Over the past year, a contract boat mapping zones for the MLPA killed a blue whale off Fort Bragg, the Governor appointed an oil industry superstar to chair the Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, and numerous examples of corruption and conflicts of interests have been emerged in the process.
Now the Department of Fish and Game and the MLPA Initiative staff in Sacramento cannot even get it right on the date that the controversial recreational fishing regulations for the North Central Coast go into effect!
According to one statement on the DFG website, “These adopted MPAs are scheduled to take effect on April 1, 2010” (http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/northcentralhome.asp).
However, the DFG’s release of March 9 announcing that a North Central Coast MPA Brochure is now available for recreational fishermen tells a different story. “This spring, new marine protected areas (MPAs) will go into effect along California’s coastline from Alder Creek near Point Arena in Mendocino County, to Pigeon Point in San Mateo County,” the release proclaims.
“This spring” encompasses all of the time from March 21 to June 20. Which day do the regulations go into effect – April 1 or some vague date “this spring?”
The brochure itself is even less helpful – it gives no start date for the closures! Why even publish a brochure if you are not going to provide anglers with a starting date for the closures?
Of course, nowhere in this brochure can one find who funds the MLPA process. The Resource Legacy Fund Foundation, an unaccountable and shadowy private corporation, funds the corrupt process to further the cynical campaign of Schwarzenegger’s to privatize ocean public trust resources.
Also, the brochure does not discuss commercial fishing, commercial seaweed harvesting and tribal seaweed gathering and fishing in traditional areas that will be banned by the new regulations. Will that be forthcoming in another brochure?
I emailed my questions about the specific closure date to DFG and MLPA Initiative staff, but I haven’t heard back from them yet.
The new brochure titled “Marine Protected Area Information for Recreational Fishermen” is now available online at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/pdfs/nccmpas_brochure_highres.pdf . You may also view a web-friendly version (smaller file size) online at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/pdfs/nccmpas_brochure_lowres.pdf .
In other MLPA news, the charges of corruption and conflicts of interest that many fishermen and environmentalists have leveled against the initiative were confirmed recently by Bob Fletcher, former president of the Sportfishing Association of California.
Fletcher claimed there was evidence that two members of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force, Bill Anderson and Greg Schem, agreed “to sign off on everything else” in return for not putting a reserve in an area where both had marinas and business interests, according to Jim Matthews in his article in the San Bernardino Sun: http://www.sbsun.com/sports/ci_14523601
On August 5, 2009, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to adopt its preferred alternative proposal, also known as the “Integrated Preferred Alternative (IPA),” for the MLPA north central coast study region, in spite of broad opposition to the measure from environmentalists, fishermen, divers seaweed harvesters and Indian Tribes.
The IPA establishes 21 “marine protected areas” (MPAs), three State Marine Recreational Management Areas, and six special closures, in total covering approximately 153 square miles (20.1%) of state waters in the north central coast study region.
Ironically, the California Fish and Game Wardens Association, the union of those charged with enforcing California’s fish and game laws, strongly opposed the adoption of new MPAs by the Fish and Game Commission, since they don’t have enough staff to enforce existing marine reserves on the Central Coast. Many wardens jokingly refer to the MPAs as “Marine Poaching Areas” because that’s what they fear they will become, due to the critical shortage of game wardens in the field.
“It is impossible for the warden force to effectively enforce existing regulations, much less new regulations that the Fish and Game Commission approves over our objections,” said Karnow in an outstanding opinion piece in the Sacramento Bee on January 31. (http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/story/2500939.html). “Many of the regulations approved by the commission will not protect the natural resources of California. They will serve only one purpose; they will stretch the warden force ever thinner, which will eventually result in another warden’s on-duty injury or death.”
Lester Pinola, the past chairman of the Kashia Pomo Tribe in Sonoma County, also asked the Fish and Game Commission to adopt a MPA alternative that wouldn’t remove the tribe from their traditional seaweed, mussel and abalone harvesting areas off Stewarts Point, but the Commission showed no respect for tribal sovereignty and fishing and gathering rights. To hear Pinola’s great testimony before the Commission on August 5, go to: http://www.astral-arts.com/audiomovie/openthecoast.mp3.
The Governor and Legislature should listen to game wardens, fishermen, Indian Tribes and seaweed harvesters and those who criticize the creation of new no-take reserves at a time of economic and environmental crisis when the state doesn’t have the money or staff to enforce its existing reserves.
Now to add more confusion in an already confusing process, the DFG and MLPA Initiative staff can’t even get right the specific date that the North Central Region recreational fishing closures go into effect.
Dan Bacher is an editor of The Fish Sniffer, described as “The #1 Newspaper in the World Dedicated Entirely to Fishermen.”