Friday, August 21, 2009

Another Victim of the MLPA propaganda machine

Eureka Times-Standard

By Mike Zamboni

In Matt Horn's Aug. 12th "My Word" published in the Times-Standard he makes several assertions about the MLPA (Marine Life Protection Act) that are false. He states that 98.5 percent of our fishing areas will be left unaffected by closure. He obviously isn't aware of the existing federal closures that currently prohibit bottom fishing between 20 and 100 fathoms
or the existing commercial salmon closed areas, all of which need to be
taken into account before closing any more water.

While not called an MPA, the federal RCA (Rockfish Conservation Area) is identical to a state proposed MPA called a "Conservation Area" that prohibits the take of rockfish but still allows crabbing and perhaps salmon trolling. The RCA extends the entire West Coast and is defined by the 20 fathom contour line in state waters and a series of latitude longitude waypoints approximating the 100 fathom contour line off the North Coast. Basically between 2 and 10 miles offshore is closed to all bottomfishing. The RCA off the North Coast already closes about a third or 200 square miles of state waters!

According to Mr. Horn, federal waters make up nearly 40,000 square miles and are unaffected by closure. Using his math, the RCA closes the nearest 1,400 square miles of coastline in federal waters to all bottomfishing.

Although the salmon fishery is a mere pittance of what it once was, it is still an important fishery off the North coast. Federal regulations have put huge expanses of state and federal waters off limits to all commercial salmon fishing. On years we get a salmon season a 12 square mile closure is in effect off the mouth of the Klamath, or approximately 144 square miles closed in both state and federal waters. And the Eel River salmon closures close all water between South Jetty Humboldt Bay and the 40 50 line (near Shelter Cove) and extends west 200 miles.

That's another 10,000 square miles I can't fish in!

Combined that's nearly 12,000 square miles of coastline off the North Coast closed to salmon and/or bottomfishing. It's not like I can just take my 24 foot hook and line boat and fish between 10 and 200 miles offshore. Besides the difficulty of fishing in waters over 600 feet, weather on the North Coast is severely limiting as to the number of days a year one can fish offshore. And then there's the permit issue, with the exception of a small amount of federal groundfish, federal groundfish permits are very scarce and very expensive, ranging between $200,000 and $1
million, depending on how much one wants to catch.

Although crab is the main fishery in state waters, it is only open half the year. The other half of the year many fishermen rely on nearshore (hook and line) fishing or chartering to pay the bills. It is us and recreational fishermen that will be impacted the most if another 20 percent
of our fishing grounds are closed.

By the MLPA staff's and ecotrust's economic studies that stop at the dock and only take into account commercial fishing ex-vessel values, we could be facing a 20 percent hit to the commercial fishing economy. What they can't factor in is the economic hit to the recreational fishing industry and associated tourism that everyone in the North Coast is so dependent on. If you can take a 20 percent hit to your paycheck, then support the process; if not, write your local legislators and urge them to make the MLPA go away, especially in this economy.

Mike Zamboni is a resident of McKinleyville.

No-fishing areas don't address ocean problems

Friday, August 21, 2009

Why is California committing to spend millions on a new ocean protection program when it can't afford health care for children, state parks, schools or to keep inmates in prison?

The governor supposedly looked into every cupboard and behind every door to eliminate, reduce or postpone expenditures. Yet his administration persists in a program to create Marine Protected Areas that most people see simply as insurance to protect the ocean and that possibly will cost state taxpayers as much as $55 million annually.

When the Marine Life Protection Act was enacted in 1999 under Gov. Gray Davis, the annual cost was estimated at $250,000. But after considering the requirements to monitor, manage and enforce fishing restrictions linked to Marine Protected Areas, the state Department of Fish and Game now estimates it will need $35 million to $55 million a year to do the job once the program is up and running. That's enough to keep more of the 279 state parks open and is equivalent to one-third of the money cut from the Healthy Families Program.

Marine Protected Areas might be worth this cost if they included a comprehensive plan of coordinated state actions to protect the ocean, but without that, Marine Protected Areas only create an illusion of a comprehensive system of protection and conservation - precisely what the Legislature sought to avoid.

What the administration is doing is simply prohibiting fishing.

Proponents of no-fishing areas suggest that expansive fishing closures will protect the ocean, yet no studies or reports indicate that fishing is the primary threat to California's marine environment.

No estimates exist of the benefits species or ecosystems will reap from fishing closures.

In fact, much evidence suggests that pollution is the major problem and climate change is the emerging threat to marine life.

The Chronicle's Aug. 5 editorial, "On Establishment of Marine Reserves: An ocean preserver," and other proponents of no-fishing areas lump California with other parts of the world that have overfishing problems. A review of worldwide fishing management by marine scientists Boris Worm and Ray Hilborn, reported in the July 31 issue of Science magazine, finds the California Current ecosystem is among the world regions "with the lowest exploitation rates of any place we examined."

Worm and Hilborn document that these precautionary measures of creating Marine Protected Areas are making restoration of depleted fisheries more difficult in developing countries "as some fishing effort is displaced to countries with weaker laws and enforcement capacity." Needlessly restricting fishing compounds this effect, as it may also compound the climate change threat to our oceans.

So is the governor saying one thing while he does another? By creating Marine Protected Areas while he threatens the ocean with his proposal for new offshore oil drilling, his legacy may be a bit difficult to determine.

Vern Goehring is manager of the California Fisheries Coalition, an association of 27 marine-related organizations whose members advocate for cleaner oceans and sustainable marine resources, and contribute more than $5.5 billion annually to the state's economy.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Marine Life Protection Act politics hits Humboldt County

Citizens of Humboldt County should take note of the California Fish and Game Commission's Aug. 5 action designating Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) for the North Central Coast Region (NCC) immediately south of us. The decision likely foreshadows the fate of the North Coast Region, including the Humboldt County coast, unless we organize, educate ourselves and take action on a number of fronts.

President Cindy Gustafson removed herself from the Fish and Game Commission only days before the vote on the NCC MPAs. Though she mentioned a conflict of interest over her Truckee agency job, her exit appeared to be pure political interference. The eleventh hour removal of such appointees is typically precipitated by non-support on a critical issue; in this case the NCC “Integrated Preferred Alternative” supported by Governor Schwarzenegger and the private foundation backers of the MLPA. (For more see www.cafisheriescoalition.org/).

Within hours of Gustafson's hurried departure, the governor appointed Southern California Republican Don Benninghoven, chair of the MLPA Initiative's Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF). The task force had previously chosen the alternative over the locally crafted, economically acceptable proposal. Benninghoven then voted with the other two Schwarzenegger plan supporters on the five-person commission.

The precedents set by MPA designations in southern Mendocino County and northern Sonoma should alarm us and spur us to action. It would end Pomo Indian foraging rights for abalone near Stewarts Point, cutting off a tradition spanning hundreds of generations. The Point Arena Pier, funded with a $10 million federal grant, will likely go out of business because both Saunders and Lighthouse reefs to its north and south will be shut, over local objections. A $300,000 a year seaweed business that harvests by hand by wading in Sea Lion Cove will end. The Regional Stakeholders Group's preferred alternative 2XA would have kept open Sea Lion Cove and environs for Pomo gathering, and allowed fishing at Saunders Reef but shut Lighthouse Reef for conservation.

The BRTF is not a product of the MLPA passed by the Legislature but instead was part of a deal made by the State Resources Agency as part of securing Packard Foundation funds to implement the MLPA initiative. The BRTF is set up as insurance for the initiative's political outcomes and usurps lawful powers of the Fish and Game Commission. The five governor-appointed BRTF members include an oil industry lobbyist, a marina developer and representatives of the private foundations paying for the initiative. North Coast residents should object to the BRTF remaining in the decision-making loop for our area.

On July 15, Sen. Pat Wiggins wrote the Fish and Game Commission that “it is important that no family lose their livelihood from the implementation of North Central MPAs.” With the proposed displacement of Pomo Indians and seaweed harvesters and the potential crippling blow to the town Point Arena, it is time we asked the senator to follow up and fight for us, so that the same fate does not befall us. She is conflicted because she has hundreds of letters from the southern end of her district supporting the NCC MPA designation, many driven by public relations campaigns funded by Packard.

Senator Wiggins needs to hear from her real North Coast constituents and then call a hearing on the MLPA process by her Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture. There is a history of general support for the MLPA concept from North Coast legislators, including Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro when he was our senator. We all support the principles embodied in the act, but the current MLPA has strayed significantly from the Legislature's original intent and that should be the subject of the committee hearing.

Meanwhile, the MLPA process has started here and we are responding. North Coast governments, including Tribes, are organizing through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District so that we can all act together. Our regional MPA Work Group will now have official membership from these entities so we can collectively craft our scientific and political response. The MPA Work Group and members made sure that qualified local scientists were nominated by an Aug. 14 deadline to sit on the NC Science Advisory Team (SAT). We have also formed a sub-committee to independently set standards for science-based marine conservation planning in our area. When we get consensus among local scientists, our government leaders will sit down with MLPAI leadership and present a plan that works for our area. Stay tuned.

Patrick Higgins is the 5th District commissioner of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District.

Monday, August 17, 2009

EDITORIAL: Compromise key to coast management

A delicate but necessary struggle over Neptune's bounty has been playing out near our beaches recently.

The third round of discussions over the state-mandated marine protection areas for the coastal region from Point Conception to the U.S.-Mexico border convened last week in Carlsbad. The process ---- which brings together the various stakeholders in the ocean's protection and use, including resource managers, the recreation and fishing industries and the general public ---- will set protections on specific regions with the advice of the best science available.

The discussion will result in three recommendations that will be forwarded to the State Fish and Game Commission for a final call on what restrictions apply where.

We believe everyone shares this common interest: We need to maintain healthy ecosystems in our sea and robust fisheries, particularly along our coasts. If we do so, each of the stakeholders can benefit.

The difficulty, of course, is in balancing competing interests: Commercial (a small but valuable piece of the local economy) and recreational fishers, surfers and beachgoers, environmental activists, boaters, scientists, governments and the general public each have disparate needs.

The axiomatic "tragedy of the commons" can too easily apply. Unchecked or unregulated use of a thing "owned" by everybody and accessible by everyone but without any corresponding obligation of care, can lead to the resource being quickly exploited, consumed and left barren.

That is the problem with the ocean's fisheries.

So how should this play out?

We want to see compromises that do not destroy any of the stakeholders, including commercial fishers.

For instance, we would like to see compromises in the designated areas that allow some habitats to be shared (we are mindful that as fisheries recover inside a protected area, the fishing is better off the edges of those areas, too).

We support Del Mar's desire to ensure that the sand pit off its beaches remains available for sand replenishment. Tourism is too important to this economy.

We also urge that a robust analysis and review process be implemented to assess whether a given habitat has recovered enough to allow broader use.

There is good news in good stewardship. Recent scientific reports signal that the world's fisheries are responding to measures to protect them, and the planet seems to be moving away from a total fisheries collapse.

That should comfort those watching and participating in this process ---- this good, hard work will have rewards.

Do you agree?

MLPA: Don’t buy into the lies

Coastal Voices Guest Editorial:

Our community is being carefully fed lies to justify closing large areas of our local state marine waters.

You could lose access forever to shore-side and open-ocean fishing, clamming, and driftwood-gathering areas — and possibly even local beaches through a state process controlled by private interests that is currently unfolding in our area.

Here are the lies used to justify spending tens of millions of our state dollars to close more of our local marine waters.

• Fish stocks in our state waters are in trouble.

At this time, according to both federal and non-federal experts, there are no local fish stocks being over-fished off the West Coast.

• Marine reserves are needed to protect habitat.

State and federal laws include gear restrictions that protect habitat from fishing activities.

• Rock cod need refuges from fishermen.

In our northern waters, large areas of our coast are unfished. Local weather patterns and reduced effort provide large natural refuges from fishing.

• State law mandates closures.

The law (the Marine Life Protection Act) does not specify sizing or spacing of closures. When conceived, the MPA portion of the law was envisioning less than 19 percent of total habitat protection, including all bottom types found in an area — not the 40 percent closures of prime hard bottom fishing areas as enacted in the south-central region.

• There are 99 closed areas already in California and we are just creating a network.

Without the closures enacted through this process, less then 4 percent of state waters were closed to fishing.

• We have the money to properly enforce and monitor this many closed areas.

Just recently, the state association of game wardens asked for a suspension of closures until money is found to support effective enforcement. No one has yet identified where the tens of millions of dollars needed each year for monitoring will come from. Reserves do not provide protection or benefits to fish populations without scientific monitoring.

• You must accept closures. It’s the law.

Nowhere in the MLPA does it say how many MPAs must be created or how big they must be. These outside groups have brought in their own science, and paid the state to control the process. Some of the best fisheries scientists have identified the flaws in their science, only to be ignored. The environmentalists involved only care about closures, and they are breaking federal law by not considering local fishing communities’ financial needs.

• The process is open and transparent.

Yes it is, but the statewide Blue Ribbon Task Force that picks the final alternative to forward to the Fish and Game Commission answers to no one. It is comprised of out-of-the area people with ties to oil and energy groups. Not one fisherman there.

These are some of the lies outside environmental groups are willing to feed you to keep the grant money flowing. You can fight them by joining me at the meetings, and being sure you are heard. Your fishing community needs your help. Petitions are at Englund Marine. Please stop in and help protect your access to our renewable ocean resource.

As a footnote: Dr Henry C. Fastenau, who wrote a piece in this space recently, is a diving specialist from the Bodaga Bay Marine Lab. He can expect to personally benefit from closed areas with both increased diving supported by the lab through monitoring contracts, and the possibility of high priced dive trips to reserves by people who enjoy the pristine experience that comes from not having to share the resource with anyone else.

Kenyon Hensel is a local fisherman who has been closely involved with California’s MPA process.

Friday, August 14, 2009

In Case You Missed It: Cathy Reheis-Boyd to chair the MLPA BRTF South Project

California Marine Life Protection Act Initiative Announcement

Who: Secretary for Natural Resources Mike Chrisman

What: Selected Cathy Reheis-Boyd to chair the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the remainder of the MLPA South Project

When: Effective immediately

MLPAI ocean privatization breaks new ground

By FRANK HARTZELL Staff Writer - Fort Bragg Advocate-News

(In part 4 of this series on the Marine Life Protection Act, we look into how the MLPA Initiative fits into the fast evolving history of environmental privatization and how the successes and failures of that movement might impact the Mendocino Coast)

The Marine Life Protection Act Initiative (MLPAI), which arrived in Fort Bragg this summer to begin the process of closing areas to fishing, represents new milestones in privatization of environmental protection.

While the MLPA was a law passed by the California Legislature in 1999, the MLPAI is a private group, operating on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the state. The state signed the MOU after twice failing to implement the act itself.

The Santa Barbara Independent newspaper recently called the lending of legal authority to private parties under the MOU "unprecedented"
and "controversial" in the history of the state.

Sea change

California Fish and Game Commission approves controversial marine reserve; peripheral canal plan proceeds behind closed doors

By Dan Bacher in the Sacramento News & Review

Barbara Lewallen-Stephens harvests the tips of sea palms in Sea Lion Cove. The Marine Life Protection Act bans seaweed harvesters, fishermen and abalone divers from this and other areas along the Mendocino County coast.
PHOTO BY DAN BACHER

Last week, the California Fish and Game Commission voted 3-2 to create a controversial network of 24 marine-protected areas, stretching from the waters near Half Moon Bay to Point Arena in Mendocino County, that will close or restrict approximately 20 percent of the region’s state waters from fishing and seaweed gathering.

The vote to approve the reserve package developed through the Marine Life Protection Act process took place just one day after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed a new member of the Fish and Game Commission, Donald Benninghoven. A Republican from Santa Barbara, Benninghoven was the deciding vote for the Integrated Preferred Alternative reserve package pushed by the governor.

Benninghoven replaced the former commission president, Cindy Gustafson. Gustafson suddenly resigned the previous Friday, citing an opinion from the state attorney general that found her post conflicted with her position as the Tahoe City Public Utilities District’s general manager.

Representatives of Washington, D.C., and San Francisco-based environmental nongovernmental organizations, including the League of Conservation Voters and the Natural Resources Defense Council, praised the vote while fishermen, seaweed harvesters and the North Coast-based Ocean Protection Coalition condemned it.

“This landmark decision is a major step towards restoring the health and productivity of our state’s ocean wildlife,” said Warner Chabot, CEO of the California League of Conservation Voters. “The goal is to restore and repopulate underwater life by protecting these essential habitats.”

“For decades, we’ve protected California’s special places on land with state and national parks,” said Karen Garrison, a policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Now it’s time to protect the Yosemites of the sea.”

The vote will ban Lester Pinola, the past chairman of the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians of Stewarts Point Rancheria in Sonoma County, and the 600 members of his Pomo Indian tribe from harvesting abalone, seaweed and mussels in the intertidal zone off Stewarts Point as they have done for hundreds of years.

“What you are doing to us is taking the food out of our mouths,” Pinola told the commission. “When the first settlers came to the coast, they didn’t know how to feed themselves. Our people showed them how to eat out of the ocean. In my opinion, this was a big mistake.”

Pinola and recreational anglers, commercial fishermen and grassroots environmentalists showed in force at the meeting to back “2XA,” the alternative that they believe best meets the conservation objectives of the MLPA while incurring the least economic harm to coastal communities. Under this alternative, Pinola and members of his tribe could continue harvesting abalone and seaweed.

Fish and Game Commissioners Richard Rogers and Michael Sutton, the latter of who is being investigated by the California Fair Political Practices Commission for potential conflicts of interest in regard to his past votes on the MLPA, lauded the decision as the outcome of a transparent public process.

“What we have before us today is the result of a complicated, open, historic process,” said Rogers before the vote. “I’ve seen processes before that were real railroad jobs, and this isn’t one. It is the single most best process in my life that I’ve been involved with.”

Pinola disagreed with Rogers’ contention. “They never contacted us to let us know they were planning to close the coast to fishing and seaweed harvesting, even though we were the first people on the coast,” he stated.

Commissioners Jim Kellogg and Daniel Richards voted to adopt 2XA and to delay the process because there’s no funding to patrol the new reserves, but the other three commissioners voted “no” on both motions. Jerry Karnow from the California Fish and Game Wardens Association also asked the commission to delay the implementation of the MLPA initiative “until there is some relief from furloughs and enough officers to enforce these significant new provisions.”

Proponents and opponents of the marine reserve plan also clashed over the science behind the decision. Chabot said the decision was the result of a “science-based, compromise plan” approved by the commission. “Hundreds of science studies from around the world prove that marine reserves allow fish and wildlife to grow larger, more abundant and healthier,” he stated.

Jim Martin, West Coast director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, countered Chabot’s contention that the decision was “science-based,” pointing to a landmark study published in Science magazine on July 31 that found that the California Current marine ecosystem has the lowest fishery exploitation rate of in the world.

Martin argued that the study, coauthored by Ray Hilborn and 20 other international scientists, effectively challenges the need to rush the MLPA process. “Much of the motivation for the MLPA was concern about the state of the groundfish stocks—there is clear evidence that these can be rebuilt without MLPAs,” Hilborn noted, citing the new study.

John Lewallen, one of the founders of the Ocean Protection Coalition as well as the “Seaweed Rebellion” on California’s North Coast, also strongly contested the decision. The new marine-reserve package will bar Lewallen and his wife, Barbara Stephens-Lewallen, from Sea Lion Cove near Point Arena where they have sustainably harvested sea palms and other seaweed for 25 years.

“I’m really stunned that our democracy would be trashed like it was by the commission,” he said. “Californians have to oppose today’s decision and the MLPA process, or our coast will be taken over by private-money interests.”

Lewallen and fishermen have criticized the MLPA Initiative, a public process, for being funded by the Resource Legacy Fund Foundation, a private nonprofit corporation that receives its money from the David and Lucille Packard and the Gordon and Betty Moore foundations.

Critics decry fast timeline for MLPA

Insufficient notice, opponents claim

The Marine Life Protection Act Initiative is stirring up the waters of the North Coast.

While the possibility of more fishing restrictions is enough to raise interest, the most recent controversy centers around the formation of a Science Advisory Team (SAT).

Critics of the MLPA process claim locals were given too little warning about an upcoming deadline for nominations to the SAT. That deadline is this Friday, Aug. 14.

“We thought we would have input into the SAT process,” said local fishermen Kenyon Hensel, who has been closely following the MLPA process. “Then they give us a week to make nominations? This is their (MLPA Initiative officials’) way of ensuring that there is no true local participation. They have known for the last three years that this process was going to occur.”

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are being established all along California’s coastline in an effort to protect ocean resources.

The North Coast is the fourth of five regions to undergo the process, and one element is forming a regional stakeholders group and an SAT.

“The regional stakeholder group actually draws the lines on the map,” said MLPA Initiative Program Manager Melissa Miller-Henson. “The Science Advisory Team helps provide the guidelines, like how big to make the protected areas, or what habitats need to be included.”

She said the 25-day window for nominations isn’t any shorter on the North Coast than for the last three regions where the process has been completed.

“We have been telling folks informally since May,” said Miller-Henson.

While MLPA representatives say that they began sending out formal letters 25 days ago, that was only to people on their list server.

Miller-Henson said that people who didn’t receive a formal letter asking for nominations can still call the MLPA Initiative office at (916) 654-1885.

“One of our office staff will either read it to them over the phone or get them a copy in a timely fashion,” Miller-Henson said.

There are three types of MPAs that could be established on the North Coast. From least restrictive to most, they include marine conservation areas, marine parks, and marine reserves (which would be no-take areas).

Once the stakeholder group and the Science Advisor Team are formed, their members can begin the process of forming a proposal, which could start sometime next year.

According to Miller-Henson, the stakeholder group could choose to ignore the SAT’s guidelines, but would have to provide a clear rationale to both the Blue Ribbon Task Force, in charge of reviewing the proposal, and the Fish and Game Commission that ultimately approves it.

Critics of the MLPA process fear the stakeholders group and the SAT will be loaded up with members who lean toward more restrictions on fishing.

“This thinly veiled effort to stack the deck in the state’s favor is more of the same heavy-handed treatment true stewards of the ocean are objecting to so strenuously,” states a press release by Judith Vidaver, chair of the Ocean Protection Coalition, a Mendocino non-profit organization, states.

“If the state is truly interested in facilitating public participation in the MLPA process, adequate outreach and time for input would be the minimum the public could expect.”

Miller-Henson said the MLPA Initiative is committed to choosing SAT members whose sole concern is truly understanding the science of the particular region.

“We distribute the formal letter seeking nominations to the nearly 3,000 individuals and organizations on our list server,” Miller-Henson said.

The server includes both individuals and agencies and organizations like Humboldt State University, North Coast Harbors, the Tribes and the Pacific Fisheries Management Council.

“Ultimately anyone can nominate somebody to the Science Advisor Team,” Miller-Henson said. “But a nomination that doesn’t meet the requirements outlined in the formal letter, wouldn’t be considered.”

Del Mar tries to fend off marine reserve designation

By Bianca Kaplanek of the Coast News

DEL MAR — In 1999, the California Legislature passed the Marine Life Protection Act to redesign the state’s marine protected areas to safeguard marine life, habitats and ecosystems as well as improve recreational, educational and study opportunities provided by those ecosystems.

For a state intent on ensuring the protection of its 1,100-mile coastline, it sounds like a great plan. For Del Mar, it could be disastrous. Two of the three draft proposals being considered would identify the county’s smallest city as a protected area. One would include the city’s entire shoreline. Del Mar could have the unprecedented designation of being surrounded by a marine reserve area.

The designation comes with restrictions that could impact sand replenishment, the ability of lifeguards to provide safety, beach cleanup and the tourist industry.

Councilman Don Mosier said the main premise of the proposal is to protect biodiversity and naturally abundant marine ecosystems. But the area off the coast of Del Mar is dominated by sand and it lacks the shallow rocky reefs and thriving kelp forests that attract a greater number and diversity of fish and marine life, making it an inappropriate marine reserve.

In a letter to the executive director of the Marine Life Protection Act task force, the city also noted that a protected area designation could prohibit the dredging necessary for the success of the ongoing San Dieguito Lagoon restoration project. The letter further stated the area off the coast of Del Mar has been identified as a prime source of sand for beach replenishment.

The “no-take” prohibition that would accompany a reserve designation would severely limit the success of beach replenishment projects that are critical to the area’s tourism-related economy, the letter stated.

Because Del Mar beaches attract more than 2 million beach-goers annually, the city already provides marine protection services such as lifeguard patrols and beach maintenance. There is concern that a marine reserve designation could limit the ability to provide these daily services, the letter stated.

Until recently, Mosier said the city had little input into the process. He attended a July workshop in Santa Monica and a stakeholders meeting with Mayor Crystal Crawford and Pat Vergne, the city’s community services director and chief lifeguard. As a result, they said, task force members are beginning to pay the city some attention.

Longtime resident Tensia Trejo thanked Mosier “for taking care of us.”

“I actually think they are going overboard,” she said. “I know there is endangered species, but I think this bit of no fishing in the river — I’m against it. I grew up here.

“I fished on the pier. I fished on the beach. I fished on the river. And guess what? The fish are still there.”

Mosier said a final recommendation on the designated MLPA areas is due in December.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

City of Fort Bragg Letter to Sec. Chrisman on MLPA Concerns

08-06-09 Marine Life Protection Act Ltr

Eureka Reporter Editorial on MLPA

No Fishing. Are we next?

On Wednesday the state’s Fish and Game Commmission approved a plan to create marine reserves and parks for the coastline from Pigeon Point in San Mateo County north to Mendocino County’s Point Arena. Fishing will be prohibit­ing in about 11 percent of that coastline.

Plans are now underway to cover the North Coast to the Oregon border.

Will the plan impinge upon the economic viability of the North Coast’s commercial and recreational fishing ? We don’t yet know, but it is important that concerned citizens make their views known to elected officials and to the Fish and Game Commission.

One of the stated intentions of 1999’s Ma­rine Life Protection Act was to rebuild marine life stocks. The plan just approved covers the second of five zones for which plans must be created. Critics contend that current fi sheries regulations are suffi cient.

Last month, the Fish and Game Commission held three “open house” events, two in Eureka; one in Crescent City. These consisted largely of informational displays. According to the an­nouncement, “Staff will be available at each station so that attendees may ask questions and provide feedback on the process for the North Coast.” Random comments to staff? That’s a funny way to gauge public opinion.

The next step is formation of an MLPA Mas­ter Plan Science Advisory Team. August 14 is the deadline for nominations. From these panelists will be chosen--experts in “marine econology, marine fiasheries, marine habitats, marine protected area, economics, social sciences.” Address nominations (by letter, no more than two pages) to Jason Vasques, associate marine biologist, Attn: MLPA Science Advisory Team Nominations, 350 Harbor Blvd., Belmont, CA 94002. Or by e-mail: jvasques@dfg.ca.gov Final recommendations will go to the Fish and Game Commission in late 2010.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Timing of Marine Life Protection Act not good

By Ronnie Pellegrini

The Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative creates Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that ban all or most types of recreational and commercial fishing. On Monday, July 20, the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District forwarded a letter to California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Mike Chrisman asking for a delay of the MLPA Initiative.

The letter was signed by three North Coast counties and numerous local governments. It raises specific concerns about the current MLPA Initiative. I urge everyone to read this letter which can be downloaded at http://humboldtbay.org/harbordistrict/protected-area-workgroup/.

The MLPA North Coast Study Region spans over 200 miles of coastline from the Oregon border to just north of Point Arena. Signatories on the letter include all three counties (Humboldt, Del Norte and Mendocino), five cities (Crescent City, Trinidad, Eureka, Fortuna and Point Arena), all harbor districts (Crescent City, Humboldt Bay, Noyo), the Shelter Cove Resort Improvement District and the Trinidad Rancheria. The letter was voted on and unanimously endorsed by boards representing each of these agencies.

As part of the MLPA Initiative, Humboldt State University recently compiled existing ecological and oceanographic data and found that there are substantial data gaps. See report at www.humboldt.edu/~ncalmis/.

Similarly, Ecotrust, a group also contracted by the MLPA Initiative, has repeatedly stated that they are not being provided adequate resources or time for a comprehensive analysis of the MLPA Initiative's socio-economic impacts.

Locally, we have been aggressively pursuing funding for research that would close some of the most important data gaps, but due to the current state and federal economic situation, research funding is sparse.

The state has no money for implementation, which is estimated by the MLPA Initiative at $20-$60 million per year. According to the law, implementation needs to include enforcement and adaptive management. Adaptive management is a process whereby marine animals and plants are monitored to make sure the MPAs are “working” and if they are not working, then regulations are adjusted. Or, if the MPAs work better than expected, maybe more fishing could be allowed. At this time, the State of California has no money for this effort. In fact, on July 9, the California Fish and Game Wardens' Association sent a letter to the California Fish and Game Commission pleading to “delay or suspend any and all mandates that place additional responsibilities on wardens until such time that furlough and staffing issues are addressed. A prime example of this is...related to the Marine Life Protection Act and the designation of protected areas along our coastline.”

MLPA Initiative staff has conceded that due to a lack of financial resources, CA Department of Fish Game may not be able to implement the MPAs. Why should our community be forced to commit an immense amount of time to a poor planning process, especially if there is no money for implementation? If there is no money for implementation, why not use any resources we do have, to collect data that will improve a future planning process?

It has been repeatedly stated that concerns regarding the MLPA Initiative have been from a “vocal minority.” This is not the case. The MLPA Initiative's own contractors, members of their science advisory team, Fish and Game commissioners, local scientists, elected officials, fishermen, and concerned citizens have all recognized major flaws in the MLPA Initiative.

It has also been suggested that there is “misinformation” being spread in our area, but I have yet to hear any specific points referenced. Apparently, claiming that misinformation is being spread is a political attempt to smooth-over inherent flaws in the MLPA Initiative process.

Please, take a hard look at the process. Based upon what has happened in other parts of the state, there will be a 16-month planning process which will result in closing approximately 20 percent of our fishing grounds. This will most assuredly have negative consequences on our local fishermen and our communities already struggling economically.

The state has cut funding for the MLPA Initiative, and MLPA implementation and planning only continue due to private funding, primarily from the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation. We must insist that the MLPA Initiative is delayed until there is adequate time, scientific data, and resources available to implement the law through a scientific and comprehensive process. Our community deserves it, but we must make our voices heard in Sacramento.

I urge you to write to the California Fish and Game Commission, our legislators, and the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation urging they delay or abandon this process until adequate time, scientific data, and resources are available.

Ronnie Pellegrini is Division 1 Commissioner of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation, and Conservation District.

Monday, August 10, 2009

COMMISSION SEALS MLPA DEAL

COMPLETE REPORT: Fish and Game Commission approves North Central Coast closures despite lack of funds

Bitter debate results in a new network of no-fishing zones

BY RICH HOLLAND/WON STAFF WRITER

WOODLAND — After four hours of public testimony and acrimonious debate among themselves, the Fish and Game Commission voted to put in place the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative’s Integrated Preferred Alternative of fishing closures along the North Central Coast by a vote of 3-2.

Public testimony included a heartfelt presentation by Department of Fish and Game Warden Todd Tognazzini, president of the California Fish and Game Wardens’ Association. He noted there are no dotted lines on the ocean and no way to put up fences or no trespassing signs. He said he recently cited a CHP officer and a State Parks employee fishing in a marine reserve in the Central Coast, but was unable to respond to a call reporting a fishing vessel in a closed zone due to the fact he was on a furlough day.

“The fact is we don’t have the ability to enforce current fishing closures, much less any new ones,” was the bottom line from Tognazzini.

Commissioners Richard Rogers, Michael Sutton and Don Benninghoven provided the aye votes. The commission earlier rejected a motion by its president Jim Kellogg to postpone the Marine Life Protection Act process until the state’s economy recovers and the existing Central Coast closures prove there is benefit from a large network of marine reserves. His motion was seconded by commissioner Dan Richards.

Kellogg gave an impassioned speech in support of his motion, pleading that no more lives be destroyed because of the MLPA process. Richards followed up by saying he had no problem with the process, but a lot of problems with the fact there is no money to make the closures effective.

Kellogg’s motion failed by the same numbers that approved the new system of State Marine Reserves (no take at all) and State Marine Conservation Areas (very limited take) stretching from Pigeon Point to Point Arena. Before the final vote commissioner Rogers pointed to his history as a waterman and the fact that the waters off California are not the same as they were in the 50s as the reason for his support of marine closures.

Commissioner Sutton stooped to a personal level — at least in the eyes of commissioners Richards and Kellogg — when he termed the efforts of those who would derail the MLPA on the basis of funding as “disingenuous.”

Richards reacted angrily, noting that both he and Kellogg support the MLPA legislation, but simply want accountability.

President Kellogg diffused the situation when he said he came up with a new definition of disingenuous: “I think it means common sense.”

The commissioners who voted for the closures praised the process, including commissioner Benninghoven. No wonder, since until a couple days prior Benninghoven was chair of the Blue Ribbon Task Force overseeing the South Coast project of the MLPA and was a member of the Task Force when it crafted the IPA.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s last-minute appointment of Benninghoven to fill the hastily vacated seat of former Commission President Cindy Gustafson guaranteed the closures would be put in place regardless of the lack of funding for enforcement and monitoring.

“I’m so disappointed with Schwarzenegger, I can’t even begin to tell you,” Commissioner Dan Richards said in a phone call to WON following the meeting. “Let’s just put it this way, he speaks with forked tongue. On one hand he says he’s not going to kick the budget deficit can down the street for someone else to deal with, and on the other hand appoints Benninghoven to adopt a $45 million a year program that there is no way to fund.

“This is the biggest land grab — except that it’s under water — ever pulled off by the environmental community,” Richards added. “But the fact is at least three commissioners decided to move on regardless, so I respect the decision. I don’t agree with it, but I respect it.”

During his remarks following Kellogg’s motion, Richard noted that offers from other agencies to help with enforcement and monitoring sounded good until he pushed for the details. For instance, when questioned by Richards, the representative of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, who promised everything from boats to aircraft patrols, admitted to only having $65,000 in hand for buoys.

“You can’t throw $65,000 at a $40 million problem and call it a solution,” said Richards. “Now if Julie (Packard) wants to guarantee $45 million a year, I’ll vote for the IPA right now. I’d rather vote for 2XA if the commissioners decided to go that way, but I would vote for it.”

As for alternative 2XA, the proposal crafted in large part through the efforts of the Coastside Fishing Club and their representative on the North Central Coast stakeholders group, Ben Sleeter, a large contingent of Coastsiders showed up to ask the commission to choose that package instead of the IPA.

“Unfortunately, even though we brought our A-Game, the commission didn’t see things our way and voted for the IPA,” said Coastside Science Director Dan Wolford in a message posted on the club’s Web site. “It’s hard to look at this in any way other than a loss, and for the guys in the northern part of the study region this loss is big and is going to hurt. While in the southern part of the study region, the differences between 2XA and the IPA are not so great. Nevertheless we did not achieve our objective, and that is not a good feeling. We played a great game, but in the end, hardball politics simply controlled the outcome.”

The loss Wolford referred to was fishing rights to some of the best remaining coastal abalone populations in California. The IPA Stewarts Point SMR closed forever some of the top public access spots while keeping the private coastline of the Sea Ranch development open.

As far as Commissioner Richards is concerned, you can kiss all the newly closed spots along the North Central Coast goodbye forever despite network components are supposed to be reviewed every five years.

“These reserves are not going to be changed, they’re forever,” said Richards. “The limited monitoring and enforcement that will be done invalidates the whole process.

“I guess if you’re a bureaucrat you do this all the time, but it’s not the way I do business,” he added. “One thing I am going to request is all the new MLPA closure areas come with a financial breakdown. It’s just a joke and a sham. I’m not going to let them perpetuate the sham.”

MLPA News Roundup

Marin Independent Journal: Where were you Wednesday?


The Fish and Game Commission, at a supposedly public meeting in Woodland, ignored the appeals of Sonoma County Pomo Indians, Point Arena fishermen, Marin abalone divers and dozens of others who pleaded from podium with the five-man commission to go easy on Marin and Sonoma county fishing access. The concerned taxpayers were ignored, the environmental "green machine" activists appeased, and the severest possible restrictions of the Marine Life Protection Act passed into law. You'd better check the regs before your next fishing trip. More here.


Point Reyes Light: State closes fishing holes, 3—2

[...]Still, many wonder what agendas may be behind the MLPA.

Schwarzenegger, who showcases his green policies, has done little to address water pollution, and supports other projects that counteract the mission of the MLPA.

Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisheries, calls the MLPA “conservation light,” or conservation for those who don’t want to do any heavy lifting. Grader and other fishermen are upset that the MLPA is not adhering to its original goal of addressing water pollution.

“What I see here is a resource grab. The first thing that the corporations want to do before grabbing public trust resources is to get rid of the people who live or subsist on the land and ocean,” said Judith Vidaver, of the Ocean Protection Coalition, in a June meeting to oppose the MLPA process.

The five-member Blue Ribbon Task Force includes Catherine Reheis- Boyd, Chief Operating Officer and Chief of Staff for the Western States Petroleum Association.[...] More here.


Laguna Beach Independent:
Fishing Closure Unnecessary and Unwarranted

Closing off areas of our coastline, other than tide pools, is neither necessary nor warranted. Current regulations are working very well for both fisherman, fish, and the economy. I strongly recommend that the environmental extremists back off and find something else to destroy. More here.


Commission Bans Indians, Seaweed Harvesters From Traditional Areas
Racism and elitism prevails over science and environmental justice

By Dan Bacher

Lester Pinola, the past chairman of the Kashia Rancheria in Sonoma County, and members of his tribe have harvested abalone, seaweed and mussels for hundreds of years in the inter-tidal zone off Stewarts Point. More here.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Marine Reserves Discussion on Mendocino Radio: Fisherman, Ocean Conservancy

In case you missed it:

Universal Perspectives on Mendocino County's KZYX/Z 90.7/91.5 FM

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Marine Protected Areas- is it really good for the oceans and the fisheries? Guest are local fisherman Jim Martin, who represents local fisherman and seaweed gatherers who have expressed concerns about the MLPA process, and Jennifer Savage from the Ocean Conservancy, whose organization is among environmental groups who have championed the initiative.

Listen to the recorded broadcast here

Letter: Port of San Diego Concerned About MLPA Implementation

Marine+Life+Protection+Act+Initiative

CFC quoted in the San Bernardino Sun

By Jim Matthews of the San Bernardino Sun

The Fish and Game Commission voted for a massive ban on sport and commercial fishing in ocean waters off the North Central Coast region of California on a 3-2 vote with the body's newest commissioner, appointed just the day before, casting the deciding vote. The vote was a huge disappointment to sportfishing groups.

In a flurry of activity over the past week that buoyed and then dashed sport anglers' hopes for a more balanced approach to marine life protected areas, the Fish and Game Commission saw its president Cindy Gustafson resign last Friday. Her departure almost assuring that the Wednesday vote on adoption of restrictive Marine Life Protected Act reserves off the Monterey region would be deadlocked, 2-2, failing to pass.

Don Benninghoven, who was chairman of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force that has recommended for massive ocean closures, was immediately appointed to the Commission on Tuesday by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to assure the passage of the Central Coast closures the following day.

Sporting groups have argued the science referenced for massive closures doesn't justify eliminating all sportfishing, as the blue ribbon panel has recommended for regions all along the coast. The MLPA process is also ignoring the economic impacts to the sportfishing community and refuses to address how enforcement of the closures will be funded.

"Today's vote to move forward with a new $55 million a year marine program shows that the Schwarzenegger administration is not listening to the people of California," said Vern Goehring, head of the California Fisheries Coalition after the Wednesday vote.

California to further restrict coastal fishing

The move by Fish and Game for the North-Central coast is meant to help marine ecosystems and will take effect Jan. 1. Reaction splits along predictable lines.

By Amy Littlefield of the Los Angeles Times

The state Fish and Game Commission voted Wednesday to ban or restrict fishing in about 20% of state waters along the North-Central coast to rejuvenate marine ecosystems.

Conservationists hailed the measure as a chance to lead the nation in creating a network of underwater state parks, while fishermen said it would threaten their businesses in a time of economic hardship.

The plan had been in the works for 10 years after the passage of the state Marine Life Protection Act, which mandated the creation of a network of restricted fishing areas.

Protected areas have already been established along the Central Coast, the first of five regions to be examined. A plan is in the works for Southern California. The protections apply only to state waters within three nautical miles of the coast.

Fishermen and conservationists had proposed alternative versions of the plan, but the one put forth by the Governor's Blue Ribbon Task Force triumphed on a 3-2 vote.

Commissioner Daniel W. Richards and President Jim Kellogg opposed the measure, saying the commission should first wait to judge the success of marine protected areas along the Central Coast. They also expressed doubt over whether the state could afford enforcement costs.

Supporters dismissed that concern. "Budgets come and budgets go, recessions come and recessions go," said Commissioner Michael Sutton. "What's going on here is more important than that."

Commissioner Richard B. Rogers called the measure "the single most important thing that I have ever done."

The tie-breaking vote was cast by Don Benninghoven, who was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday after the resignation of the commission's president, Cindy Gustafson, last Friday.

Schwarzenegger voiced his approval of the decision.

Lisa Page, a spokeswoman, said, "It represents another milestone in California's leadership on oceans management and is the example of the kinds of outcomes that can be achieved by a collaborative process."

The plan takes effect Jan. 1.

The Marine Life Protection Act: Ocean preservation vs. privatization

By FRANK HARTZELL Staff Writer - Fort Bragg Advocate-News

As I prepared to write this third installment of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative series, I decided to take a twilight walk along the ocean for inspiration.

Instead I found apparent abalone poachers at Jughandle, two big country boys working with duffel bags at dusk on July 30. My dogs had alerted and pulled me by their leashes to the spot where a lookout dude was hunkered. The meeting was uncomfortable, both of us being both scary and surprised.

He said they were doing "underwater photography."

What better time for that than after sunset? I left quickly, all ocean poetry having been yanked from my heart.

I rushed home to call the toll free, "24-hour" Department of Fish and Game line set up to report poaching.

The line was turned off and non-functional, transferring me into dead-end voicemails. I kept at it for 15 minutes and tried a law enforcement number also on the site. No luck.

I knew Fish and Game enforcement was yet another casualty of the no-new taxes driven state budget, but I did not know the tip line was a casualty.

I realized I should have called the sheriff's department or local wardens like Eric Bloom or Terry Hodges, who give out their numbers for just such a situation. Then I realized I had found my muse for the story, after all.

This third article explores why many locals have reacted to the privatization of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative (MLPAI) ocean preservation process as if they were dealing with poachers, not preservationists.

The MLPAI does not seek to industrialize the ocean, merely to put it off limits by varying degrees to fishing, seaweed harvesting and abalone diving.

MLPAI's private funding has been a major issue among highly critical locals, from fishermen to seaweed harvesters to members of Fort Bragg's Ocean Protection Coalition.

MLPAI backers appear baffled by why this would be such an issue and even more perplexed as to why an area with a seaweed green voting record would be so suspicious and resistant of large funds dedicated to environmental preservation.

Ken Wiseman, MLPAI executive director, said the private money driving the mandatory process doesn't buy anything more than implementation of a 1999 law the state couldn't afford to implement on its own.

"There is an issue that has come up that somebody is buying a result here," said Wiseman.

"I am paid for by the foundation. I have never had any foundation person call me up and say, I want this result.' The five foundations want a process, they put up $20 million to create a process," Wiseman said.

More than a dozen well-dressed foundation-paid folks from an array of non-profits have arrived from Sacramento, Los Angeles and the Bay Area in recent weeks, willing to explain to anyone who would listen how the pre-conceived process will work. The 18-month MLPAI process has just gotten started in the area that runs from north of Point Arena to the Oregon border.

Like I felt when I collided with the burly dudes, many locals obviously feel passionately possessive of the ocean and are suspicious of outsiders who come to ask for input when they have already mostly made up their mind.

"This feels like a really top down process," said Jim Martin, West Coast regional director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance

"They appear to have their minds made up and we are just there to move a few lines around," he said.

Local resistance

Coast ocean activists are accustomed to uniting to battle outsiders who come with claims to the ocean, such as oil companies given leases in the 1980s or the wave energy leases awarded behind closed doors to private companies. In that case, the federal government never told any local governments there was even a wave energy process before awarding the exclusive claims.

Martin has led opposition to the MLPAI in its current form. But like many locals, he thinks protected ideas are a good idea. The ocean is more important than political divisions to Mendocino Coast residents, he says.

"The difference here is that people really have a connection with nature that isn't true in big cities. Conservation groups locally know that we can get food from the ocean without disrespecting it," he said.

Some elaborate conspiracies have been passed around about the big private foundations that are paying for the MLPAI process. Martin finds some of these claims interesting but says the real energy comes from a local dislike for the power of outside money.

"There are some real questions about this private money ... It's the undue influence that really upsets people, the ability of the money to dominate local interests and overpower local input," he said.

Martin, who has been involved in the process in other areas, confesses to feeling overmatched when sitting across the table with attorneys, scientists and trained spokespersons, all paid to be there.

He said locals who make their living from the ocean, such as party boat captains, marine business owners and commercial fishermen, have a very difficult time attending meetings for free to argue with people being paid to be there.

The MLPAI, the Ocean Conservancy and the survey firm Ecotrust are among those to employ representatives, and all are new to the ocean issue on the Mendocino Coast. None participated in the recent wave energy or oil drilling matters. In fact, neither of those activities would be impacted if new protected areas were established.

"When some of the local conservationists learned the MLPAI doesn't really apply to huge ocean-industrial projects like wave energy, they decided they couldn't support it," said Martin.

Follow the money

So, who is behind MLPAI?

I learned that the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation (RLFF), a rather secretive money trust, is the key force. The RLFF has been a major player in creating new parks, easements and other nature deals and ballot initiatives but never brags about it.

RLFF has never been the main feature of a news article, as far as I could find and as far as Amy Thoma of Wilson-Miller Communications knows. Emails this reporter sent to the RLFF requesting an interview with one or more key RLFF personnel were forwarded to her public relations firm.

"RLFF has no role in the policy-making aspect of the MLPA. The private contributions to this state effort and the roles of (state agencies) and the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation are defined in a memorandum of understanding that separates the source of the funds from the rulemaking process," Thoma said.

The memorandum of understanding between RLFF and state agencies was created during former governor Gray Davis' administration when it was clear the state had no money to implement the Marine Life Protection Act of 1999 and needed private help.

The website at www.resourceslegacyfund.org has lots of general information, including basic biographies of RLFF board members and Executive Director Michael R. Eaton. All have experience with major corporations, law firms, and banks and also with public-private nature partnerships. The website has tax returns and financial statements too, but does not describe a central vision, provide details of how decisions are made, or boast the accomplishments of the $81 million fund.

The RLFF website says this low profile is intentional.

"They say they take the low profile so their funders can get all the credit. But in this case the Packard Foundation has been taking a pretty big hit," said Martin.

Thoma said all the funders are charitable foundations.

Fish and Game Commissioner Michael Sutton has been challenged over alleged conflicts of interest regarding the Marine Life Protection Act because of his ties to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where he works, and the Packard Foundation, where he once was an officer. The Packard Foundation is one of the major contributors to the RLFF.

After two failures by the state, the RLFF took over the fund-raising process for implementing the Marine Life Protection Act. The foundations helped create the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative, a privately-funded organization that is now implementing that state law locally.

Privatized

conservation

But what could possibly be wrong with private foundations dedicated to ocean preservation doing ocean preservation?

Martin says privatized conservation works too much like a big corporation, with less interest in long term impacts than in achieving a goal.

"They are all from big industry and this process is basically producing and selling a product, in this case, the marine protected areas. It costs very little and is easy to sell, with just a little fear and doom and gloom," said Martin.

Martin said fishermen don't always like the fishing closures that have been so common in the past few years. But in those cases, science has been presented and the entire decision debated by panelists composed of peers and government officials.

With the MLPAI, fishermen feel like they are up against a marketing, rather than scientific, machine.

Fort Bragg City Council members mentioned that the MLPAI has sent as many public relations people as scientists to town to introduce the process.

Last week, Martin told the council that his dealings with the MLPAI in other regions has felt more like negotiating a real estate deal than finding the best solution possible for the ocean.

"This has become a process of horse trading where one side feels it has won if it gains more territory. We don't see it that way," Martin told the council.

The City Council was unanimously critical of the science and private funding behind the MLPAI process and has formally asked the state to postpone the process.

Thirteen other agencies, including all three involved counties, all the harbor districts and other cities and Indian tribes, also were critical of the MLPAI and wrote a letter to the state asking that the entire matter be delayed.

The local agencies, supported by state Sen. Pat Wiggins, are demanding a deeper look into the economic impacts of removing huge fishing areas from the local economy.

Mayor Doug Hammerstrom hoped for a day when the marine center Fort Bragg hopes will blossom at the old Georgia Pacific mill site could lead the scientific studies needed to properly preserve the ocean.

Ocean Conservancy

The next affiliate I looked into was the Ocean Conservancy. Jennifer Savage, who works for that organization, contacted me and offered to help contact experts and answer questions about the MLPAI.

But after the article was released, she got into a local crossfire about just who she represented, as I identified her by the generic moniker "spokeswoman."

Just what is the relationship between the Ocean Conservancy and the MLPAI? Who funds who?

"Ocean Conservancy supported the original adoption of the Marine Life Protection Act in 1999 and has been involved in each phase of the MLPA Initiative effort to date," Savage said. "Our staff has served on the Regional Stakeholder Groups and the organization strongly believes that community involvement is vital to the process. So, as someone who cares deeply about both the ocean and the community I live in, I happily opted to assist them with MLPA efforts on the North Coast."

I never found out whether the Ocean Conservancy is paid for that help or if the MLPAI funds the OC, which has been around since 1972.

The Ocean Conservancy has one local involvement, as a sponsor of the world's largest annual volunteer event — the International Coastal Cleanup, run locally by the Mendocino Land Trust.

A flow chart of just the official MLPAI organizations accompanies this story. In next week's installment, we will look at the budget and the flow of money and provide a flow chart for the funding organizations.

Another big issue is that the MLPAI is creating new underwater preserves at a time when the state is downsizing its budget for onshore parks and law enforcement.

As to the abalone poachers, a group of local residents has formed MAW, or Mendocino Abalone Watch, as a nonprofit citizen-based organization acting as additional "eyes and ears" for the Department of Fish & Game.

Interested persons are asked to drop an email at abalonewatch@gmail.com for information or to volunteer," said a press release from MAW.

Twisting the Science

By Bruce Steele & Diane Pleschner-Steele


It has come to our attention that certain organizations and individuals appear to be twisting or misrepresenting data presented in the recent Worm, Hilborn et al paper, Rebuilding Global Fisheries, that appeared in the July 31 issue of Science magazine.


We've included a few excerpts from the paper to provide a balanced view of its findings:


• reducing exploitation rates to u [exploitation rate] = 0.25 is predicted to rebuild total biomass, increase average body size, and strongly reduce species collapse with little loss in long-term yield [Fig. 2]...


• Since the 1990s, Iceland, Newfoundland-Labrador, the Northeast US shelf, the Southeast Australian shelf and California Current ecosystems have shown substantial declines in fishing pressure such that they are now at or below the modeled uMMSY [multi-species maximum sustainable yield exploitation rate]. However, only in the California Current and in New Zealand are current exploitation rates predicted to achieve a conservation target of less than 10% of stocks collapsed [Fig. 3A]


• Diverse management tools have helped to achieve reductions in exploitation rates [Table 1]. The most commonly used tools overall are gear restrictions, closed areas, and a reduction of fishing capacity, followed by reductions in total allowable catch and catch shares. Reductions in fishing capacity and allowable catch directly reduce the exploitation rate of target species by limiting catches...


We emphasize that the feasibility and value of different management tools depend heavily on local characteristics of the fisheries, ecosystem and governance system. ... A combination of diverse tools, such as catch restrictions, gear modifications and closed areas, is typically required to meet both fisheries and conservation objectives.


• Some of the most spectacular rebuilding efforts, such as those undertaken in California... have involved bold experimentation with closed areas, gear and effort restrictions, and new approaches to catch allocation and enforcement.


Commenting on the paper, Dr. Hilborn made the following statement:


“The analysis presented in our Science paper shows that the California Current ecosystem has the lowest exploitation rates of any place we examined in the world. The drastic reductions in harvest have been designed to rebuild the overexploited rockfish stocks. At present the community of groundfish is now at about 60% of its unfished biomass, far above the 30-40% level target for maximum sustained yield. Much of the motivation for the MLPA was concern about the state of the groundfish stocks – there is clear evidence that these can be rebuilt without MPAs resulting from the MLPA that have only recently begun to be implemented. The benefits of the MPAs established under the MLPA will be primarily to have some areas of high abundance of species with limited mobility.”

- Ray Hilborn, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington


Both my wife Diane and I view MPAs as one tool in a diverse resource management tool kit that can provide ecosystem benefits to sedentary stocks and protect unique habitats in a relatively untouched state [side-stepping the water quality issue]. We have always advocated for best available science and have strived to achieve it in the sea urchin and wetfish fisheries. However, in our minds 'best available science' also means acknowledging that California fisheries are managed conservatively -- with regulations even more restrictive now than MSY. As the bioeconomic models illustrate, in MSY and conservative management scenarios there is a direct trade-off between larger MPAs and larger socio-economic impacts for insignificant gain in conservation benefits.


We disagree with the size and spacing formula laid down by the SAT, as it is based on scorched-earth assumptions that are not valid in California [and many on the current and NCC SAT teams have expressed similar reservations]. Nevertheless, we will continue to work proactively within the MLPA process to achieve an MPA network in southern CA that meets the SAT guidelines to the extent possible and also minimizes economic pain to fishing communities to the greatest extent possible.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

10 News San Diego: Restrictions May Sink Local Fishing Industry

video

Vote on marine reserves off North-Central California leaves fishermen angry

By Pete Thomas of the Los Angeles Times

August 5, 2009

Two men fish from the rocks at Fort Baker in Sausalito with Alcatraz Island in the background. It was not among areas subject to fishing closures as part of the MLPA process.

The California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday afternoon adopted the Integrated Preferred Alternative within the Marine Life Protection Act process as it pertains to the North-Central coast.

It will create 22 marine protected areas and ban or restrict fishing in nearly 20% of coastal waters between Half Moon Bay and Point Arena.

The commission adopted the measure -- one of four alternative measures up for consideration -- by a vote of 3-2.

While environmental groups were pleased with a measure they believe will help ensure the long-term survival of beleaguered fish stocks, fishermen did not waste time bemoaning the loss of historic fishing grounds and what they perceive to be a threat to their livelihoods. State game wardens complained that they're already overworked and may not be able to guard against poaching and other violations.

"For me the most painful is an area called Fitzgerald's Reef, which extends outside the harbor six miles along the coast and three miles offshore," said Capt. William Smith of the recreational fishing boat Rip Tide, which runs from Half Moon Bay. "That's always been a major fishery for us."

Much of the waters surrounding the Farallon Islands west of San Francisco also will be closed to fishing, with a few seasonal exceptions. Nature viewing operations might also be affected there because there will be a 1,000-foot buffer zone from North Island. A spokesman for a small seaweed harvesting business at Point Arena said it will suffer a 40% annual loss because of the restrictions.

The closures are not immediate and it remains unclear exactly when they will go into effect.

Said Samantha Murray of the Ocean Conservancy, a key architect of the plan: “A healthy ocean contributes to our economy, environment and way of life. With the help of state and federal agencies, as well as private support, Californians can be proud that we’re on the path toward more sustainable seas.”

Opponents had hoped the state's glaring budget woes would derail the MLPA process, which is currently focusing on Southern California.

“Today’s vote to move forward with a new $55-million a year marine program shows that the Schwarzenegger administration is not listening to the people of California," Vern Goehring, president of the California Fisheries Coalition, said in a statement. (The figure Goehring refers to is a high estimate.)

"The people have spoken and the governor has said he got the message: live within our means because everyone must contribute to get out of this mess, Goehring added. "So how does he justify starting a new program while cutting healthcare for kids, closing parks and now, releasing inmates?

“It’s a fishy business that this expensive new program claims to protect the ocean, but in reality won’t even address water pollution, which we all know is a major issue. All it does is ban fishing, which ironically, is already heavily regulated and studies show California is one of the least-fished, best protected areas in the world."

Please click here for the details regarding the adopted measure.

The MLPA process first dealt with the Central California coast. In 2006 fishing was banned or restricted in about 18% of state waters from Santa Barbara to Half Moon Bay. It's too early to determine the effectiveness there but surveys last year within reserves established in 2003 around the Channel Islands found 50% more rockfish, sheephead, lingcod, lobster and other species.

Stay tuned for updates.

Photo: Two men fish from the rocks at Fort Baker in Sausalito with Alcatraz Island in the background. It was not among areas subject to fishing closures as part of the MLPA process. Credit: Associated Press

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