In this superb commentary, John and Barbara Stephens-Lewallen urge the California Assembly to stop the private takeover of California's public trust ocean resources by the Resource Legacy Foundation.
By John & Barbara Stephens-Lewallen, Mendocino Sea Vegetable Company
November 3, 2009
The tragic consequences of the private-foundation takeover of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative (MLPAI) are spreading from California’s coastal communities to people dependent on ocean food for health. All ocean food providers in California are stressed by MLPAI permanent area closures either declared or threatened by the MLPAI process.
In August, 2004, the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation gained total control of the process of setting up Marine Protected Areas in California’s public ocean waters and intertidal zone under the Marine Life Protection Act of 1999, by signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Resources Secretary Michael Chrisman. This Memorandum of Understanding is unprecedented in California history: private foundations are given total control over making fisheries regulations.
We’re asking Californians to educate yourselves, and your Assembly member, about this private takeover of public fisheries regulatory process. Please demand that the Assembly put a stop to it by using their power to deny state funding for the MLPAI process.
Today the State of California has no money to review the work done by the the private MLPAI process, which Barbara and I have found to be cruel, unaccountable, and determined to close key ocean access areas and fisheries on a tight schedule. Nor is there state money to finance California State Wardens to patrol the new Marine Protected Areas.
Is California headed for privately-funded guards for the new Marine Protected Areas? Resources Secretary Chrisman is sure that private funding for California’s fish and game wardens always will be necessary.
“The truth of the matter is that we do not and never will have adequate funding to alone manage all of California’s natural resources in the most effective manner, which makes public-private partnerships like the MLPA Initiative so important, not only for planning purposes , but also for long-term management,” Secretary Chrisman wrote in the October, 2009, Executive Director’s Message in the MLPA Initiative South Coast News.
The big MLPAI lie is that they have been directed by the Assembly through the Marine Life Protection Act of 1999 to do what they are doing. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The private foundations controlling the MLPAI have many motives, but all are focused on ending public access to sustainable seafood in California’s public intertidal zone and ocean waters.
When the California State Assembly halts appropriations for the MLPAI, it will stop. We should stop this private takeover of California’s vital public fisheries in its early stages.