Monday, August 17, 2009

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.

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