Why Marine Protected Areas?

The Noyo News is shifting gears to take a look at the MLPAI issue – the arguments for and against marine protected areas.

Marine Map – the computerized “tool” used to create California’s MPA’s

There has been a lot of research and controversy on the effectiveness of marine protected areas (MPA’s) as the key solution to the ocean’s survival.

Some zealously claim it as the answer and salvation for the ocean.  The idea has gained traction with the support of universities interested in grants to study and monitor newly closed areas, and high powered NGO’s with their own dubious and shielded interests in ocean resources.

Some view MPA’s as a piecemeal and simplistic solution to the complex problems facing ocean ecosystems and coastal communities. They say that sustainable and spiritually balanced human interaction with the marine environment is actually beneficial, to both the ocean and to humans.  This includes Native American peoples, who have interacted as participants in the coastal marine environment since time immemorial.

The movement for Marine Protected Areas has in some cases been co-opted and corrupted by a gamut of special interest groups who have competing and conflicting interests with fisherfolk.  These special interests include oil and gas drilling, wind and wave energy extraction, fish farming and aquaculture, scientific and university research and monitoring, ocean mining, military testing and training, and others.  Nothing was stipulated in California’s MPA’s to regulate these activities, despite the objections of some coastal residents.

In California’s “Marine Life Protection Act Initiative” (MLPAI), the head of the Western States Petroleum Association sat as a top ranking board member throughout the statewide undertaking.  Real estate and marina developers, corporate aquariums, contracted monitoring and scientific services, universities and state agencies – all stood in line for their share of the ocean resource pie, that the MLPAI’s new closed areas would provide them, once enacted.

Due to the private funding of the “Initiative,” through shielded billionaire sponsorship, many warned of the privatization of public resources, by special interests who funded the MLPA legislative process in the first place.   Regulation of opportunity for special interests to promote themselves at the expense of scapegoated and already tightly regulated commercial and recreational fisheries was ignored in a process conducted with no government oversight or accountability.  The public/private MLPAI “Initiative” violated state and federal laws with impunity.

Meanwhile, well meaning environmentalists who supported the MLPA closures were often misinformed about current regulations, and were convinced that closing all public access to ocean resources in remote areas of the north coast, already closed to fishing, was the answer for ocean conservation.  After the fact, the MPA’s were crowed as new national parks – but they are parks where no one will go.

In the past, large scale commercial drag trawling destroyed large areas of the ocean bottom off the North Coast.  Whole ecosystems were killed by rapacious over fishing. This previously unregulated and destructive practice has been used to demonized all interests in sustainable fisheries management, and drag fishing has been the evil poster-child for “Big Green” to promote MPA’s, even when MPA’s will do nothing to regulate a practice that occurs outside the areas proposed to be closed.  On the North Coast, drag fishing has been used to demonize all food gathering, including seaweed harvesting and sustainable hook-and-line fisheries.

Continued and coming up….Sylvia Earle and MPA’s

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