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Fish and Game Commission delays ocean closures until Jan. 1
by Dan Bacher
Saturday Sep 17th, 2011 12:30 AM
The 9-page ruling that spurred the delay detailed how each of these areas of state law were violated in the rush by the Commission and MLPA Initiative officials to create “marine protected areas” in a process chaired by Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA). George G. Shaw, Senior Staff Council, and Debra N. Cornex, Assistant Chief Counsel Acting Director, for the Office of Administrative Law signed the document.

Photo of Tijuana River mouth courtesy of Lis Cox, US Fish and Wildlife Service.
tijuana_river_mouth.jpeg
tijuana_river_mouth.jpeg

Fish and Game Commission delays ocean closures until Jan. 1

by Dan Bacher

(Redding) The California Fish and Game Commission on Thursday, September 15 selected Jan. 1, 2012 as the new effective date for implementation of the "marine protected areas" (MPAs) in Southern California under the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative.

The Commission delayed the implementation of the fishing closures from the previous effective date of October 1, 2011 after the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) disapproved the regulation package, informing the Commission that it had additional questions and requests for more information that will require a re-notice of the regulations.

OAL disapproved the regulatory action for the failure to comply with notice requirements for modification of the regulatory text; failure to comply with the ‘Necessity’ standard of Government Code section 11349; failure to include all relied upon documents in the rulemaking file; failure to provide the reasons for rejecting alternatives that were considered; and failure to adequately respond to all of the public comments made regarding the proposed action.

The 9-page ruling that spurred the delay detailed how each of these areas of state law were violated in the rush by the Commission and MLPA Initiative officials to create “marine protected areas” in a process chaired by Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA). George G. Shaw, Senior Staff Council, and Debra N. Cornex, Assistant Chief Counsel Acting Director, for the Office of Administrative Law signed the document.

On Dec. 15, 2010 the Commission adopted regulations to create a "suite of MPAs" in the the South Coast Study Region, stretching from Point Conception in Santa Barbara County to the U.S./Mexico border, under the controversial MLPA Initiative. This network of 49 MPAs and three special closures covers approximately 354 square miles of state waters and represents approximately 15 percent of the region.

"All of the information requested by OAL is expected to be provided in time for the Commission to put the potential re-adoption of the regulatory package on its October agenda," according to a statement from Jordan Traverso of the Department of Fish and Game.

"If re-adopted, the new effective date of Jan. 1, 2012 allows time for OAL to review and approve the re-submitted regulations, finalizing the lawmaking process. It also allows the Commission and Department of Fish and Game (DFG) to better inform affected ocean users of the new regulations," said Traverso.

However, whether the South Coast marine protected areas will ever go into effect is questionable, since the legitimacy of the MLPA Initiative process is being challenged in state court in a lawsuit by United Anglers of Southern California, the Coastside Fishing Club and Bob Fletcher.

A hearing is scheduled September 26 in San Diego on the validity of MPAs in effect on the North Central Coast since May 1, 2010. For more information on this lawsuit, see: http://www.oceanaccessprotectionfund.org.

"Fishers, seaweed harvesters, tribal food gatherers, all ocean food providers have been hurt badly by the new North Central Coast MPAs," emphasized John Lewallen, North Coast environmental leader and opponent of the MLPA Initiative.

He noted that "marine protected areas," established in 2007 under the privately funded MLPA Initiative, are also in effect on the Central Coast, while a plan for new MPAs on the North Coast is in process.

"Hopefully all these products of a privatized process rife with secret meetings, bad science, conflict of interest and scorning of state meeting and administrative law will be invalidated," said Lewallen.

Lewallen, the co-founder of the Ocean Protection Coalition and the North Coast Seaweed Rebellion, has been in the forefront of grass roots campaigns against oil drilling, the clear cutting of ancient forests, wave energy projects and military testing off the coast and other environmental battles for over three decades.

For more information on the south coast MPAs or MLPA, please visit http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/southcoast.asp.

MLPA Initiative Background:

The Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) is a 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 who is pushing for new oil drilling off the California coast, served as the chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast.

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).

Tribal members, fishermen, grassroots environmentalists, human rights advocates and civil liberties activists have slammed the MLPA Initiative for the violation of numerous state, federal and international laws. Critics charge that the initiative, privatized by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004, has violated the Bagley-Keene Open Meetings Act, Brown Act, California Administrative Procedures Act, American Indian Religious Freedom Act and UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

MLPA and state officials refused to appoint any tribal scientists to the MLPA Science Advisory Team (SAT), in spite of the fact that the Yurok Tribe alone has a Fisheries Department with over 70 staff members during the peak fishing season, including many scientists. The MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force also didn’t include any tribal representatives until 2010 when one was finally appointed to the panel.