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

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

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.