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Fish and Game Commission Adopts Marine Protected Area Master Plan - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly



By Dan Bacher

The California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday, August 24, adopted the controversial Master Plan for Marine Protected Areas in California that delays regional scientific reviews of MPAs, as originally promised, from every five years to every ten years.

After a very short discussion and hearing with public comment, the Commission by a 4-0 vote approved text related to traditional ecological knowledge and then adopted the proposed final Master Plan for Marine Protected Areas and the Marine Life Protection Program pursuant to the Marine Life Protection Act (Pursuant to Section 2850, et seq., Fish and Game Code).

The Commission had already voted to supported the plan with the 10 year reviews in previous meetings, in spite of hearing considerable testimony from anglers opposing it. The approval of the plan, with the addition of Traditional Ecological Text, was a mere formality.

I made five points in my testimony before Commission President Eric Sklar, Vice President Jaque Hostler-Carmesin, Commissioner Anthony C Williams and Commissioner Peter Silva regarding “The Good, The Bad and Tthe Ugly” in the Master Plan:

The Good: First, I strongly support the inclusion of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) from California Indians in the Master Plan. This is long overdue, considering that the marine protected areas were “completed “ in December 2012 without one single Tribal scientist ever being allowed to serve on the Science Advisory Teams for the MLPA Initiative.

The Bad: Second, the proposal breaks the original promise given to anglers by officials that regional reviews of the alleged "marine protected areas" created under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative would be conducted every five years. The new plan changes the regional reviews to once every ten years, a move that anglers and public trust advocates, including myself, strongly oppose because it results in less frequent scientific monitoring of the MPAs.

Here’s what the MLPA Initiative South Coast News, the official publication of the Initiative, actually said on October 16,2009, contradicting claims by Commissioners that this promise to conduct five year reviews was never made:

“Q: If an area is closed as an MPA will it always be closed?

A: Not necessarily. The MLPA specifically requires monitoring, research and evaluation at selected sites to facilitate adaptive management of MPAs and ensure the system meets its goals and objectives. Within the MLPA master plan, it is recommended that the MPA network be evaluated approximately every five years. As MPAs are re-assessed for effectiveness, changes may be necessary, either to individual MPAs or the network as a whole. This may mean changing boundaries and/or allowances for extractive activities depending on how well MPAs are meeting goals. Just because an area is closed to one type of use or another does not mean that it will always be that way.”

The Ugly: Third, the plan does nothing to make the faux "marine protected areas" created under the MLPA Initiative into real ones. The alleged "Yosemites of the Sea" created under the privately funded initiative fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil spills, offshore oil drilling, pollution, military testing and all human impacts other than sustainable fishing and gathering.

Fourth, the plan accepts as legitimate the tainted "marine protected areas" created under the helm of a Big Oil lobbyist and other corporate operatives with numerous conflicts of interest.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and relentless advocate for the expansion of fracking and offshore oil drilling and the evisceration of California's environmental laws, chaired the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the Southern California Coast at the same time that the region's marine waters were being fracked by her industry.

She also served on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast. The Commission should support an investigation into what Reheis-Boyd knew about fracking off the coast at the time she served as Chair of the task force. (www.dfg.ca.gov/...)

Fifth, the proposal fails to challenge the terminally flawed "science" employed to create MPAs under the "leadership" of a convicted embezzler. A federal judge in San Francisco on May 20, 2014 sentenced Ron LeValley of Mad River Biologists, the former co-chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Science Advisory Team for the North Coast, to serve 10 months in federal prison for his role in a conspiracy to embezzle over $852,000 in federal funds from the Yurok Tribe.

In spite of numerous complaints, the Fish and Game Commission refused to review the legitimacy of the "science" used to create the "marine protected areas" developed under his helm at the same time that he was engaged in a conspiracy to embezzle money from the Yurok Tribe."(www.dailykos.com/...)

I urged the Commission to finally address these unresolved issues posed by the "marine protected areas" created under the privately-funded MLPA Initiative. As expected, no Commissioners, all appointed by Governor Jerry Brown, replied to my comments and those that others made before the Commission on this issue.


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