By John Driscoll, Eureka Times-Standard
Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro said Monday that the North Coast's best strategy to handle the oncoming Marine Life Protection Act Initiative is to stay united in the face of an administration bent on pressing forward.
Chesbro, D-Arcata, said that California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Mike Chrisman was surprised at the reception the initiative received on the North Coast. That cohesive front, Chesbro said, presented by fishermen, environmentalists, tribes and governments, was born out of longtime efforts by locals to protect regional fisheries.
”That's the strength that we have,” Chesbro said. “That's the power we have.”
The MLPA looks to protect a range of habitats along the California coast, such as rocky areas and kelp forests and species that live in them. There are three different types of marine protected areas, one which would allow no fishing or harvesting of marine life, one that would allow some sport fishing only, and one that would allow some limited sport and commercial fishing. The areas are expected to work as a network.
Earlier this month, Chrisman answered a letter sent by all local governments, tribes and special districts in the area, in which they voiced concerns about the science, economics and approach behind the initiative. They asked Chrisman to consider delaying the process in light of California's budget crisis and a lack of data to support the creation of marine protected areas.
But Chrisman said that the planning process currently has no funding problem, thanks to the public-private partnership backing the initiative. He also insisted that adequate data and science are available.
”It is encouraging that with adequate resources and time you are willing to work proactively with the state to implement the MLPA,” Chrisman wrote.
Chrisman wrote that while the state is unlikely to have the funds to implement and enforce marine protected areas, it will continue to look to public-private partnerships to fund the program.
Chesbro, who voted for the MLPA in 1999, said that he had no idea at the time that private interests would end up being the force behind the initiative, and that he objects to how it's been implemented. But since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger insists on going forward with the plan, Chesbro said his aim is to redesign how it goes forward. That means it should be shaped by local communities and have the North Coast's economy at its center, he said.
Local commercial fisherman Dave Bitts said that every effort should be expended to develop a single, unified proposal to submit to the MLPA Initiative. But he also said that it's important to try to stop the implementation of the plans because of the horrible financial condition of what he called a nearly “failed state.”
Bitts said that the California Department of Fish and Game can't successfully keep people from poaching abalone -- and that's one of few violations wardens concern themselves with.
”How in the hell do they think they're going to administer marine reserves when they can't keep people from poaching abalone?”