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.