Friday, December 11, 2009

Supervisors back marine life protection funding request

By John Driscoll, Eureka Times-Standard
December 9, 2009

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday chose to support a Humboldt Bay Harbor, Conservation and Recreation District request for funds to develop a single marine reserve proposal for the state's Marine Life Protection Act Initiative.

Supervisors heard from several involved in the controversial process about the importance of maintaining a united effort on the North Coast. The Harbor District is looking for $50,000 from the Resources Legacy Foundation, the organization that is part of the public-private partnership with the state.

”We have stuck together,” said local fishing advocate Dennis Mayo. “We are going to stick together.”

Mayo said that getting local representation on the initiative's Blue Ribbon Task Force -- 1st District Supervisor Jimmy Smith was appointed last month -- was key, and the result of substantial efforts on the part of the community.

The Marine Life Protection Act looks to protect different habitats along the California coast, such as rocky areas and kelp forests, as well as the species that live in them. Expected to work like a network, Marine Protected Areas limit or eliminate fishing and other activities in state waters out to 3 miles.

The potential economic impacts to the area from additional regulations have raised major concerns in Humboldt, Del Norte and Mendocino counties. Jacque Hostler with the Trinidad Rancheria showed supervisors a recently developed map of all the areas closed to fishing in the region.

Only a small sliver of state waters has no specific closures for Dungeness crab, salmon and rockfish, and many closures also extend farther out to sea.

”We have huge regulations already,” Hostler said. “This is all we have left to regulate.”

Harbor District Conservation Director Adam Wagschal said that the broad coalition of interests that has formed locally would do best to offer the MLPA initiative a single proposal for a set of marine protected areas.

The funds the district is seeking would help coordinate stakeholder meetings, provide a marine science report and contribute to the district's coordination and GIS efforts, Wagschal said.

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