Thursday, July 23, 2009

California's Ocean is Really Threatened, But Not by Overfishing

By Vern Goehring

Observers of and even participants in the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) implementation process often just accept conventional wisdom that says California’s ocean is being overfished.

The only problem? No evidence has ever been provided in the MLPA process to document such claims. And in truth, fishing is already heavily regulated by the Dept of Fish & Game and the Fish & Game Commission on the state level, as well as the National Marine Fisheries Service, or NOAA Fisheries, and the Pacific Fishery Management Council on the federal level.

In actuality, the MLPA was intended to be an umbrella program to bring coordination to all marine and coastal protection programs to maximize long term benefits, and not just be duplicate fishing restrictions.

The CA Legislature wanted to address water quality and other impacts and that’s how they designed the MLPA. But proponents and the Schwarzenegger Administration would dearly like to have the MLPA only deal with fishing, because it's easier to regulate than really doing something about pollution. And so far, they seem to be succeeding in ignoring the poor water quality plaguing our shores.

When asked about this oversight, members of the Governor’s task force appointed to oversee the process say that there are other forums and means to address water quality, and they are correct. Just like there are other forums and means to address fishing (overfishing is already illegal) concerns, but that doesn’t stop them from duplicating existing laws and regulations.

As fishermen, we’re not advocating shutting down water treatment plants and businesses that have discharge problems, but we are pushing for some measure of elevated attention in balance with the pollution threat present in California’s ocean.

To do anything else means overly regulating fishing in order to compensate for other impacts.

But for some reason, MLPA proponents don’t seem to get that excusing pollution won’t actually make it go away. Taking every opportunity to do something is necessary. These same persons are outraged by the Governor, as part of solving the State's budget dilemma, restarting offshore oil extraction after more than 40 years of moratorium - as they should be. One reason for there outrage: the Governor's plan does not include any protections from pollution. Uh?

Put an MPA around the pumping site and you'll have all the criminal sanctions against pollution needed.

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