On Wednesday the Marine Life Protection Act “Initiative” and supporters got a big boost from the California State Fish and Game Commission, who approved “Option 1″ ratifications to a “unified proposal” by the North Coast regional stakeholder group.
Areas where fishing, and in some cases, even access to the ocean is being curtailed by a privately-funded process, has raised the concerns of coastal residents that the legitimacy, transparency and accountability of the MLPA “Initiative” process is in question.
Commissioners attempted to hash out details of just who would be allowed to fish and gather in the new marine protected areas, and how those persons would be regulated. Issues were also raised about MPA enforcement.
It was stated that perhaps only authorized tribal members would be allowed non-commercial, subsistence, and ceremonial gathering rights, but they’d be required to carry multiple forms of identification: a federal tribal membership card, a California driver’s license or picture ID, and a California fishing license. Offended native leaders sent out a press release immediately after the meeting objecting to these impromptu new regulations.
Before the final 4 to 1 vote of approval by commissioners, a representative of the California Fish and Game Wardens Association declared costs to patrol and enforce the MPAs would be astronomical: a minimum of $5,000 for each boat or aircraft ride to answer a call on the remote Lost Coast.
The budget for monitoring and patrolling the new closures has not been established. Total costs to to start MPAs statewide was estimated by the Department at between nine and forty-three million dollars. The North Coast numbers were smaller, but equally nebulous.
Commissioner Dan Richards, referring to the North Coast MLPAI, remarked to the audience just before the official vote,
“Anybody who came to me in my business and said Dan, I’ve got a business plan for you, and it’s gonna cost somewhere between two hundred thousand and seven and a half million dollars to implement – WOULD GET FIRED – Immediately! It’s ABSURD! “
The MLPAI targets a nearly non-existent commercial fishing industry with a hodgepodge array of large and small closures, that restrict fishing and public access in state waters – much of which is already inaccessible by mountainous terrain, private property, bad roads, and harsh ocean/weather conditions.
The North Coast has 1% of the population density of similar regions in the southern California, but was subjected to the exactly the same size and spacing guidelines for closed areas as the south state.
With nearly a hundred times the human population, the south has much greater pressures on the marine environment with shoreline development, cities and farms, pollution, shipping, recreational fishing, and more favorable marine conditions.
This reporter left the meeting at 5pm, well before it ended an hour and a half later.
Commissioners were still discussing sub-options to the options. A motion was passed to retract the idea of naming the Ten-Mile River Marine Protective Area after the late Skip Wallenberg.
Skip, a retired geologist, was one of the only stakeholders cognizant of the dangers of big oil interests in the North Coast region. He was attempting to get a ban on industrial pipelines or cables crossing MPAs written into the law, but died suddenly during the long MLPA process.