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.