Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fishing Groups Converge for MLPA Rally Today

By Dan Bacher, Indybay
October 11, 2009

Anglers from throughout Southern California today will converge on Dana Point Harbor at 2 p.m. for a rally of angler solidarity and a show of support for the plan put forth by Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Workgroup 2. This rally is part of a campaign to get anglers ready for the MLPA meeting in Long Beach on October 21.

“We’re not out here saying ‘no’ to conservation — we’re saying ‘YES’ to a plan that achieves the MLPA’s mandated conservation goals while minimizing the economic and social impact on Southern Californians,” said Steven Fukuto, president of United Anglers of Southern California. “This is a very important distinction, and one that shouldn’t be lost on anglers or the general public. Angler’s groups have been involved in this process from the start and have learned to accept that meeting the MLPA’s conservation goals means a certain level of sacrifice for fishermen. Workgroup 2’s Plan is still going to hurt — but we can live with the fact that it offers the best level of conservation while striving not to severely restricting recreational angling."

The rally and meeting will take place at a time when North Coast environmentalists, fishermen, seaweed harvesters and Indian Tribes are charging that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's fast-track MLPA process is rife with mission creep, conflict of interest, racism and environmental elitism.

The California Fish and Game Commission in August voted to ban the Kashia Tribe and other North Coast Indian Nations from harvesting seaweed, abalone and mussels in their traditional areas off Stewarts Point and Point Arena on the North Central Coast as they have done for centuries. This process, presided over by an oil company lobbyist and other corporate interests, has no respect for the culture and rights of indigenous people, nor for the rights of sustainable recreational anglers, commercial fishermen and seaweed harvesters. The widely-criticized initiative, which aims to privatize public trust resources, is privately funded by the Resource Legacy Fund Foundation. The process has now moved from the North Central Coast to the North Coast and Southern California.

"I’m warning you and my fellow Californians that this Ecotrust study is the first justification for unconstitutional and unfounded permanent closures of ocean food-gathering areas sustaining coastal humanity since time immemorial," said John Lewallen, veteran North Coast environmental leader, seaweed harvester and strong opponent of MLPA greenwashing, in a letter to the Ecotrust Corporation that is now conducting a "socioeconomic study" of the North Coast for the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force. He accused Ecotrust of justifying "fisheries fascism" and "green genocide."

"These closures are 'green genocide,' threatening the complete extinction of several Native American traditional cultures that depend on ancient ocean food gathering sites for cultural survival," Lewallen said. "The Ecotrust study is blind to Northcoast tribal ocean harvest. Nor, I’m afraid, could my friends from the Northcoast First Nations reduce the sacred and intimate relation they have with the natural environment to a cash value."

Jim Kellogg, Fish and Game Commission Member, the California Fish and Game Wardens Association, North Coast environmentalists fishing groups and numerous others have called for a suspension of the $35 million per year process at time when the state doesn't have money to pay game wardens to enforce the existing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) on the Central Coast. Of course, Schwarzenegger, who has been busy campaigning for the construction of the peripheral canal while waging war on the federal government's court-ordered biological opinions protecting Central Valley salmon and Delta smelt, has rebuffed these requests.

I hope that Southern California anglers are able to rally enough people and momentum to stop Schwarzenegger's MLPA process from rolling over them like it did to the North Central Coast's Indian Tribes, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen and seaweed gatherers. But I fear that the hand-picked task force of Schwarzenegger will dismiss their proposals and concerns as they did in the North Central Coast MLPA fiasco.

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