Friday, May 15, 2009

Funding Woes May Interrupt Marine Act

Is cost of MLPA too rich for state?
By Ed Zieralski
San Diego Union-Tribune

May 15, 2009

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger could be getting a letter from the state Fish and Game Commission asking him to delay implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act because of lack of funding.
Commissioner Jim Kellogg proposed the idea yesterday at the commission's meeting in Sacramento. At first, Kellogg suggested a letter be sent to the Legislature, which in 1999 approved the MLPA – an integrated network of marine protected areas or no-fishing zones along California's coast.

“The governor announced today he's going to lay off another 5,000 state employees,” Kellogg said of California's budget crisis. “Maybe the commission can appeal to the Legislature to put this MLPA process on hold until the state gets on its feet again. That will give us much more opportunity to see if the existing marine protected areas work.”

Commissioners Kellogg and Dan Richards continue to question the funding of the marine protected areas. When the MLPA was passed by the Legislature, the cost listed for developing the network was $250,000, with another $250,000 a year for implementation. But the Department of Fish and Game has put the state's cost at between $30 million and $40 million a year for enforcement, monitoring and public outreach.

“It's irresponsible for us to put new costs on what we already fund,” Kellogg said. “At some point, someone has to take responsibility.”

Commissioners Richard Rogers and Michael Sutton opposed the letter or any delays in the MLPA process.

Commission President Cindy Gustafson compromised by agreeing to have the commission staff look into drafting a letter to the governor that addresses the concerns of Kellogg and Richards.
As fishing and environmental groups slug it out to reach an agreement on closures in the South Coast study region, the same sides battled yesterday over the North Central Coast region. The Central Coast already has a network of marine protected areas.

In the North Central Coast, fishing interests are backing a proposal called 2-XA that proponents say will have the least amount of economic impact on the fishing industry, particularly abalone, and the coastal communities.

Environmentalists and preservationists are aligned behind what is known as the Integrated Preferred Alternative, or IPA, which the Blue Ribbon Task Force is recommending the commission adopt.

Opponents say the IPA will have a greater impact than 2-XA on fishing and the coastal economy.
The Commission next meets June 24-25 in Woodland. It is expected to adopt a network of marine protected areas for the North Central Coast at its Aug. 5-6 meeting, also in Woodland.

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