The confusion and controversy over the Marine Life Protection Act “Initiative” (MLPAI) began when private money took over administering the law. The MLPA was passed in 1999 under Gov. Gray Davis. However, the Marine Life Protection Act “Initiative” was revived in 2004 under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger using funds from wealthy individuals and corporations, shielded by a double-tiered foundation scheme.
The new MLPAI was called an “Initiative” though it never was one, since this word specifically means the process by which a measure is put on the ballot, to be voted on by the people. [For reference on what the legal definitions of an initiative actually are, go to the California Attorney General’s website (#1 of the FAQs) , or the “Initiative Guide” at the CA Secretary of State.]
The official Wikipedia definition says an Initiative “…provides a means by which a petition signed by a certain minimum number of registered voters, can force a public vote (plebiscite) on a proposed statute, constitutional amendment, charter amendment or ordinance, or, in its minimal form, to simply oblige the executive or legislative bodies to consider the subject by submitting it to the order of the day.”
With the MLPA “Initiative,” no petitions or votes by the people were ever taken. An important part of the democratic process was ignored – the vote by the people. This so-called “Initiative” was formed using private money to enforce a slumbering law that had been passed in the state legislature, but never administered – the Marine Life Protection Act of 1999. Thus the “Initiative” was never what it claimed to be from the start, and so the MLPAI of 2004 began under a cloud of fraud, deception and misunderstanding.
The original Act called for the revaluation of existing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to form a network that would increase the effectiveness and ease the administration of these closed areas. It also included the possibility of adding new areas to increase the effectiveness of the entire network as a whole. The MLPAI instead took the five year old law as an opportunity to randomly close fifteen to twenty percent of the Northern California coast to local fishers and food gatherers only, while ignoring needed protections from ocean industrialization, pollution, onshore development, global warming, acidification and other crucial threats to our ocean. Using the clout of behind the scenes special interests to work their will on the official policies of the State of California, many of these special interests, either overtly or covertly, managed to get their special interests met. All by pushing through of a flawed and corrupt privatized process, under the banner of a fraudulent “Initiative.”