliberate or vote on the Harbor Commission’s recommendation.

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