Monday, March 30, 2009

Diane Pleschner-Steele letter in the Los Angeles Times

Letter to the editor in the Los Angeles Times responding to this story.

Contrary to perceptions of exploitation, "wetfish" resources -- including sardine, anchovy and market squid -- support sustainable fisheries, all strictly regulated under state and federal laws.

California's wetfish industry supports science-based conservation efforts and has developed a partnership with federal and state scientists to advance squid and wetfish research and management.

Failing to consider fishery management before proposing to close more prime fishing grounds will inflict unnecessary economic hardship on California's historic, family-owned fishing businesses as well as harbor communities such as San Pedro. Wetfish resources have been the backbone of California's fishing economy for more than a century.

Excessive closures will jeopardize thousands of jobs, delivering negligible environmental benefit.

Diane Pleschner-Steele

Buellton, Calif.

The writer is executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Assn.

The Marine Life Protection Act mess

This opinion piece appeared in the Los Angeles Times...

Proposed fishing reserves under the Marine Life Protection Act would be disastrous for California.

By Dick Giuliani

March 25, 2009

I have followed from its inception the ongoing Marine Life Protection Act process that was the subject of a March 20 article by Louis Sahagun. I have heard repeatedly from MLPA advocates that we are amicable groups seeking the same goals of preservation of the resource. Let me assure you all, in no uncertain terms, this is not an amicable process. This is an adversarial process in which we seek to maintain our rights to fish in California waters, while the MLPA backers seek to eliminate as much productive fishing area as they can under the fallacious argument that it would protect the resource. They have also stated that the economic impact of closures is speculative, but I submit the following thoughts.

The state of California has just passed a $100-billion budget that will not be enough to get us through the current economic crisis, yet the MLPA advocates seek to eliminate a multibillion-dollar industry with callous disregard for the impact on tax revenues derived from all sources related to the fishing industry. Rentals and sales of boats, trailers, equipment, fishing tackle and fuel, as well as boat maintenance, berthing and launch fees, all generate tax revenue for the state of California. The decline in business revenue and the resulting loss of jobs would be devastating at a time when the state unemployment rate is above 10%. Last year at least six tackle stores either went bankrupt or had to close their doors. Considering the current economic climate, we cannot afford the loss of jobs or the tremendous loss of state tax revenue resulting from fishing closures. We all surely understand that the state of California cannot and will not abide the loss of tax revenue from the sources listed above. All taxpayers, not just those who enjoy outdoor sports and entertainment, would have to pay more to replace the revenue lost as a result of the MLPA closures.

While the state of California would lose millions from the closures, UC Santa Barbara and others would no doubt receive millions in federal or state grants to continue studying this issue. Advocates of the closures have stated there would be no financial problems caused by carrying out the marine reserve plan, as their groups have private sources of funding. (The agenda and goal of the sources of this private funding are certainly suspect.) The initial 1999 estimate for scientific monitoring, public outreach and enforcement was $250,000 annually. That figure is now expected to approach $35 million per year, and many believe this estimate may be far short of the actual funds needed. We can also be assured that these costs will increase dramatically, as they do for all government programs. In addition, this figure may only apply to the closures along the North and Central coasts. These financial projections are now correctly being challenged by state Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter).

My friends, we have reached an impasse, and if we are to arrest this draconian process of massive closures, we must seek alternatives to this process as currently conducted. Another thing to consider is that, to my knowledge, no closures in the past have ever been reversed. I believe only the Legislature can curtail this agenda, and it is incumbent upon each and every one of us to admonish our lawmakers to, if not eliminate the MLPA, at least postpone the implementation until such time as the state's fiscal situation improves.

Dick Giuliani is a retiree and recreational fisherman from Eagle Rock who works part-time in a tackle shop.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Little Diversion from the Horror of MPAs.

If you or anyone you know ever do any surf fishing, you may want to do it before your favorite spot is closed.

New Publication - Beach Fishing Guides for Southern and Central California Anglers

Did you know that anglers are more likely to catch certain surf fishes on an incoming high tide or that the peak months for catching California halibut are May to August in Central California, but June to October in Southern California?Two new guides produced by California Sea Grant and the California Department of Fish and Game offer tips to anglers on when to go beach fishing to catch target species, what to look for in the surf to improve your chances, and rods and reels to consider. The centerpiece of each brochure is a beautifully illustrated key to commonly caught surf species in Southern and Central California.To download printable PDFs of the brochures, visit California Sea Grant at
or the California Department of Fish and Game's Guide to Beach Fishing Website at

Monday, March 23, 2009

Fishermen concerned about ocean pollution

By Pete DupuySunday, March 22, 2009

Beach closures for failing water quality have become fairly common in Southern California, especially during the rainy season. That’s when accumulated pesticides, herbicides, road runoff, bacteria and other assorted water pollutants are flushed out of watersheds and into coastal waters where swimmers, surfers and fishermen abound.
Unfortunately, Ventura County beaches are no stranger to these conditions. The little signs over storm drains aren’t fibbing when they warn about flowing to the ocean.
During wet-season sampling last year, beaches near the mouths of the Ventura and Santa Clara rivers sometimes indicated a water quality report card grade of “F,” according to Heal the Bay, which reports on regular beach-water testing.
That’s why local Ventura and Southern California fishermen are raising the pollution issue in conjunction with the race to make new no-fishing zones along our beaches and reefs. The rush to place large swaths of coastal access off-limits to fishing has no comparable effort in the water-quality improvement arena, so there’s now a golden opportunity in the current process to address this important ocean-health indicator.
In this new era of ecosystem management, we can no longer afford to put new regulations in place that do not address the cumulative coastal water pollution issue. These new proposed regulations must do double-duty and incorporate protection for water quality as they protect ocean life from harvest.
Recent polls indicate that Californians agree new regulations should create environmental benefit versus putting small family fishermen out of business or further restricting access for recreation and local-caught seafood.
But so far, officials in charge of the implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act — which will be finalized for Southern California later this year — have turned a blind eye to the pollution problem, tacitly condoning runoff of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, city street waste, industrial wastes and other accumulating pollutants that continue to flow into our coastal waters.
Apparently, only adding more no-fishing regulations will magically create healthy oceans. But, back to reality, if pollution is not addressed, the negative consequences will continue to add up, as many scientific indicators now show.
A recent study at CSU Long Beach showed that California sea lions have high levels of DDT and PCBs, both of which were banned decades ago but linger in waters and sediments.
Another recent study showed that mixtures of commonly used pesticides at concentrations found in local waters can be lethal to salmon and steelhead — and presumably many other types of fish — at low levels where any single one of the pesticides are not lethal.
But let’s not lay all the blame on the use of pesticides. After all, Ventura is proud of its agricultural heritage — growers in just the Santa Clara River watershed alone sell over a billion dollars worth of products a year, and the Ventura River watershed is likewise very productive. Much of this productivity is reliant upon the regular application of pesticides and herbicides.
We must work together to formulate a comprehensive and equitable plan to address ocean protection. To that end, local recreational and commercial fishermen have been working cooperatively with other interested groups to arrive at an agreement on a network of reserves that promotes ocean health and fishing areas simultaneously. Marine reserves can be used to benefit coastal ocean water quality and sustainable fisheries at the same time.
That’s why we’re urging all stakeholders to join with fishermen and make our collective voices heard. Without good water-quality protections, restrictive marine reserves will do little for the overall health of our coastal waters.
Hopefully, the governor-appointed representatives of the Marine Life Protection Act’s Blue Ribbon Task Force will recognize this critically important point and make the right choices for water quality as the marine reserves process moves forward in Southern California.
— Pete Dupuy of Tarzana owns Ventura Fish Company in Ventura. He has fished commercially for shrimp, prawns, swordfish, albacore and other pelagic species for more than 40 years in Southern California waters, out of Ventura Harbor for the last 25.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Southern California marine reserve plan spawns debate

marine preserves
Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times
Fishing rods line the stern of Afishionado, a charter boat out of Avalon Harbor on Catalina Island. Discussions between fishermen and conservationists about where to designate marine life protected areas have heated up in recent weeks.
Those who want to harvest sea life and those who want to keep it safe from harvesting will be trying to hatch a compromise in coming months over where to locate havens in popular waters.
By Louis Sahagun
March 20, 2009
A landmark effort to transform Southern California's coastal waters into a network of havens for marine life has sparked a fierce debate over where to locate no-fishing zones that ecologists believe are needed to replenish the surrounding seas.

Divers, fishermen, conservationists, business owners and marine ecologists will toil over proposed maps for the next few months, deciding how much each is willing to sacrifice in the interest of saving plummeting populations of fish that are the cornerstone of recreational and commercial fishing and tourism.

"Every square foot of the Southern California coastline is somebody's favorite fishing spot," said Steve Benavides, a tax attorney and diver of 40 years who is among the group of stakeholders hashing out their differences.

"Reserves are insurance against our own well-intentioned mismanagement of marine resources."

Of particular concern is a swath of ocean off Santa Catalina Island where kelp beds are patrolled by sea bass, and submerged cracks and crevices bristle with spiny lobsters. On the island's wind-swept western side, trawlers from Seattle, Portland, Ore., and San Pedro haul up 400 tons of squid a night, leaving little left to eat for resident white sea bass prized by fishermen and marine ecologists alike.

The effort is being conducted under the California Marine Life Protection Act, which was adopted in 1999 to set aside a comprehensive, science-based network of marine parks and wilderness areas along the state's 1,100-mile coast where fishing would be severely limited or banned.

The law was passed after scientists and fisheries managers determined that catches of many species, including bottom-dwelling rockfish and cod, had fallen as much as 95% in recent decades. Implementation was delayed for years by budget cuts, staffing shortages and fierce opposition from recreational and commercial fishing interests.

Southern California is the third region to be tackled under the program, which divided the state coastline into five parts.

Marine reserves have been created off the north-central and south-central portions of the state.

California has been leading the nation in establishing marine reserves, a relatively new approach to reviving habitats that have been overfished despite a complex array of traditional fishing regulations.

Extending the program to Southern California, one of the most heavily used stretches of ocean in the nation, has proved tricky.

Church Rock, a guano-covered outcropping pounded by surf just east of Avalon, is one of several areas being considered for a marine reserve.

On a recent sunny week- day morning, a group of supporters of the reserve led by Sara Sikich, coastal resources director for the nonprofit environmental group Heal the Bay, throttled down near the scenic site.

Strands of kelp nodded in the current. Mackerel and blacksmith fish rounded the boat's hull. White geysers on the horizon indicated a procession of migrating whales. Bright orange and yellow buoys marked the locations of lobster traps. Dozens of sea lions lounged on rocky reefs.

"Environmentalists like good habitat for the same reasons fishermen do: bigger sea creatures and more of them," Sikich said.

"Marine reserves, smartly placed, will ensure there are enough fish for everyone for generations to come," she said.

Not so fast, warn those whose livelihoods depend on the sea.

"If they really want to restore local fisheries, they ought to push the squid boats off the island," said John King, who operates a commercial fishing boat, Afishionado, out of Avalon.

"They come in at night by the dozens and pound this area with nets that drag along the bottom," he said.

Leslie Page, manager of the Redondo Beach Marina, whose clients fish the waters off Catalina and the Palos Verdes Peninsula, said the prospect of restrictions ranging from catch limits to outright bans "scares me to death. It's going to hurt all my lobster fishermen, pleasure fishermen, as well as hotels and restaurants."

But Bill Bushing, a marine ecologist who has been diving off Catalina for 40 years, believes reserves are the only hope of saving critical habitats and bringing back the kind of 400-pounders that made scales creak a century ago.

"The marine protection area selection process has become so tainted by politics and self-interests that it is losing sight of its original goal," said Bushing, who has proposed five no-fishing zones at Catalina. "That is to bring marine ecosystems back to life by setting aside a network of protected areas based on the best possible science.

"It's not reserves that will ruin local economies," he added, "it's overfishing."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

No-fishing zones off OC coast? More proposed maps released

Orange County Register blog

A group of 64 “stakeholders” met earlier this month to try to map possible marine protection areas off the Southern California coast, including Orange County’s. This week, the coordinators of the effort released the stakeholders’ work: a total of six maps, meant to be the jumping-off point for a process that might not be resolved until summer 2010.

The stakeholders, including people from the fishing industry, fishing and diving enthusiasts, environmental activists, government officials and others met in Long Beach, where discussions sometimes became heated.

They broke up into three groups, well-mixed so no particular interest could dominate, and each group produced two maps. See all six maps here, plus three maps proposed by interest groups outside the stakeholder group, as well as a map of proposal zero — existing protection areas.

The maps include:

  • Red zones that would be state marine reserves, with no fishing or other “take” of living creatures allowed;
  • Blue zones that are state marine conservation areas, allowing limited sport and commercial fishing; and
  • Yellow zones called state marine parks where some sport fishing would be allowed.

Most of the maps show some restricted fishing off Laguna Beach, several showing substantial red zones there.

It’s a long road, however, to final maps that would be submitted to the state Fish and Game Commission for approval.

“There are three iterations, and this is the first round,” said Melissa Miller-Henson, program manager for the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative.

The proposals will be reviewed by a science advisory panel, as well as state Fish and Game and State Parks. A series of exchanges also will take place between the stakeholder group and a blue ribbon task force assigned to the process. Public workshops also will be held.

In December, at least two proposed maps, plus the “proposal zero” option, are expected to be presented to the state Fish and Game Commission, which could take six to eight months to render a final decision, Miller-Henson said.

“I wouldn’t expect anything before summer of 2010,” she said.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sutton downplays conflict in ocean talks

Monterey County Herald

Herald Staff Writer

Michael Sutton of Monterey says he will take part in decisions about the state Marine Life Protection Act as a member of the state Fish and Game Commission. He dismisses allegations by critics that he has a conflict of interest.

Sutton, 51, who was reappointed to the commission last week for a six-year term by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, says the allegations are an effort by special-interest groups to prevent the marine environmental law from moving forward.

At a commission meeting earlier this month, the panel was presented an anonymous letter and other materials accusing Sutton of having a conflict of interest because he works for the Monterey Bay Aquarium and was previously employed by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

The argument of the author, identified as a "concerned citizen," was that Sutton should recuse himself from commission business concerning the Marine Life Protection Act because the aquarium supports establishing marine protected areas, and the Packard Foundation has given millions of dollars to support the state law through its Resources Legacy Fund Foundation.

Sutton and a deputy director of the commission say his job at the aquarium and his role on the commission aren't in conflict.

But others, primarily sport and commercial fishing interests, say otherwise.

"The aquarium is pushing its agenda on the public through its people," said Jiri Nozicka, a Monterey commercial fisherman and spokesman for People United for American Commercial Fisheries, an industry advocacy group.

Sutton is vice president and founding director of the aquarium's Center for the Future of the Oceans. Before joining the aquarium, he was director of the Packard Foundation's conservation and science program from 1999 to 2004.

"There are no conflicts," he said last week.

The Marine Life Protection Act, passed in 1999, will establish a network of marine protected areas along California's coast. In some zones, fishing is banned, and in others new restrictions on sport and commercial fishing are enforced.

Some fisherman object to marine protected areas because they say they are being driven out of business.

Sutton said that while the aquarium may have a position, he does not necessarily have to share it.

"I'm going to make up my mind based on evidence," he said.

Sutton was first appointed to the commission in 2007 to complete the term of another commissioner.

Adrianna Shea, deputy director of the commission, said the state Attorney General's Office evaluated Sutton at that time and found no conflicts of interest. There is no new information to merit an investigation, she said last week.

Sutton said attorneys for the aquarium evaluated the potential for conflicts of interest before his first appointment.

"We found no reportable conflicts and nothing has changed," he said.
Sutton said his job and his concern about the ocean do not create conflicts for him as a commissioner.

"There is one job, no matter where you are coming from. It doesn't matter what our background is," he said.

Regulations for California's first 29 marine protected areas, located between Pigeon Point on the San Mateo County coast and Point Conception near Santa Barbara, took effect in September 2007.

Other zones, in the planning stages, will be established from Santa Cruz County to Mendocino County, and from Point Conception to the Mexican border.

"Powerful interests in Southern California don't want to see it happen," Sutton said.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Impact of MLPA on Fishermen

Easy Reader - The South Bay's Hometown News

Harbor Lights

Livelihood versus lively bay

by Harry Munns

Fear has begun to spread among people in southern California who make their living from fishing. Some of them see the gap between their lifestyles and the can collector’s lifestyle getting uncomfortably narrow, through no fault of their own.

Says Gary Lacroix, a sportfishing operator in King Harbor, “The restrictions that are proposed basically prohibit any take. That means a diver can’t dive for lobsters. You can’t spear fish. Commercial fishermen cannot fish. A 10 year old kid can’t drop a line off the end of the pier.”

He’s talking about the California Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). The 1999 regulation, “Required the state to evaluate and/or re-design all existing state marine protected areas (MPAs) and to potentially create new MPAs that, to the extent possible, will act as a network.”

Most of the handful of MPAs along this part of the coast are out near Catalina.

Between 1999 to 2004 the DFG attempted to implement the MLPA on two different occasions. They hadn’t anticipated the push-back from various stakeholders including commercial and recreational fishing interests. Both attempts failed.

Like a strain of bacteria that adapts to antibiotic treatments, the people and organizations that support the MLPA learned from their mistakes and came back prepared for resistance. The current assault calls itself the MLPA Initiative. Defining itself as a public-private partnership, the Initiative has gone to great lengths to include most of the obvious stakeholders.

A group called the Blue Ribbon Task Force will take input from the South Coast Regional Stake Holder’s Group and make a recommendation to the state Fish and Game Commission. But the real power to implement change may lie with a third panel of experts called the Science Advisory Team.

Suppose a fisherman or a group of fishermen who qualify for representation in the stakeholders group make a case for a fishery closures threatening their livelihood. They’d get a sympathetic ear from those higher up on the regulatory food chain.

Then suppose science advisor Dr. Somebody, PhD from UC Somewhere explained that the same areas needed to be closed to protect some element or elements of the environment. Who’s going to win that fight?

Annie Reisewitz a spokesperson for the MLPA Initiative said, “We’re in the process of redesigning the MPAs using input from stakeholders and the scientific community.” She has the calm, re-assuring tone of the captain of the Titanic announcing that the iceberg tour will be leaving from the lifeboat deck in 15 minutes.

In another time facing another adversary, the state’s current financial crisis might have given the fishermen some hope for a reprieve. The Initiative seems to have anticipated this prospect. Their funding comes from non-governmental sources such as the Resource Legacy Foundation and the National Marine Sanctuary Program. Apparently, California can wind up in bankruptcy court without forcing the MPLA Initiative to take even one Friday off without pay.

Fishermen recognize, perhaps better than most other groups, the need to protect the environment from which they derive their livelihoods. The fact they’re included in the debate gives them some encouragement and hope for an equitable outcome.

That doesn’t change the feeling among fishermen that they’re being singled out as the easiest targets among the potential remedies for environmental problems. The Department of Fish and Game cites three human activities that impact marine ecosystems — coastal development, water pollution and fishing. “They’re identifying what they claim needs protection to enhance the overall ecosystem but the only real thing they’re doing is prohibiting take, prohibiting diving, fishing, anything that will take anything out of the ocean,” Lacroix said.

Commissioner denies conflicts-of-interest claims

San Diego Union-Tribune

2:00 a.m. March 14, 2009

California Fish and Game Commissioner Michael Sutton says he will not recuse himself from Marine Life Protection Act discussions or votes and rejects claims that he has conflicts of interest.

Responding to criticism, Sutton, of Monterey, said he is working in good faith and has the state's best interests in mind. Sutton was reappointed to the commission by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday. His appointment must be confirmed by the state Senate. If confirmed, his new term will last four more years.

“Before I went on the commission, I went through a vetting process to determine if there were any issues or any conflicts of interest as defined by the state,” Sutton said. “There weren't any and nothing since then has changed. I have a deep interest in helping the ocean and working with the commission to continue that process.”

The commission is charged with overseeing the process to implement the MLPA, which is designed to protect certain areas off the state's coast where conservation measures – including closures – are deemed necessary.

Last week, an anonymous critic of Sutton presented a 23-page document to the Department of Fish and Game that he said shows Sutton is aligned with the environmental side of a heated debate with pro-fishing groups.

Specifically, Sutton's connection to the David and Lucile Packard Foundation was cited. Sutton, who is corporate officer with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which received more than $123 million over three years from the Packard Foundation, said he and the state Attorney General's Office see no conflict of interest. The foundation, through the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, also has supported the MLPA Initiative with more than $18 million as part of its memorandum of understanding with the state. Before working for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Sutton headed the Marine Fisheries Conservation Program for the Packard Foundation for five years.

However, Sutton says he has no problem with his ability to look objectively and make vital decisions regarding the MLPA.

“The Packard Foundation is no different than all of us who believe the MLPA is important to the state of California's ocean resources,” Sutton said. “I'm not representing environmentalists on the commission any more than Dan Richards (an avid hunter and angler on the commission) is representing hunters and fishermen. We're all there to do the best job we can for the state of California's resources and habitats.”

Richards, a Fish and Game commissioner from Upland, was asked if he thought Sutton has a conflict of interest regarding the MLPA.

“Others are going to have to decide that, not me,” Richards said. “On a personal level, I like Mike. We agree on decisions 85 percent of the time. Unfortunately, the 15 percent of the time we don't agree are on some very significant issues. But that's OK. That's the way this process is supposed to work.”

Commercial and recreational fishing groups have latched on to the conflict-of-interest charges and are seeking legal advice on how to proceed.

“I feel fishermen are having a hard enough time getting a fair shake right now, so yes, I'm very concerned about this,” said Buck Everingham, owner of Everingham Bros. Bait Co., in Point Loma. “I'm not an attorney, but I've read the document and it sure does seem like he has a conflict of interest.”

Nevertheless, Sutton said he is confident he and the other commissioners all bring different perspectives and backgrounds that help the process. And, he says, he's committed to the process.

“All of us who serve on the commission have full-time jobs," Sutton said. “We all have day jobs. I go on administrative leave when I go to the commission meetings or do commission business. I haven't seen any need to recuse myself from the MLPA. I've recused myself on matters regarding scientific collecting, but that's it. I'm committed to go into depth on these marine issues.”

Through the MLPA process, some areas off Central California have been closed to commercial or recreational fishing. Other areas along the coast, including San Diego, also are being considered for closure.

The MLPA was passed by the state legislature in 1999, but ran out of funding twice and had to be put on hold. It is now being funded by the state, bond money and the RLFF as part of a public-private partnership.

Any final proposals must be approved by a majority vote of the Fish and Game Commission.

Friday, March 13, 2009

State's Budget Problems Continue

While the Governor would have us believe that our budget problems are now solved and he has rounded up sufficient funds to allow proceeding with closing huge areas of the ocean to fishing - NOTHING could be further from the truth! The Sacramento Bee reports today that the package of spending cuts, new taxes and loans to close the $40 billion gap adopted recently will still fall short by $8 billion. This was reported by the non-partisan Legislative Analyst, the Legislature's budget expert.
The Governor will submit what is called a "May revise" in state budget speak. This is an update of the situation following the opening of state tax returns due in mid-April. According to today's report it will show at least $8 billion more in general funds that need to be cut or taxed. We'll see how the Legislature and the Governor respond to this news with regard to adopting more MPAs and dumping a huge unfunded mandate on the Department of Fish & Game.
Although the numbers are a bit elusive, DFG reported recently to the Commission that costs to carry out the MLPA, after an expansive network of MPAs are adopted statewide, far outstrips any reasonable estimate of funding available for monitoring, adaptive management, or enforcement. Various reports reflect a start up enforcement cost for the first two phases of $27 million, with annual ongoing enforcement costing between $17-27 million annually statewide.
Monitoring cost are equally dire - estimated $13-15 million annually for the two central California regions and up to $20-40 million once the entire state is bathed in MPAs. And a final piece of cost, Outreach (public relation) is estimated at $1 million annually. This last one might be easy since they are likely spending that much currently telling us all how good MPAs will be.
The administration tells us and the Fish & Game Commission members not to worry, they have enough money to complete the designation (or lock down) process and when additional funds are need for everything else they'll get it from others via a public-private partnership. The trouble is those private partners don't much like fishing.
Hopefully a majority of the Fish & Game Commission will be responsible enough not to adopt this gigantic unfunded mandate. Its obviously time to look for a few alternatives to ensure good conservation of the ocean that are actually affordable.

-Vern Goehring, California Fisheries Coalition Manager

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Marine-protected areas: a good idea, as long as network is not too extensive

Los Angeles Times

March 11, 2009


A few days ago, I published an item with critical commentary regarding a map revealing a frightening slate (to anglers) of proposed no-take reserves in Southern California, as part of the ongoing Marine Life Protection Act process.

Many on the environmental protection side of the issue responded angrily, saying the report was one-sided and biased. Guilty as charged. This is my blog, in which I'm free to editorialize.

I'm an angler. Anglers aren't villains and sportfishing is not largely responsible for a decline in certain fisheries. Commercial fishing, perhaps, but not sportfishing.

My recent post was merely to show the anglers their worst-case scenario: the map with the most proposed no-take reserves, strategically placed in most of their favorite fishing areas along the coast and at the islands.

That said, I'm not against establishing a responsible network of marine-protected areas, and hope that's what will result after this MLPA process is complete.

I'm certainly not against boosting fisheries that are suffering because of many factors, including loss of estuary habitat, pollution and global warming.

But no-take reserves can be effective. I've witnessed their benefits first-hand, at Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park in Baja California Sur on the Sea of Cortez.

The park, which stretches nine miles along the Baja coast and extends four miles to sea, was established in 1995. Since then, I've been scuba diving within the park every few years with Mark Rayor, owner of Vista Sea Sport.


Each time there were more resident species, such as groupers, and the last time I went, two years ago, those groupers were so large it was frightening.

Above a sea floor abounding with colorful live coral was an astonishing array of sea life. Enormous schools of rays and jacks would swim through occasionally and eclipse the sun.

Rayor, who is also an avid angler, theorized that some species know they're protected within park boundaries. That may be giving fish too much credit, but it's clear that the marauding jacks swim into the reserve to prey upon an abundant supply of sardines and other small fish.

Ironically, it's fishermen such as Rayor, and those from the East Cape hotel fleets, who police the reserve.

So reserves are effective, and Southern California fisheries probably would benefit from a strategic network. But that network should not be so extensive that it jeopardizes the viability of our billion-dollar sportfishing industry. Because it doesn't need to be.

-- Pete Thomas

Photos of Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park by Bob Carey/Los Angeles Times (top) and Abe Shrekenhamer

Conflict of interest alleged: Document claims Sutton should recuse himself from MLPA

San Diego Union-Tribune

A mystery man who identified himself as Ken Barnes delivered a document to the state Fish and Game Commission on Thursday stating that Commissioner Michael Sutton has a conflict of interest and should recuse himself from matters regarding the Marine Life Protection Act.

The document, obtained by The San Diego Union-Tribune, introduces evidence that Sutton continues to benefit from a more than 10-year association with the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, which over the past three years has funneled more than $18 million to the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation. The RLFF, working off a Memorandum of Understanding with the state, saved the Marine Life Protection Act by keeping it afloat when most of its state funding dried up.

The document states Sutton made over $138,000 in 2006 as a corporate officer with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which from 2005 to 2007 received over $123 million from the Packard Foundation. Prior to working for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Sutton headed the Marine Fisheries Conservation Program for Packard for five years.

The document states Sutton has had a “vested interest in advancing the interests of Packard et al. for almost 10 years.”

And now the document says Sutton is continuing the Packard Foundation's mission, part of which is to fund marine protected areas off California, as a member of the state's Fish and Game Commission.

Sutton does not believe there is a conflict of interest.

"Before I went on the Commission I went through a vetting process to determine if there were any issues like that or any conflicts of interest as defined by the state," Sutton said. "There weren't any and nothing since then has changed. I have a deep interest in helping the ocean and working with the Commission to continue that process."

The document points out that Sutton has a “material financial conflict concerning the Marine Life Protection Act.” It charges that Sutton has “filed incomplete/inaccurate statements of economic interests to the FPPC on Form 700.” That means Sutton allegedly wasn't as forthcoming as he should have been when he filed his Statement of Economic Interests form, California Form 700, with the Fair Political Practices Commission on May 3, 2007. It states that “the conflict is actual and material and requires his disqualification, should he not voluntarily recuse himself, from any discussion or consideration of the MLPA at the Commission.”

No individual or organization claims authoring the document that Barnes delivered. It is signed, “Concerned Citizen.”

As a matter of background, the MLPA calls for a network of marine protected areas along the California coast. It was passed by the state Legislature in 1999. It has closed off key fishing zones off California's Central Coast and threatens to do the same along the entire California coastline, including key areas off San Diego, such as the Point Loma and La Jolla kelp beds.

As much as Sutton wants to speed through the MLPA process and rubber stamp it into being, Fish and Game Commissioner Dan Richards of Upland has called for details about whom will be impacted by these marine protected areas and how they will be paid for in terms of law enforcement, scientific monitoring and public outreach. They squared off about this issue and others at Wednesday's meeting.

A Department of Fish and Game analysis shows that the entire MLPA will cost the state between $30 million and $40 million a year to run. This in a state where resource managers can't afford to buy food for its hatchery trout right now.

Sutton and two representatives of environmental groups were upset Thursday when they discovered the public comment period for the North Central Coast of the MLPA was delayed until later this summer.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

State-wide group working on setting marine-protection areas off Dana Point

Dana Point Times

Vol. 2, Issue 10, March 6-12, 2009

By Jonathan Volzke
Dana Point Times

The goal seems simple, even laudable: Establish locations and regulations for marine-protection areas along the California coast to help sea life flourish.

The execution, however, if far more complex, requiring a $17 million budget, a multi-tiered organization of committees, scientific studies, intricate digital maps and a team of 20 consultants. The biggest hurdle so far has been getting fishermen and environmentalists to sit at the same table and agree on a delicate balance of protecting both sea life and the economic viability of the fishing industry.

Done right, marine-protection areas could mean a healthier ocean and more fish for everyone. Done wrong, people could be put of out business.
“There’s a lot of people’s livelihoods at stake here,” said Buck Everingham, who owns El Cajon-based Everingham Brothers Bait Company and is involved in shaping the new regulations. One of their shops is on a barge in Dana Point Harbor. “There’s a lot of emotion. People want to protect the marine life. Fishermen want that too. We’re not irresponsible with the environment.”

The Marine Life Protection Areas have already been established in the Central Coast, and environmental studies are under way for the proposed plan in the north-central coastal area. Dana Point is part of the South Coast area, stretching from Point Conception to the Mexican border. After South Coast is done, North Coast and San Francisco Bay await.

The law does not specify a minimum area to be covered by the marine-protection areas, but those working on the project have been advised by the scientists that they should be bubbles nine to 18 square miles big, and up to 36 square miles. They should also be within 30 to 60 miles of each other, to ensure they work together.

They can extend from the shoreline to three miles out-the state limit-although in some areas they might only cover tidepools or deep-water areas, depending on what is being protected. The maps drawn Monday and Tuesday looked like puzzle pieces of different colors-designating the levels of protection-scattered along the coast and sea.

The process has not been smooth, however: Already two attempts at implementing the 1999 Marine Life Protection Act failed—once because the plan was so bad and another time because the effort ran out of money. That led to a 2004 agreement between the State Resources Agency, California Department of Fish and Game and Resources Legacy Fund Foundation to get the current process underway.

The resulting process involves a blue-ribbon task force at the policy level, a statewide interest group, a scientific advisory panel and local stakeholder groups. The stakeholder groups, in consultation with the scientists, will develop proposed arrays of protection areas, specifying what level of protection will be applied to each area—from absolutely no fishing to what number and type of fish can be taken, and how. Those proposals, along with any from outside groups, will be winnowed down to four, with the state Fish and Game Commission selecting the ultimate plan.

MLPA Program Manager Melissa Miller-Henson said the process is considered so complete that it’s being watched internationally, as other countries realize they, too, will have to implement marine-protection laws.

But that doesn’t mean it goes smoothly. In fact, setting up a process that puts conservationists, scientists, fishermen, surfers and residents at the same table all but guarantees some battles. As more than 60 members of the South Coast Stakeholder Group met in Long Beach on Tuesday and Wednesday to begin sketching out areas for potential protection, more than one left a break-out session complaining they weren’t being listened to or their group was not fairly represented.

Also in the mix are those representing municipal water agencies. While the MLPA isn’t supposed to have any impact on wastewater outfalls, such as the two operated by South Orange County Wastewater Authority here in Dana Point, or desalination efforts such as the one proposed off Doheny Beach by South Coast Water District and other agencies, so officials fear placing a marine-protection area boundaries around those projects will ultimately lead to stricter regulations that may render them impractical.

And in a letter to the group, the city treasurer for Redondo Beach said overly broad fishing restrictions would wipe out King Harbor and the tourism trade there.

Even outside the official process, the effort claimed a victim: longtime president of the Irvine-based United Anglers of Southern California Tom Raftican stepped down from the post under pressure when some members thought his stance was too conservationist. He’d also lambasted boat operators who take out fishermen and taken a $20,000 grant from the Resources Legacy Fund.

Steve Fukuto took over to lead the 3,500-member organization, and was in Long Beach on Monday to present the group’s plan for the marine-protection areas. Capistrano resident John Riordan, a United Anglers member, was there to support him. A pair of conservation groups teamed up to present their own plan, as did another fishing organization, Fishermen’s Information Network. The challenge is meeting the MPLA’s requirements, protecting certain types of marine habitat and certain amounts of it, without wiping out key fishing grounds.

Those fishing grounds include everything from finned fish to lobster to sea urchin, which is scooped up commercially by divers and sold primarily as a Japanese delicacy. The proposal by the Fishermen’s Information Network—FIN—was regarded at first blush as striking a good balance.

“Thank you all for your hard work. The city of Dana Point is interested and supportive of this process, and supportive of helping implement whatever is established,” Dana Point’s Natural Resource Protection Officer Jeff Rosaler told the stakeholder committee in Long Beach on Wednesday. “That said, I’d like to show appreciation for the proposal by [FIN]. It did appreciate marine-protection areas already established in Dana Point and Orange County.”

The FIN proposal, along with the other two independent submittals, will join those from the stakeholder groups for a review by the Science Advisory Team. The 64 members of the stakeholder group split into three teams and developed two proposals each, meaning the science team will review nine. Those will receive extensive comments, and the stakeholder groups will meet again and refine the plans with the comments. Another scientific review will follow that, resulting in a third round of plans that should yield a preferred alternative.

The final recommendations are due by October 22.

In his subcommittee work, Everingham said the conservationists started off greedy. “They didn’t pay attention to the economic impacts and closed half the fishing grounds off San Diego,” he said. “But we talked. This is for study. They’ll come around. We ended up with a good attitude working together.”

For information, or to sign up for an email newsletter about the project, see

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Fishing closures in Southern California: Is it the end of the world as we know it?

Los Angeles Times

11:42 AM, March 9, 2009


The Marine Life Protection Act process is stirring things up in Southern California and all saltwater fishermen are wondering the same thing: Is this going to be the end of the world as we know it?

Short answer: Yes.

The areas swathed in red on the accompanying graphic are proposed "no-take" zones in a process that will play out over the next several months. (For a clearer image, click here.)

But before you sell your fishing equipment and vow to never buy another saltwater license, this map only represents a worst-case scenario. (Or, if you support of massive closures, it's a best-case scenario.)

When all is said and done, after more meetings and input from stake-holders, a different version will materialize with fewer red areas. But Southern California's billion-dollar fishing industry still will experience a severe hit.

Fishermen can count on extensive no-take areas at Catalina and San Clemente Islands; along the Palos Verdes Peninsula and off Malibu; and off south Orange County and parts of San Diego.

(The MLPA Initiative, which has already swept through Northern and Central California, has secured private funding to complete the mapping project for the Southern California region, but the state is broke and it remains unclear whether there will be enough long-term funding to fully implement the initiative.)

Those who aren't following the process are urged by sportfishing proponents to get involved by attending meetings and letting the right people know how important sportfishing is to them and their families. Then hope for the best.

-- Pete Thomas

Monday, March 9, 2009

Fishermen refuse to ignore ocean pollution, push for water-quality protections

Santa Barbara News Press

Opinion: CLEAN SEAS, PLEASE : Fishermen refuse to ignore ocean pollution, push for water-quality protections

Bruce Steele
March 8, 2009 9:58 AM

Mention Santa Barbara's East Beach to anyone and they won't necessarily think about the beautiful, sandy shoreline. Swimmers may think of the eye and ear infections and rashes that come from the grossly polluted water, especially after a heavy rain.

But sadly, East Beach isn't even close to being the biggest culprit threatening human health in Southern California. That honor goes to Catalina Island's Avalon Beach, closely followed by Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro. In fact, seven of the top 10 most polluted coastal sites in California are in Southern California, according to a recent survey.

That's because for years, our coastal waters have been a dumping ground for all sorts of toxic pollutants, yet a comprehensive plan to clean things up never has been proposed.

How is it possible that the greenest state in the union can't come up with a plan to address the threats to our ocean in a balanced, meaningful way?

That's what a dedicated group of fishermen has been asking as they participate in the state's effort to implement the Marine Life Protection Act -- a plan that's supposed to address all impacts to the ocean, including critical issues like water quality, to help protect, restore and improve fragile marine ecosystems.

Unfortunately for us all, the Schwarzenegger administration so far has gone out of its way to avoid even considering any increased water-quality protections.

But, it is hoped things will change soon.

In January, fishermen persuaded fellow members of the South Coast Regional Stakeholder Group -- which makes recommendations to the governor's Blue Ribbon Task Force for Marine Protected Areas -- to make water quality improvements an objective when setting out specific benefits to be accomplished within these protected areas.

If the stakeholder group's recommendations are accepted by the task force -- which is meeting for the first time since the recommendations were made -- it will mean that from Santa Barbara to Mexico, a balanced and comprehensive ocean protection plan still will be a possibility.

And that's exactly what our state needs.

The consequences of not addressing pollution, not acting now, will linger with us for years. In fact, a recent study by researchers at California State University Long Beach, found that California sea lions and seals living off the Palos Verdes Peninsula have extremely high contamination levels -- but not contamination from recent activity as one would imagine. Rather, these animals are suffering from discharges of toxic DDT and a group of industrial compounds called PCBs, which were banned 35 years ago.

So why has it been so difficult to get the state to take a long-term, comprehensive approach to protecting the ocean?

Polls show Californians agree that new regulations should focus on creating environmental benefits, not simply levying more and unfair penalties against family fishermen and small businesses trying to provide recreation and local seafood to California's residents.

As long as the dumping of toxins, fecal matter and urban runoff is allowed to continue unchecked, piling duplicate fishing restrictions onto an already heavily regulated activity won't help create healthy ecosystems.

Right now, major new restrictions on fishing are being rushed forward, but no comparable initiatives regarding pollution and the other causes of concern have been proposed in this Marine Life Protection Act Initiative process. Only the fishermen, so far it seems, are raising the concern for long-term, meaningful ocean protection.

It is hoped that members of the Blue Ribbon Task Force and any others who truly care about the ocean are listening and will soon join to demand that new regulations generate new environmental and public health benefits.

The author has dived commercially for sea urchins for 35 years, fishing out of Santa Barbara harbor.

Friday, March 6, 2009

San Diego Union-Tribune

Proposal offered is start for fishermen

March 2, 2009

It likely will be labeled the fishermen's proposal.

How much of it makes its way into the final preferred alternative presented to the Fish and Game Commission for the Southern California section of the Marine Life Protection Act later this year remains to be seen.

But for now, the fishermen's proposal is what it is. It's a start.

What else to call an external proposal for marine protected areas that is a result of meetings that brought together commercial and recreational fishermen. The Marine Life Protection Act of 1999, which calls for a network of marine protected areas along the California coast, did something no other issue ever accomplished.

It united and galvanized commercial and recreational fishermen for the fight of their fishing lives for the fishing grounds they cherish.

They call it FIN, the Fisermen's Information Network. FIN is all about collaboration, communication, togetherness among recreational and commercial fishermen.

They put aside their differences and fishing methods and hammered out and agreed upon a proposal. They brought in one of the scientists from the science advisory team to see if the proposal is science-worthy. It is. They played by all the rules of the tangled spider web that is the MLPA.

“I'm a recreational fisherman,” said computer whiz Joe Exline,a member of the Oceanside Anglers who will present the proposal to the Regional Stakeholder Group at its meeting tomorrow in Long Beach. “But I was there with a lot of other recreational fishermen in a room with a lot of commercial fishing interests. There was a time when these two groups threw chairs at each other. But this process has brought both sides together.”

It couldn't have happened at a better time, this FIN. The MLPA process for Southern California reaches a critical time with meetings tomorrow and Wednesday in Long Beach. Here's where it is:

Thus far, the members of the Regional Stakeholders Group – made up of commercial and recreational fishermen, representatives of Indian tribes, environmentalists, city and port officials and others – have been huddled in meetings, some of which have been contentious. They were split into three smaller factions that I'm told are a mix of preservationists (or environmentalists, moderate and extreme) and conservationists (fishermen who actually use and know the ocean). That explains the contentious part.

The preservationists want to draw their maps of marine protected areas and close off as much ocean as possible. The conservationists want to continue fishing in as many areas as possible.

Think of this process as a baseball game pitting two sides who genuinely don't like each other. Let's say it's a nine-inning game.

We're in the bottom of the third inning. Lots of baseball left.

By Wednesday, the Regional Stakeholders Group is expected to have arrived at its own six proposals for marine protected areas, two each, from the three segments of the group.

Two other external proposals are expected in addition to the fishermen's proposal, giving the group nine proposals from which to work. Around October, the Regional Stakeholder Group will be asked to arrive at three proposals to give to the blue ribbon task force, which will send it to the California Fish and Game Commission for approval.

Let's see how well received this fishermen's proposal is at the meetings.

FIN goes to bat and needs a home run.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

North County Times

Groups submit ocean protection plans

Oceanside angler outlines fishing group's proposal

By DAVE DOWNEY - Staff Writer | March 4, 2009

In a sort of shot across the bow, a local angler unveiled a statewide group's proposal Tuesday to restrict fishing in 10 percent of Southern California coastal waters, while keeping harbor areas such as Oceanside open.

"Big" Joe Exline, secretary of the Oceanside Anglers Club, presented the proposal on behalf of the Fishermen's Information Network at a Long Beach meeting of the South Coast Regional Stakeholder Group.

The group's 64-member panel, comprising scientists, environmentalists and fishermen from throughout Southern California, is working to create a system of marine protected areas stretching from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border. The effort is an outgrowth of a state law, the Marine Life Protection Act, which aims to reverse a sharp decline in ocean fish populations in recent decades by redrawing ---- and expanding ---- the boundaries of California's existing hodgepodge collection of protected areas.

Panel members are just beginning to talk about which areas should be fenced off to fishermen and which places should be left alone, and are months away from refining a plan that ultimately will be handed off to the California Fish and Game Commission late in the year.

But on Tuesday, special interest groups got their chance to put forth their own proposals for protected areas. And three such proposals were made.

Aside from the one from the Fishermen's Information Network, proposals were submitted by the United Anglers of Southern California and an environmental coalition consisting of Santa Monica Baykeeper and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper.

The anglers proposed restricting fishing along 20 percent of the coast and the environmentalists advocated overlaying 33 percent of the ocean with protected areas.

Following several relatively quiet meetings that focused on laying the ground rules, the presentations sparked a testy exchange between fishermen on the panel and presenters from the environmental coalition.

Buck Everingham, a panel member who owns a San Diego-area bait company, suggested that the conservationists' plan would largely wipe out close-in sport fishing opportunities for boats heading out from San Diego Bay. He was referring to their proposal to restrict fishing around Point Loma and La Jolla.

"You've pretty much annihilated the Point Loma half-day fleet," he said.

Tom Ford, executive director for Santa Monica Baykeeper, said he was only aiming to protect fish populations, and had no intention of putting people out of business.

"I'm not out to get anybody here," Ford said.

Scott McCreary, a facilitator for the state's Marine Life Protection Act Initiative, sought to diffuse the tension in the room by underscoring the preliminary nature of the proposals on the table, and the likelihood many changes will be made in the months ahead.

"We are far from the finish line," McCreary said.

For now, the starting point is being framed by the sharply contrasting proposals of the statewide fishing network and conservationists.

The plan Exline outlined called for restrictions on 239 square miles of coastal waters between the shoreline and three miles out, the point where the state cedes jurisdiction to the federal government.

That compares with the existing system of protected areas, which spans 180 square miles, or 7 percent of the region's coastal waters.

"We created a strong backbone all along the coast," Exline said.

He said the Fisherman's Information Network suggests creating a half-dozen new protected areas and increasing the level of protection in some existing areas.

In North County, he said, the group proposes creating a 10.7-square-mile protected area off of Del Mar. It would be a "state marine reserve," meaning all fishing would be banned.

"It's an area that, even though it has some good offshore rocky habitat, it has less (boat) traffic than other areas," Exline said.

The group also would create a San Dieguito Lagoon reserve and convert the existing La Jolla conservation area ---- where some limited fishing is allowed ---- into a reserve.

The plan would largely leave Oceanside and San Diego Bay alone. Exline said the group chose not to restrict fishing around harbors.

"We want to have the least economic impact on the communities and fisheries," he said.

The proposals are posted at The group's proposal is listed as "Draft External Proposal A."