First District Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro (D-North Coast) released a statement on Friday, July 10, criticizing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's fast-track Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) process - and urging that North Coast communities be made "equal partners" in the process.by Dan Bacher
First District Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro (D-North Coast) released a statement on Friday, July 10, questioning the "science" that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's fast-track Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) process is supposedly based upon - and urging that North Coast communities be made "equal partners" in the process.
Chesbro's announcement came as a broad coalition of North Coast environmentalists, seaweed harvesters, commercial fishermen, recreational anglers and Indian Tribes is blasting the controversial process for being rife with conflict of interest, mission creep and corporate greenwashing.
"Over the past few months I have been hearing from numerous constituents who have expressed strong concerns regarding the development and implementation of MLPA plans for the North Coast and North Central Coast," he stated. "Because of this strong constituent concern, I am skeptical of the process that has been followed in developing proposed plans for these regions."
"The process must be based on sound science. I have been saying, 'show me the science.' So far I'm not satisfied with the answers I've been getting," Chesbro said.
As a state senator in 1999 who voted for the Marine Life Protection Act, Chesbro said it was his belief that "the MLPA will be a failure if the plans are implemented without the full involvement of all participants, especially local community members and stakeholders."
"The economic health of local fishing communities must be balanced with the need for habitat protection," he stated.
Representatives of fishing groups and local scientists supported Chesbro's questioning of the validity of the "science" behind the fast-track MLPA process, as well as sharing his concern that the need for habitat protection be balanced with the economic health of North Coast communities.
"The RFA agrees with Chesbro," said Jim Martin, West Coast Director of the Recreational Fishing Allliance (RFA), responding to Chesbro's questioning of the "science" behind the MLPA process. "We're concerned with two assumptions in the MLPA science guidelines. The first is that that there is no production of fish production outside of no take reserves. The second assumption is that there is a very high rate of fishing outside of the reserves. These two assumptions are mutually exclusive."
Patrick Higgins, respected fishery scientist and commissioner for the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District, also agreed with Chesbro's questioning of the "science" used to justify the MLPA process.
"When the Harbor District filed a California Public Records Act request to CDFG last year asking for data on key species constraining fisheries off our coast, such as the yellow-eye and canary rockfish, they said they didn’t have any," wrote Higgins in an opinion piece in the Arcata Eye on July 9.
"Science is a process where data are collected using methods that are repeatable so that if conclusions are questioned, the scientific methods can be duplicated and results checked," said Higgins. "Interviews by Ecotrust of fishermen do not constitute science. The value of having the best marine scientists in the State on a panel is lost without data because their views without such data are only opinion."
He cited fisheries management expert Dr. Ray Hilborn and others who reviewed the MLPA model for size and spacing of MPAs and found: “It appears to us that those prescriptions were pulled out of the air, based on intuitive reasoning.”
Jim Martin also questioned why up to four wardens are being required to attend MLPA meetings to provide "private security" to the MLPA staff at a time when the state is its biggest economic crisis ever with a budget deficit of $26.3 billion.
"It's outrageous that the wardens, who should be out in the field pursuing poachers, are sitting in these MLPA meetings to provide security at public expense," said Martin. "Since the MLPA is a process privately funded by the Resource Legacy Fund Foundation, shouldn't they contract with a private firm to provide security at a lower cost at no public expense?"
In addition, Martin emphasizes that the MLPA process has been expanded from a $250,000 a year process to a government boondoggle costing over $35 million a year - at a time that the state can't pay its game wardens, firefighters and teachers because of the budget deficit.
North Coast environmentalists, seaweed harvesters, fishermen and Indian Tribes, appalled by the conflicts of interest and corruption in a process engineered by the worst-ever Governor for fish and the environment in California history, are trying to to halt or at least slow down Schwarzenegger's MLPA process. Many believe that Schwarzenegger and his allies are trying to kick sustainable seaweed harvesters and fishermen off the water to clear a path for offshore oil drilling, wave energy projects and corporate aquaculture.
Meanwhile, Schwarzenegger, while trying to kick sustainable seaweed harvesters and fishermen off the water by setting up no-take marine reserves, continues relentlessly campaigning to build a peripheral canal and more dams in order to export more water to unsustainable corporate agribusiness on the west side of the san Joaquin Valley. Canal opponents believe the construction of the canal will only exacerbate the imperiled state of Central Valley salmon, steelhead, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish populations while costing the taxpayers an estimated $10 billion to $40 billion at a time when the state cannot afford it.
There is nothing "green" about Arnold Schwarzenegger, his MLPA process or his push for the peripheral canal, in spite of praise by corporate-funded "Big Green" groups and the corporate media for his cynical "green energy" press conferences and photo opportunities. The only "green" that Schwarzenegger and his supporters worship is the "green" of Wall Street, corporate agribusiness and private foundation money.
For more information about the "Seaweed Rebellion" against the corrupt MLPA process, go to http://yubanet.com/california/The-Seaweed-Rebellion_printer.php.