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

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.