Friday, October 2, 2009

Fisheries Coalition Takes a Stand

Mendocino County Fish and Game Commission Chairman Craig Bell, right, and Erik Owen, who is involved in the urchin industry in Point Arena, grill oysters, rockfish and albacore at the "Take a Stand for Local Ocean Food" concert and seafood tasting at the Albion River Campground on Saturday. Five types of seafood, salad, beer, wine and even urchin shooters were also served at the event. Frank Hartzell photo.

By FRANK HARTZELL, Mendocino Beacon Staff Writer
Jerry House, Terri Fogarty and their dog Row escaped the fog in San Francisco to bask in the bright sun, eat fish and listen to music on Saturday under the Albion River Bridge at the "Take A Stand for Local Ocean Food" concert and seafood tasting.

They also knew just how lucky they were to find Southern California sun in Albion.

"This is a spectacular day and location and the food is great," said House, motioning at the Albion River flowing under the vintage 1944 Highway 1 wooden bridge.

Barbecued albacore, rockfish and oysters were served, garnished by four kinds of seaweed salad on a day that was unusually hot. One booth staffed by sea urchin divers offered shooters of the raw Japanese delicacy and sushi from Taka's Grill in Fort Bragg.

As the pair sampled the fare, the Steven Bates Band gave way to speakers who were critical of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative process.

House heard on the radio about the music and seafood. But he was happy to be supporting fishermen at a fundraiser.

"This MLPA process sounds like something that got way out of balance. The fishermen are important and should be listened to," he said.

"Everybody has to work together, not have one side just saying how it is going to be."

The arrival of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative, with a set timetable and an apparent cookie-cutter approach to ocean preservation, has pushed fishermen and environmentalists together. The Ocean Protection Coalition and Navy testing opponents both had booths Saturday, along with seaweed gatherers, abalone divers, commercial urchin fishermen and party boat operators.

Jim Martin, one of the organizers, said the initiative proponents were invited to visit the Mendocino Coast for Saturday's event. The MLPAI is being promoted locally by Annie Reisewitz, public relations officer for a Santa Monica-based consulting company. So far, no locals have been hired by the MLPAI.

Organizers were disappointed that elected representatives like State Assemblymember Wes Chesbro were not on hand, although they praised his stance in favor of better science and a delay in the MLPA process.

David Rosas, a candidate for the State Senate seat now held by Patricia Wiggins, has been coming to the Mendocino Coast since he was 15 years old.

"This place is so amazing. I've been coming to Albion (for abalone) since my old wrestling coach turned me onto this in 1976," Rosas said.

His former coach, Ed Gehrman, also came for the event.

"This MLPAI is a great idea that shifted 180 degrees from what it was intended to do when it started," said Rosas.

He feels that happened because the state turned public business over to private foundations.

The Marine Life Protection Act Initiative was created by a special contract between the state and a private foundation. The contract allows the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation to fund other private groups in turning a state law that passed in 1999 into a series of protected areas.

"If the governor and the state didn't have the money for this, they should not have turned it over to the private money; they should have waited until they could afford it and the public process could have been open, as intended," Rosas said.

Mary Kelly of Fort Bragg came to support the kind of sustainable use of the ocean that Native Americans, including some of her ancestors, practiced for 10,000 years.

Norman Dyck of Fort Bragg said the MLPAI won't work unless it is interactive, with both scientists and fishermen involved. He thinks one of the innovative fisheries management processes being tried in Alaska and South America might have better results in saving the resource and identifying the problems.

"It can't be simply a process where somebody says this is set in stone forever' and then goes away," Dyck said.

Steve Antler of Fort Bragg was disappointed to hear that the MLPAI bans or restricts fishing but has no stated effect on wave energy, oil drilling or other ocean industrialization proposals.

"[The state] can't stop all the fishing," he said.

"They are truly the watchdogs of the ocean and they should be listened to," Antler said.

Dennis Mayo of Trinidad, another organizer, wasn't impressed with the MLPAI's plan to televise a public workshop in Crescent City and Fort Bragg on Tuesday, while actually coming only to Eureka.

"Having them all at the same time is intentional, they want to divide us," Mayo said.

Mayo said the MLPAI has failed to state the problem.

"What is it we are trying to solve?" he said.

Martin called the Take a Stand Concert & Seafood Tasting a huge success.

"Over 500 people attended, enjoyed great music, and won lots of raffle prizes. We raised close to $10,000 for the California Fisheries Coalition," he said.

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