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Enviros, Fishermen Force Governor to Extend MLPA North Coast Process
by Dan Bacher
Saturday Oct 24th, 2009 5:23 PM
Secretary for Natural Resources Mike Chrisman, under intense pressure from a broad coalition of environmentalists, fishermen, seaweed harvesters and Indian Tribes, said Friday the MLPA Initiative will extend the local proposal deadline for marine protected areas on the north coast.
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Enviros, Fishermen Force Governor to Extend MLPA North Coast Process

by Dan Bacher

(Sacramento) Secretary for Natural Resources Mike Chrisman, under intense pressure from a broad coalition of environmentalists, fishermen, seaweed harvesters and Indian Tribes, said Friday the MLPA Initiative will extend the local proposal deadline for marine protected areas on the north coast.

Local groups will now have until February 1, 2010 to submit “external arrays,” or alternative proposals under the Marine Life Protection Act’s north coast process.

“While MLPA is a state law and the Schwarzenegger administration is committed to its implementation, it is also critically important that we have broad local participation,” said Mike Chrisman. “Granting an extension will afford local folks more time to prepare their proposals.” He added, “I would especially like to thank Assemblymember Wes Chesbro for the many constructive conversations we’ve had to help make this happen for his constituents.”

Chrisman said that MLPA Initiative Executive Director Ken Wiseman worked with Assemblymember Chesbro (D-North Coast) and Senator Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) to help determine the specific length of the extension.

He also said "It will address the needs of north coast interests and still meet the objectives of the memorandum of understanding that guides the MLPA Initiative."

Chrisman said California is taking a "regional approach" to redesigning MPAs along its 1,100 mile coastline, and has divided the state into five study regions; the MLPA North Coast Study Region extends from the California border with Oregon to Alder Creek near Point Arena in Mendocino County.

Environmentalists, fishermen and Indian Tribes have lambasted the fast-track MLPA process of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for being rife with conflict of interest, mission creep, racism and corruption of the Democratic process, as well as having no basis in sound science. Assemblyman Chesbro and Senator Wiggins deserve a big round of applause for pressuring the Governor to get this extension.

The Natural Resources Agency claims that the MLPA process "requires that the best readily available science be used in the redesign process, as well as the advice and assistance of scientists, resource managers, experts, stakeholders and members of the public."

However, the "best available science" has NOT been used in the process. A groundbreaking study published in the July 31 issue of Science magazine reveals that the California Current ecosystem has the lowest fishery exploitation rate of any place in the world examined by co-authors Ray Hilborn and Boris Worm and 19 other scientists.

“The drastic reductions in harvest in California have been designed to rebuild the overexploited rockfish stocks,” said Hilborn. “At present the community of groundfish is now at about 60% of its unfished biomass, far above the 30-40% level target for maximum sustained yield.”

In light of the latest scientific findings, Hilborn questions whether the widely-criticized MLPA process has much value, in light of the creation of massive no fishing zones along the entire continental shelf of California through the Pacific Fishery Management Council process and the most stringent fishing regulations of any place on the planet.

“Much of the motivation for the MLPA was concern about the state of the groundfish stocks - there is clear evidence that these can be rebuilt without MPAs resulting from the MLPA that have only recently begun to be implemented,” Hilborn said. “The benefits of the MPAs established under the MLPA will be primarily to have some areas of high abundance of species with limited mobility.”

Dr. Hilborn, a professor at the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington, and the other authors of "Rebuilding Global Fisheries" say that efforts made to reduce overfishing are succeeding in five of ten large marine ecosystems studied, including those in California, New Zealand and Iceland. Their study puts into perspective recent reports predicting a “total collapse” of global fisheries within 40 years.

The conclusions by the 21 international scientists with widely divergent views effectively counter the spurious arguments by Governor Arnold Schwarzengger and Chrisman for the urgent “need” to fast-track the controversial MLPA process because of the “dire condition” that rockfish, lingcod and other groundfish stocks are supposedly in along the California coast.

The temporary delay in the North Coast process is an important victory against Schwarzenegger, Chrisman, the Resource Legacy Foundation that funds the MLPA process, and their corporate environmentalist collaborators. Now that the momentum against the MLPA process is building, it is important for everybody to put pressure upon their legislators to indefinitely suspend the $35 million dollar process at a time that the state doesn't have enough game wardens to patrol the existing marine reserves on the Central Coast.