North Coast marine protected areas go into effect Dec.19th 2012

by Dan Bacher

The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) surprised many by announcing Wednesday that controversial “marine protected areas” created on California’s North Coast under the privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative will go into effect weeks earlier than expected on December 19, 2012.

“Nineteen marine protected areas (MPAs) will become effective next month, completing the statewide network of MPAs in California’s coastal regions,” according to a Department release.”The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is pleased to announce the new MPAs will go into effect on Dec. 19 in the north coast and that effective date is weeks earlier than expected.”

The DFG said the State Office of Administrative Law recently approved the north coast MPA regulations and boundaries adopted by the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) in June 2012. The Commission approved and adopted these regulations to create a suite of MPAs on the north coast between the California/Oregon border and Alder Creek, near Point Arena in Mendocino County.

“Developed pursuant to the California Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), this north coast network includes 19 MPAs, one State Marine Recreational Management Area and seven special closures, covering approximately 137 square miles of state waters and 13 percent of the region. The new MPAs include four of the five pre-existing MPAs on the north coast. The MPA at Punta Gorda (Punta Gorda State Marine Reserve) will be removed from the network,” the DFG said.

Neither representatives of the Yurok Tribe and the Coastal Justice Coalition, who have challenged the MLPA Initiative for violating traditional tribal harvesting rights and for using questionable “science,” nor Department of Fish and Game officials were available for comment on the announcement at publication time.

The DFG said, “A complete listing of all north coast MPAs, including detailed regulations and maps, can be found at” However, this link was not working when I tried opening.

The Department said the DFG’s MPA mobile website, located at, will be updated on Dec. 19 to reflect the new MPAs going into effect. The mobile website allows the public to locate any current MPA boundaries and regulations by using an interactive map or searching by name, county or general area.

A mobile device’s GPS can also be used to find and track a person’s current location relative to any MPA. In addition to the mobile website, boaters can view MPAs on nautical charts or other background maps by visiting MarineBIOS at, DFG’s interactive online marine and coastal map viewer.

For more information on the north coast MPAs or the MLPA, please visit
Contact: Elizabeth Pope, Environmental Scientist, (707) 445-5301
Media Contact:Jordan Traverso, DFG Communications, (916) 654-9937


Yurok Tribe challenges MLPA Initiative’s ‘terminally flawed’ science

Before the California Fish and Game Commission voted on June 6, 2012 to approve the network of so-called “marine protected areas” for the North Coast, the Yurok Tribe issued a statement outlining several serious concerns with the final proposal that will go into effect on December 19.

These included questions about the so-called “science” used under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create the MPAs and concerns over the protection of tribal harvesting rights at Reading Rock and False Klamath.

In spite of moving testimony by Tribal Elders, Commissioners Michael Sutton, Richard Rogers and Jack Baylis voted 3 to 0 to approve new regulations covering state waters from the California/Oregon state line south to Alder Creek near Point Arena in Mendocino County that failed to address these concerns. Commissioners Jim Kellogg and Richard Rogers, both critics of the MLPA process, were absent.

“While we appreciate the Brown administration’s support and the Fish and Game Commission effort to recognize tribal traditional harvesting rights, there is more that needs to be done in order to protect our culture and our resources for present and future generations,” said Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas P. O’Rourke Sr. prior to the meeting. “We also have serious questions about the science, developed under the Schwarzenegger Administration, which the process relies upon. We believe it requires a truly impartial external review and revision in order to work for our region.”

“Today might mean the end of the discussion for some North Coast residents,” O’Rourke continued. “For us, it’s the beginning of a conversation about how the State can better work with Native people to preserve and protect cultural and natural resources. The proposed project simply does not do enough to address tribal rights. The Yurok Tribe has and will continue to reserves all rights as a sovereign nation as we work towards finding a solution.”

The Northern California Tribal Chairman’s Association, including the Chairs of the Elk Valley Rancheria, Hoopa Valley Tribe, Karuk Tribe, Smith River Rancheria, Trinidad Rancheria, and Yurok Tribe, believes the science behind the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative developed by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Science Advisory Team is “incomplete and terminally flawed.”

For example, in a reversal of scientific logic, the MLPA provides for more regulation of highly abundant species such as mussels – and no harvest limits on fish such as the threatened Pacific eulachon.

“Under the MLPA each marine species is assigned a certain level of protection,” according to the Tribe’s statement. “Species like mussels are given a low level of protection, which in MLPA-speak, translates to more regulation. To date, there has been no scientific data submitted suggesting that mussels on the North Coast are in any sort of danger or are overharvested. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The readily available quantitative survey data collected over decades by North Coast experts shows there is quite an abundance of mussels in this sparsely populated study region.”

The Tribe said species like Pacific eulachon, also known as candlefish, are given a high level of protection; or in other words, their harvest is not limited by the proposed regulations. Eulachon are near extinction and listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

“Both of these marine species are essential and critical to the cultural survival of northern California tribes,” said Chairman O’Rourke Sr. “However, under the proposed regulations they would be summarily mismanaged. It’s examples like these that compel our concerns.”

Science Advisory Team refused to address scientific inadequacies

The Yurok Tribe said it has attempted on numerous occasions to address the scientific inadequacies with the MLPA science developed under the Schwarzenegger administration by adding “more robust protocols” into the equation, but was denied every time. This denial of consideration of the Tribe’s scientific data flies in the face of false claims by MLPA advocates that the privately funded initiative creates “Yosemites of the Sea” and “underwater parks” based on “science.”

For example, the MLPA Science Advisory Team, co-chaired by Ron LeValley of Mad River Biologists, in August 2010 turned down a request by the Yurok Tribe to make a presentation to the panel. Among other data, the Tribe was going to present data of test results from other marine reserves regarding mussels.

“The data would have shown that there was not a statistical difference in the diversity of species from the harvested and un-harvested areas,” wrote John Corbett, Yurok Tribe Senior Attorney, in a letter to the Science Advisory Team on January 12, 2011. “The presentation would have encompassed the work of Smith, J.R. Gong and RF Ambrose, 2008, ‘The Impacts of Human Visitation on Mussel Bed Communities along the California Coast: Are Regulatory Marine Reserves Effective in Protecting these Communities.’” (LINK)

No Tribal scientists were allowed to serve on the MLPA Science Advisory Team, in spite of the fact that the Yurok and other North Coast Indian Tribes have large natural resources and fisheries departments staffed with many fishery biologists and other scientists.

During the historic direct action protest by a coalition of over 50 Tribes and their allies in Fort Bragg on July 21, 2010, Frankie Joe Myers, Yurok Tribal member and Coastal Justice Coalition activist, exposed the refusal to incorporate Tribal science that underlies the questionable “science” of the MLPA process. (

“The whole process is inherently flawed by institutionalized racism,” said Myers. “It doesn’t recognize Tribes as political entities, or Tribal biologists as legitimate scientists.”

Justice denied: Commission fails to protect Tribe’s harvesting rights

Of the “marine protected area” options before the Fish and Game Commission on June 6, Yurok Tribal representatives supported the adoption of the following:

• Reading Rock- Tribal Take Option (B) Reclassify Reading Rock from a State Marine Reserve to a State Marine Conservation Area. This would allow for specific federally recognized tribes to take living marine resources pursuant to existing regulations.

• Reading Rock SMCA- Name Option (B) Rename as Reading Rock Onshore SMCA if Reading Rock SMR Take Option B (above) is selected.

• ‘No change’ for the specific location of False Klamath Rock Season Special Closure and require the “Special Closure” for False Klamath Rock to be dealt with in a future process that includes the Tribe.

The Tribe said the MLPA Environmental Impact Report, pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), reviewed two different proposals. The first was a “No Project Alternative” that compares “the impact of approving the action against the impacts of not approving the action.”

In the “Enhanced Compliance Alternative,” the second proposal, there were two possible protected areas within Yurok ancestral territory near Reading Rock and False Klamath Rock.

At Reading Rock, there were two options before the Commission. The first, and preferred alternative, was an offshore State Marine Reserve (SMR) status that calls for zero human take of any marine species.

The second option was a State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) designation, both on and offshore, which would allow some commercial and recreational harvest, while authorizing access to Tribal members with a valid Tribal ID card.

The proposal also called for a Seasonal Special Closure for False Klamath Rock. In this area there would be a 300-foot seasonal closure around the rock from March 1 to August 31 for avian nesting.

Inexplicably, the Commission failed to approve the Tribe’s proposal that would protect traditional tribal gathering rights in Yurok ancestral territory. After the public comment period, the Commissioners rushed through the approval of Option 1, the preferred alternative, without even discussing the Tribe’s recommended options.

Tribal elders vow to keep gathering in traditional areas

During the June hearing, Yurok Tribal leaders told the Commission they were unhappy with the regulations that would prohibit them from gathering seaweed, mussels and fish at their traditional gathering areas at Reading Rock and the False Klamath – and vowed to keep gathering regardless of the Commission’s decision.

“We are hunters, fishermen and gatherers and we have lived here since time immemorial,” said David Gensaw Sr. a member of the Yurok Tribal Council. “We have gathered on these shores forever since the Creator put us here.”

Gensaw told the Commission about the Tribe’s problems with diabetes, high blood pressure and other illnesses caused by a change in diet since the arrival of Europeans, who took many of the traditional foods from the tribe.

“We’re here today to tell you that we need that subsistence, and we will continue to provide our people with that nourishment,” he stated. “Hopefully, we can work this out without a confrontation.”

Yurok Tribal Elder Jack Matz emphasized, “If the regulations are implemented the way they are planned now, you will have a confrontation with a lot of elders, including myself.”

Nonetheless, Alicia T. McQuillen, Marine Resource Coordinator for the Yurok Tribe, noted after the Commission meeting that she is hopeful that the Tribe will be able to resolve its differences with the state of California over the MLPA process. She said she is encouraged by comments made by DFG Director Chuck Bonham that this was the beginning of a “new era” in the state’s relationship with Tribes.

“We are hopeful that there will be a more positive and more open relationship between the state and Tribes – and more open and honest communication,” McQuillen said. “We anticipate some disappointment over the results of the hearing, but it takes time to change hearts and minds.”

Yurok people consider themselves to be “a vital part of the marine ecosystem.” Yurok Tribal members have traditionally harvested marine resources for religious, ceremonial and subsistence use with carefully adapted methods that have maintained balanced abundance on the North Coast since time immemorial.

To read a copy of the Yurok Tribe MLPA and Marine Resource Plan, go to: LINK.

MLPA Initiative Background

The Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) is a landmark law, signed by Governor Gray Davis in 1999, designed to create a network of marine protected areas off the California Coast. However, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004 created the privately-funded MLPA “Initiative” to “implement” the law, effectively eviscerating the MLPA.

The “marine protected areas” created under the MLPA Initiative fail to protect the ocean from oil spills and drilling, water pollution, military testing, wave and wind energy projects, corporate aquaculture and all other uses of the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

The MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces that oversaw the implementation of “marine protected areas” included a big oil lobbyist, marina developer, real estate executive and other individuals with numerous conflicts of interest. Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association, served on the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the North Coast and North Central Coast.

Reheis-Boyd, a relentless advocate for offshore oil drilling, hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the Keystone XL Pipeline and the weakening of environmental laws, also chaired the South Coast MLPA Blue Ribbon Task that developed the MPAs that went into effect in Southern California waters on January 1, 2012.

The MLPA Initiative operated through a controversial private/public partnership funded by the shadowy Resources Legacy Fund Foundation. The Schwarzenegger administration, under intense criticism by grassroots environmentalists, fishermen and Tribal members, authorized the implementation of marine protected areas under the initiative through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the foundation and the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG).


 *NOTE*  by David Gurney

Dan Bacher forgot to mention the MLPA “Initiative’s” total violation of state open meeting laws, while claiming it was the “most open and transparent process ever.” What a joke. 

They refused to allow a record to be made at their public meetings, or public comment to be heard, in flagrant violation of the Bagley Keene Open Meetings Act.  Executives of the  of the so-called “Initiative” later denied that the 45-member staff that was any sort of legal entity.  Illegal secret meetings, bribes, perks, cronyism and favoritism were routine, as surreptitious money flowed from the concealed coffers of this corrupt “public/private partnership.”

The same standard for “size and spacing” of these closures was mandated statewide, in a totally unscientific manner, applying the same criteria in the Northern section of the state as the South, despite a 25 times difference in human population.  Administrators had no idea what was underwater, in over a quarter of the area they proposed to close.  The co-chair of the MLPAI’s vaunted “Science Advisory Team” is now under indictment for an embezzlement scheme of close to a million dollars involving the Yurok tribe.

The list of obscene corruption goes on and on, too much to list here.  But as a result, we now have privatized closures that remove coastal people from their spiritual and subsistence resource, but offer no protection from oil drilling and exploration, nor other industrial projects and privatization schemes.

The “monitoring” of these closures will no doubt be funded and staffed by the very same individuals who financed and staffed this whole sickeningly corrupt process.  The private funders of this phony “initiative” will control who has access to our once public common, determined by privatized favoritism, racism and cronyism.

And once again, there will be no legitimate oversight nor legal accountability.  What a disgusting rip-off.

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2 Responses to North Coast marine protected areas go into effect Dec.19th 2012

  1. Tomas DiFiore says:

    Thanks always David for staying on top of the MLPA. Your effort is hugely commendable. Additionally:

    The MLPA refused petitions for over two years by the North Coast to ban hydrocarbon transport through MPAs, drilling and MPAs don’t mix. Oil Drilling and Oil Rigs must never be allowed on the North Coast. But it is always left out of the discussion.

    As Australia proudly boasts of having the world’s largest Marine Reserve Network, including the NW offshore waters, this shoreline is 250 km (150 miles) from the Montara blowout. The government’s response from the beginning through to the settlement, has been driven by its determination to expand the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry as quickly as possible, providing a bonanza for giant corporations, such as ExxonMobil, Chevron and Shell, that have projects underway off the north-west coast.

    In 2009, and 2010, significant impacts to marine fisheries and seaweed harvests occurred across the globe from each other due to oil leaks at the wellhead on the seafloor.

    The BP Deepwater Horizon wellhead was at an ocean depth of almost 5,000 feet.
    The Montara Oil Field wellhead leak in the Timor Sea, was at an ocean depth of 250 feet.

    Thousands of barrels of oil gushed into the Timor sea over a period of 74 days following a blowout at PTTEP Australasia’s West Atlas rig in the Montara Oil Field in the Timor Sea between NW Australia and Timor three years ago. The slick from the Montara oil field spread as far as Indonesian waters and it grew to almost 35,000 square miles.

    Considered to be Australia’s worst oil disaster, the well blowout on the Montara platform in August 2009 resulted in oil and gas condensate leaking into the Timor Sea for a total of 74 days.

    Settlement – Much Ado About Nothing
    Oct. 2012 – According to the Australian Associated Press (AAP), three of the charges had carried a maximum penalty of A$550,000. AAP reported that Magistrate John Lowndes had offered PTTEP a 25% discount for the guilty pleas, fining it A$495,000 for the first three charges, which related to the Offshore Petroleum and greenhouse Gas Storage Act. The company was fined A$15,000 for the fourth charge, well below the maximum of $50,000, AAP stated.

    Let’s see: $550,000 divided by 74 (days) = a fine of $7400.00 a day.

    Indonesia sought US$2.4 billion in compensation for damage to reefs and fisheries.

    Australia’s estimated gas reserves: $1 trillion, and a forecast that LNG exports would exceed a total $24 billion by 2017-18, nearly doubling over a decade.