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Fish Groups Target Bad Management at Ocean Task Force Meeting
by Dan Bacher
Wednesday Oct 14th, 2009 6:00 PM
“Even as information from all over the world is pouring in that Catch Shares merely consolidate our fish resources into fewer and bigger pockets and kill our traditional small boat fleets and communities, our federal managers forge ahead blindly,” said Larry Collins, president of the Crab Boat Owners Association of San Francisco.
Fish Groups Target Bad Management at Ocean Task Force Meeting

by Dan Bacher

Larry Collins, president of the Crab Boat Owners Association of San Francisco, blasted bad federal and state fishery management for leading to the failure of the salmon and crab fisheries during the Obama Administration's second Ocean Policy Task Force Public Meeting in San Francisco, California on September 17.

“Why do we have most sustainable fleet, the fleet that provides the most fishing jobs, the fleet that gets the highest price per pound, the fleet with the lowest carbon foot print, the fleet that drives the most visited tourist attraction in the U.S. – Fisherman’s Wharf – why do we have that fleet tied to the dock going broke,” he stated. “The answer to that question is surprisingly simple – bad management.”

He also slammed the Individual Fishing Quotas (IFQ) program that Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the former Environmental Defense Board Vice Chair, is promoting.

“Even as information from all over the world is pouring in that Catch Shares merely consolidate our fish resources into fewer and bigger pockets and kill our traditional small boat fleets and communities, our federal managers forge ahead blindly,” he emphasized. “This may be the easiest way for the government to manage fish and it may make the Environmental Mafia happy enough to stop suing NMFS, but it is disastrous to the traditional fleet, our coastal communities and the people’s resources.”

The meeting drew over 400 people including recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, seaweed harvesters, environmentalists and elected officials who gave ranging input ranging on an array of ocean issues.

The interagency task force, led by White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, consists of 20 senior-level officials from Administration agencies, departments, and offices.

Panelists who spoke included Lubchenco, Peter Silva, Assistant Administrator for Water, Environmental Protection Agency, Kit Batten, Science Advisor to the Deputy Secretary, Department of Interior, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Herman Shelanski, Director for the Chief of Naval Operations Environmental Readiness Division, and Rear Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara, Coast Guard Deputy Commandant for Operations.

"Today is a historic day for our oceans," said Lubchenco. "For the first time our nation is saying loudly and clearly that healthy oceans matter.”

The Task Force is charged with developing a recommendation for a national policy that "ensures protection, maintenance, and restoration of oceans, our coasts and the Great Lakes." It will also recommend a framework for improved stewardship, and effective coastal and marine spatial planning.

The panel released a draft report the same day the same day that the public urged the administration to act on urgent issues, including protecting the Bay-Delta Estuary and other estuaries, stopping any plans for offshore oil and gas drilling, protecting marine ecosystems, stopping Navy weapons and sonar testing, developing more marine education programs and balancing the needs of marine protected areas with local economies.

The task force was authorized by a memorandum by President Obama on June 12, 2009. “The oceans, our coasts and the Great Lakes provide jobs, food energy resources, ecological services, recreational and tourism opportunities and play critical roles in our Nation’s transportation, economy and trade, as well as the global mobility of our Armed Forces and the maintenance of international peace and stability. We have a stewardship responsibility to maintain healthy, resilient and sustainable oceans, coasts and Great Lake resources for the benefit of this and future generations,” Obama stated.

Representatives of recreational and commercial fishing groups, who delivered both written and oral testimony to the panel, echoed Collins criticism of state and federal fishery management policies that have led to the collapse of anadromous fish populations along the West Coast.

Pietro Parravano, president of the Institute for Fishery Resources, emphasized the importance of the "land-sea interface" in developing ocean policy, as evidenced by the recent collapse of Central Valley salmon, herring and other fish dependent on the Bay –Delta Estuary, due to record water exports and declining water quality.

“Trying to compartmentalize policy and planning by solely looking at ocean water is a mistake we’ve seen too often in fisheries, where management focuses solely on fishing, even where they is clear evidence of other factors onshore or outside of the act of catching fish that impair our ability to conserve and manage fish stocks," said Parravano. "The Task Force must not make that mistake."

He emphasized, “for the past two years salmon fishing off California and much of Oregon’s coast has been closed as a direct result of excessive freshwater diversions from the Delta and its watershed, sending the young salmon south to their death, not west to the ocean, and robbing the estuary of the freshwater that is its lifeblood.”

Dick Pool, administrator of Water for Fish, requested the panel to fully support the federal biological opinion protecting salmon, green sturgeon and southern resident killer whales as the most effective plan to bring about the recovery of listed species in California. He also urged the task force to “declare that it will be the policy of the Obama administration to take priority steps that will recover the fall-run chinook salmon of the Central Valley at the maximum practical rate."

He noted that the fall Central Valley salmon population is a big economic driver in California and Oregon. “The shut down of salmon fisheries has led to the loss of $1.4 billion and 23,000 jobs to the state’s economy,” he stated. “When recovered, the American Sportfishing Association estimates that the salmon fishery will generate $5.7 billion and 94,000 jobs annually.”

Pool presented the panel with a letter outlining necessary steps to be taken to recover salmon fisheries endorsed by the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA), Coastside Fishing Club, Golden Gate Fisherman’s Association, Water for Fish, Outdoor Pro Shop, the Federation of Fly Fishers, the Small Boat Commercial Salmon Fishermen’s Association, Monterey Fish Market and the Norcal Fishing Guides & Sportsmen’s Association.

The largest contingent of environmental activists at the meeting was from the Ocean Protection Coalition of Mendocino County. Susan Nagle of the coalition urged the task force to take a number of measures to protect and restore the ocean ecosystem, including stopping the dumping of toxic chemicals and pollution in rivers, halting proposed sonar and weapons testing by the Navy, stopping the destruction of forest ecosystems and halting any plans to drill for oil and gas off the coast.

”The ones who have trashed the ocean should have to pay for its restoration,” she concluded.

Nagle also urged fishery managers to preserve seaweed harvesting and subsistence fishing off the North Coast, now faced with unprecedented closures under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s fast-track Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) process. Unlike corporate "environmentalists," grass roots environmentalists are opposing the corrupt MLPA process, funded privately by the Resource Legacy Foundation, for removing Indian Tribes, fishermen and seaweed harvesters from the water while doing nothing to stop pollution and corporate plans to drill for oil and install wave energy projects off the North Coast.