More time was sought for alternative plan
By Kurt Madar, The Daily Triplicate
December 31, 2009
The North Coast will not get another deadline extension as the process to establish marine protected areas moves forward.
A request from Del Norte, Humboldt and Mendocino counties to extend the deadline for designating protected areas along the North Coast was denied by The California Natural Resources Agency.
The extension request was submitted by the North Coast Local Interest MPA Work Group.
The group, which is a collaborative effort of the three counties, was formed to create a proposal for potential marine protected areas external to the state-driven process.
According to representatives from all three counties, if not done properly, MPAs could do lasting harm to the economies of North Coast communities that rely on harvesting the ocean.
Agency Secretary Mike Chrisman said he denied the request because he didn’t believe the tri-county group had a legitimate need for more time to submit a viable first draft.
“We already extended the deadline once (from Dec. 14 to Feb. 1),” said Ken Wiseman, executive director of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative. “This is just the first draft deadline, we’re trying to get all the ideas on the table.”
Fisheries biologist Zach Larson, the outreach coordinator for Del Norte County’s portion of the work group, said he wasn’t surprised by the action.
“It took the help of Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro to get the first extension,” Larson said. “We’re aren’t happy about having to rush what should be a carefully thought process, but the work group will have a proposal by the Feb. 1 deadline.”
Wiseman said the initiative and the state try to keep any extensions at the end of year-long process.
“We have a limited amount of money, which means we have to stick to a pretty strict timetable,” Wiseman said. “If we need more time we take it on the final decision when we really need it.”
Wiseman added that there was more data available for the North Coast than any of the three other study regions that have already gone through the process.
“There’s enough data to work with for us to come up with a map,” Larson said. “We set the tri-county work group deadline for sub-region proposals (county specific) for Jan. 5. That way we have until Feb. 1 to integrate them.”
Three types of MPAs could be established on the North Coast.
The three levels of protection are primarily based on the severity of the take limit. From least restrictive to most, they include marine conservation areas, marine parks, and marine reserves (which would be no-take areas).
The prospect of no-take areas is what most worries some people.
Del Norte’s 22 member work group, responsible for submitting a regional proposal, contains representatives from local government, fishermen and local tribes and it seeks to protect areas of economic and cultural importance by placing MPA’s outside of fishing grounds and traditional harvesting areas.
“We’ve only have one meeting left before we have to submit our proposal to the tri-county group,” Larson said. “But that’s not the end of everything. Then reps from each community group will get together and integrate them into one external proposal. Our goal is to have only one external proposal for the North Coast region.”