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Commission re-notices proposed South Coast MLPA regulations
by Dan Bacher
Wednesday Oct 5th, 2011 3:44 PM
Written comments regarding the revised marine protected area regulations must be received in the Fish and Game Commission office by 5:00 pm on October 18, 2011. Interested persons may attend the October 19, 2011 hearing in Monterey and offer testimony.

Photo: Over 300 people, including members of 50 Indian Tribes, recreational anglers, immigrant seafood industry workers, commercial fishermen, conservationists and environmental justice advocates, marched through the streets of Fort Bragg on July 21, 2010 to support tribal gathering rights in a protest against the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative. Photo by Dan Bacher.

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Commission re-notices proposed South Coast MLPA regulations

by Dan Bacher

On October 3, the California Fish and Game Commission opened a 15-day public comment period for revised proposed regulations for the South Coast "marine protected areas" (MPAs) developed under the controversial Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative.

Revisions were made because the California Office of Administrative Law (OAL), which must first review and approve the regulations before they go into effect, rejected the regulatory package previously provided by the commission.

"Because these regulations are different from, yet sufficiently related to, the originally proposed regulations, the Administrative Procedure Act requires that we make the changes available to you for a 15-day written comment period (October 3, 2011- October 18, 2011)," said Sherrie Fonbuena, Associate Governmental Program Analyst.

In a 9 page ruling on September 2, the OAL disapproved the regulatory package 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 regulations were developed in a privately funded process overseen by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast. The task force included an oil lobbyist, marina developer, real estate executive and other corporate operatives with numerous conflicts of interest. In fact, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and an advocate of new oil drilling off the California coast, chaired the task force.

Representatives of fishing groups are currently reviewing the revised regulations. Written comments regarding the revised marine protected area regulations must be received in the Fish and Game Commission office by 5:00 pm on October 18, 2011.

People may also attend the October 19, 2011 hearing in Monterey and offer testimony. It is important that anglers respond to the revised marine protected area regulations since they may significantly affect their ability to access the ocean.

The continuation notice, including an updated informative digest, and the modified proposed regulatory language are posted at: http://www.fgc.ca.gov/regulations/2010/#632sc.

During its September meeting, the commission outlined a proposed timeline to re-notice and finalize the South Coast MLPA regulations, resubmit them to OAL, and seek an anticipated effective date of January 1, 2012. This projected effective date is not only dependent on OAL approval, but also may be affected by the outcome of a pending lawsuit filed by United Anglers of Southern California, the Coastside Fishing Club and Bob Fletcher, all members of the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans (PSO), a coalition of fishing and boating organizations.

The lawsuit seeks to set aside the MLPA regulations for the North Central and South Coast study regions, citing a "lack of statutory authority" for the Fish and Game Commission to adopt the regulations, and, in the case of the South Coast regulations, numerous violations of the California Environmental Quality Act in the commission's environmental review of the regulations. A hearing on the North Central Coast portion of the case, originally set for September 26, will now take place on October 6, in San Diego.

Regulations for so-called “marine protected areas" are currently in effect on the Central Coast and North Central Coast, while a plan for new MPAs on the North Coast is in process. The marine protected areas fail to protect the ocean from oil drilling and spills, water pollution, military testing, wave and wind energy projects, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts on the marine ecosystem other than fishing and gathering.

"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 John Lewallen, North Coast environmental leader and longtime advocate for democracy and transparency in government, who strongly supports the lawsuit.

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.

Lewallen is the author of "Ecology of Devastation: Indochina" (1971) and co-authored with James Robertson a handbook on environmental organizing, "The Grass Roots Primer" (1975), published by Sierra Club Books. He has written numerous articles on environmental issues for an array of publications since then.

For information on how to contribute to the legal effort, please visit http://www.OceanAccessProtectionFund.org.

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.