Monday, July 6, 2009

“Environmentalists” Ignore Ocean Pollution in Southern California

By Vern Goehring, Manager of the California Fisheries Coalition

It’s pretty unbelievable that a station like KPBS that has many true environmentalists as listeners, would in a conversation about protecting marine life, neglect to bring up the number one environmental problem plaguing Southern California’s ocean waters – pollution.

But that’s exactly what happened during this broadcast this past Monday. Kate Hanley, director of marine conservation for San Diego Coastkeeper, was one of the guests and she did a good job of advocating for a comprehensive marine protection plan. She talked a good game about science and considering the economic impacts on small businesses that rely on the ocean.

But is she hiding her true agenda?

Environmental groups, partners with hers, succeeded in getting expansive fishing prohibitions adopted in central CA, in places like Morrow Bay and Monterey, that provide minimal tangible environmental benefit to the marine ecosystems but generate significant cost to local economies.

Simply put, shutting down fishing is too often the goal of groups like Ms. Hanley’s, even when they claim a higher purpose.

California deserves better than this. A 2007 poll shows that a nearly three-to-one margin of Californians want sustainable use of the entire ocean, not the total closures being advocated by some.

As the law requires, a fair, equitable solution that preserves a balance: healthy oceans, sustainable seafood resources and economically strong coastal and harbor communities is an absolute must. Otherwise we will see a steady erosion of our ability to enjoy the ocean and fresh local seafood.

A “no-fishing plan” won’t do anything about pollution.

Further, Ms. Hanley talked about the benefits of marine reserves around the world. Here’s what she failed to tell listeners: There is no money for managing marine protected areas once they are adopted. No monitoring or baseline studies, no enforcement, no adaptive mid-course corrections that will inevitably be necessary. That’s because the State of California is broke. And without required management, we won’t know if anything is working.

The Dept. of Fish & Game estimates that monitoring and managing these areas will cost as much as $55 million annually, money that is simply not available. And it won’t be available for many years while the Governor cuts education, healthcare for kids and closes state parks.

Here’s what else Ms. Handley didn’t tell listeners: Fishing is already heavily regulated and the additional no-fishing areas she wants are largely redundant. That’s right, she wants to put into place a plan that stops fishing but won’t do anything for the vast threats to the ocean. How ironic. It seems that fishermen are the only ones arguing that pollution needs to be part of a comprehensive solution, as the law requires.

The real story is that state and federal regulators have already increased regulations to stop over-fishing in California, and they’re working. New regulations must go beyond what’s already being done, but must not unfairly penalize small local businesses and individuals trying to make a living or enjoying affordable recreation activities.

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