by Christina Aanestad
A short interview with Dan Bacher, editor of the Fish Sniffer, a fishing publication, about the conflicts of interest with the Marine Life Protection Act. Bacher has identified several corporate interests he says are scapegoating fishing groups to potentially gain access to coastal resources.
Marine Life Protection Act, MLPA, is meant to establish conservation zones in sensitive coastal areas in California, but fishing groups say they’re being scapegoated by corporate interests. Listen to the interview for details, but here's a summary with additional info:
Dan Bacher is the editor of the Fish Sniffer, a fishing publication. He’s closely followed the MLPA process and says it was meant to protect California's coast from over fishing, pollution, offshore oil, and other threats to marine ecosystems, but the MLPA has changed to address overfishing, alone.
There are two types of zones under consideration in the MLPA, one would prohibit all maritime activity, and another would allow limited maritime use such as seasonal fishing and diving. But, Bacher says fishing groups are being scapegoated by corporate interests. According to Bacher a lead official with the Western States Petroleum Institute, an oil industry interest group, sits on the 5 member Blue Ribbon Commission on the MLPA. The commission is the primary oversight agency of the MLPA. Their favored proposal would ban maritime use off the Point Arena coast. Also known as the Point Arena basin, the Northern California area has several billion barrels of oil underground. Several oil companies including Conoco Phillips, BP and Shell have expressed interest in opening the Northern California coast to offshore oil and gas drilling.
Bacher says a private environmental foundation, the Research Legacy Foundation is funding what should be a public process. He adds, former CEO of PG&E Gordon Smith sits on the board of the Research Legacy foundation.
In addition, according to Bacher, Governor Arnold Schwarzeneggar, appointed an employee of the Research Legacy Foundation to sit on the Fish and Game Commission, an oversight agency of the MLPA. Bacher says the MLPA process was budgeted to cost under 300 thousand dollars, but has already ballooned to 35 million dollars.
The California Fish and Game commission will make the final decision on what areas to ban maritime and support limited maritime activity in August. BAcher says he’d rather see them adopt the North Central Coast MLPA Alternative plan. The MLPA blue ribbon commission will look at creating coastal protection zones from point arena north later this year.