Friday, June 12, 2009

Crushing Blanket of Humanity

by Wendy Tochihara

In considering Marine Protected Areas I have been focused on facilitating sustainable fisheries interests and how to meet the goals of the MLPA while doing so efficiently as possible. I realize that there are other interests at the table that are looking to maximize the opportunity that instituting the MLPA provides to preserve areas for natural ecosystem function. Merely efficiently meeting the goals of the Act is less than what people of that perspective would hope for.

The choice in trading off fisheries opportunity for preservation opportunity is something I want to jointly see we are doing. By preservation interests I mean folks who value more, the preservation of areas where marine ecosystems function as they did before people became such a big part of them. To meet the requirements of the MLPA even minimally it would appear that the scale of an MPA array required is much larger than that which provides a mutual benefit to both fisheries sustainability and preservation interests. The exception is the case where harvest management fails. Then the more habitat that is removed from unsustainable fishing the better. My main concern is the sincerity and acknowledgement by the participants that trading sustainable fisheries opportunity for areas of natural ecosystem function is what they are doing by going beyond minimally meeting the goals of the Act. In fact the spirit of the Act addresses preservation values to a great degree. Even minimally meeting its goals delves deeply into the trade-off zone.

During this process one of the things that I have observed is an overwhelming desire to lessen the effects of the “crushing blanket of humanity” on the marine ecosystem. Although the sins of the crushing blanket are evident in the marine environment in many ways we seem to be relatively limited within this process as to how we address “giving something back.”

Stopping fishing may be the “low hanging fruit” but for many at the table it would be more appropriately labeled “somebody else’s fruit.” It’s relatively easy to give up for them.

Sharing the pain, improving the gain.

Many of the sins of the crushing blanket are addressed in ways beyond the scope of the MLPA to address. These include urban runoff, wastewater, landfill leachate, legacy pollution, nitrate loading due to agriculture runoff, inputs due to air pollution and many others. One that is within the scope of the Act appears to be disturbance based impacts.

As a private boater and recreational angler for many years one of the most apparent effects of disturbance by boats motoring along in shallow water is that they put the fish off the bite. This means of course that boat traffic causes many types of nearshore fish to not eat. Beach goers are the primary reason many shore nesting birds avoid coastal shores and are found primarily in areas where public beach access is limited. With some notable exceptions the same is true of pinnipeds.

As we draw close to final proposals to be forwarded to the BRTF I think we should be considering severely limiting public access to the near-shore and shoreside areas of our backbone SMRs. This would provide for the benefits to natural ecosystem function that human disturbance based impacts would otherwise deny.

I have included Surfrider’s statement on Marine Protected areas that I think describes the kind of negative impacts people have on marine ecosystems and some laudable MPA benefits. I like that they state the mismanagement of fisheries as a problem area rather than fishing in general.

It is especially salient that this comes from the voice of a constituency that stands to have to make sacrifices in order to give back some coastal areas to nature. This sharing of the pain would be inspirational to other constituencies who most feel the pain of reduced public access to fish. We all sacrifice so that there can be refuges for nature from the crushing blanket of humanity.

Policy on Marine Protection
Approved by the Surfrider Board of Directors on October 5, 2002

The Surfrider Foundation recognizes that protection of the coastal environment requires protection of an interconnected coastal zone that includes the open ocean, near shore water, beaches, estuaries and coastal watersheds. The Surfrider Foundation further recognizes while some coastal lands and beaches have been set for permanent protection as wilderness areas, parks, reserves, preserves conservation areas, and sanctuaries less than one percent of our marine environment has any protected status. Many of our most valued marine areas have already suffered significant damage from pollution, mismanaged fishing practices and coastal development impacts.

Where as:
Less than one percent of the world’s oceans have any protected status.

There is broad scientific consensus that marine protected areas benefit marine ecosystems and have been recognized as an important marine resource protection tool.

Marine protected areas are a proactive means to protect marine environments, surfing areas, water quality, cultural, and recreational resources.

The Surfrider Foundation supports marine protected areas that will:

  1. Enhance the coastal experience by preserving wild recreational areas.
  2. Protect special coastal and ocean places from dredging and dumping, oil drilling, ocean pollution, fisheries mismanagement, large commercial vessel traffic, poorly planned coastal development and water quality. Problems, while promoting marine education, recreation and research.
  3. Restore ecosystem health in marine estuarine and beach habitats.

In addition, Surfrider believes that:

Marine protection efforts must consider the linkages between our beaches, estuaries, nearshore and offshore waters.
  • We must promote an ocean ethic, which results from education, outreach and public input.
  • Constructive conversation and local input about the design and implementation of marine protection is essential both to the equity of the protection effort and compliance with restrictions.
  • While fisheries management continues to dominate discussions of marine protection efforts, supports marine protection efforts that provide for a broader range of goals, many of which are more directly relevant to the public at large.

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