Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ocean Protection Coalition Opposes Corrupted MLPA Process

North Coast (Indy Bay)

This great article by Judith Vidaver of the Ocean Protection Coalition, published in the coalition's June newsletter, strongly opposes Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's corrupt fast-track Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Process. There is nothing "green" about this process that aims to kick sustainable seaweed harvesters, fishermen and abalone divers off Point Arena to pave the way for offshore oil rigs, wave energy projects and corporate aquaculture.

Ocean Protection Coalition Opposes Corrupted MLPA

By Judith Vidaver

In 1999 the California State Legislature passed the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). This Act seeks to protect diversity of marine life and “help sustain, conserve and protect” marine populations.

To do this, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) would be established with varying levels of restrictions on allowable activities. The Act further requires monitoring and adaptive management of MPAs. While well-intended, the implementation has been fraught with controversy.

On June 13, OPC attended the Sustainable Fisheries Reality Tour held in Point Arena and heard the concerns of credible fisheries experts. Speakers included Craig Bell (Mendocino County Fish and Game Advisory Commissioner), Jim Martin (Recreational Fishing Alliance and Fish and Game Advisory Commissioner), Allan Jacobs (science instructor), John and Barbara Stephens-Lewallen and Larry Knowles (Mendocino Seaweed Stewardship Alliance) and many other community members who will be impacted by the proposed “Marine Protected Areas.

“Welcome to the Point Arena upwelling,” said Craig Bell, as he opened the meeting part of the Point Arena Sustainable Fisheries Reality Tour. “Point Arena is one of the most environmentally active cities on the North Coast and we don’t support the MLPA’s Integrated preferred alternative (IPA), he said.

“Don’t underestimate us,” Bell added. “We’ve been giant killers before in Point Arena.”

Bell emphasized that the MLPA process has been expanded from a $250,000 process (as originally intended when the law passed in 1999) to an out of control $25 to $40 million financial boondoggle. Fisheries experts agreed that the current MLPA plan proposed for the North-Central Coast region (extending from Point Arena to Pigeon Point in San Mateo County) is fatally flawed and shouldn’t be approved by the State Fish and Game Commission in August.

We learned that the process (which was supposed to be stakeholder- driven and democratic) of developing the “recommended alternative” was corrupted. Local stakeholders’ concerns were repeatedly ignored and their recommendations over-ridden by the Packard Foundation and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a national environmental organization based in San Francisco.

The major weaknesses of the proposed plan include:
• It will not do as it was intended to do and will unduly harm fishers and other users of the ocean and seriously impact the local economy.
• The program will be prohibitively expensive to enforce.
• Our assemblyman Wes Chesbro requested an investigation into claims of possible conflict of interest by Blue Ribbon Task Force member Michael Sutton.The Blue Ribbon Task Force oversees the development of alternative proposals for Marine Protected Areas.

For these reasons OPC will not support the NRDC alternative for the North-Central Coast region.

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