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'Marine poaching areas' created by corrupt MLPA Initiative
by Dan Bacher
Saturday Jan 14th, 2012 9:34 PM
Representatives of the California Fish and Game Wardens Association have opposed the creation of any new "marine protected areas" until funding is provided to enforce the existing ones. Because of the difficulty posed to an understaffed, underfunded department in enforcing these "MPAs," the wardens often refer to the MPAs as "Marine Poaching Areas."
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'Marine poaching areas' created by corrupt MLPA Initiative

by Dan Bacher

An article in the Silicon Valley Mercury News on January 14, written by AP reporter Jason Dearen, does a good job of describing the challenge that California's fish and game wardens face in enforcing the so-called "marine protected areas" created under Arnold Schwarzenegger's privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative.

California's 1,100-mile coastline has more than 124 marine protected areas covering about 848 square miles of state waters, or about 16 percent of the coast. "Yet the California Department of Fish and Game has fewer wardens per capita than any other coastal state, creating a challenge for California in how best to police the vast areas," Dearen stated (http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_19743552).

"And with the addition of the Southern California's protection zones on Jan. 1 and more slated to be created in San Francisco Bay and the far northern coast soon, the workload is only going to increase," Dearen continued. "While concern over the state's ability to patrol this vast area led to changes during the planning process, the department is currently not well staffed enough with wardens to do a complete job."

Dearen notes that 15 of the department's 75 positions in marine enforcement are currently vacant, and the DFG's Marlin is the only large fish and game vessel patrolling the MPAs from the central coast to the Oregon border.

"The agency has about 10 other small vessels with limited range that assist the Marlin in central and northern California, and the U.S. Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also provide assistance," said Dearen.

Representatives of the California Fish and Game Wardens Association have opposed the creation of any new "marine protected areas" until funding is provided to enforce the existing ones. Because of the difficulty posed to an understaffed, underfunded department in enforcing these "MPAs," the wardens often refer to the MPAs as "Marine Poaching Areas."

However, Dearen fails to mention four key points about the so-called "marine protected areas" that went into effect in Southern California waters on January 1. Without including any of these facts, the reporter is creating a false view of the closed zones imposed by the MLPA Initiative.

First, the South Coast "marine reserves" were created by the MLPA "Blue Ribbon Task Force" chaired by Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association. Reheis-Boyd is a big oil industry lobbyist with an egregious conflict of interest in the designation of MPAs, considering that she has repeatedly called for new oil drilling off the California coast. Reheis-Boyd is also a big supporter of Canadian tar sands drilling and the gutting of environmental laws.

Second, the MLPA process was overseen not only by an oil industry lobbyist, but by a marina developer, coastal real estate executive and other corporate operatives and political hacks with numerous conflicts of interest.

Third, in a parody of true marine protection, these fake "marine protected areas" fail to protect the ocean from oil spills and drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture, wind and wave energy projects and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering. What type of marine "protection" is that?

Fourth, the MLPA Initiative that created the MPAs is privately funded by the shadowy Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, setting a bad precedent for the privatization of conservation and the public trust in California.

Dearen concludes his article by claiming, "To help address patrolling concerns, the environmental community, coastal city governments and others are coming up with creative ways to help."

"Groups like Santa Barbara Channelkeeper and Heal the Bay are organizing 'citizen monitors' who use binoculars from shore to watch out for violations in MPAs that are close to shore. The citizen monitors report any potential violators and collect data that can be shared with wardens to help them target hot spots," said Dearen.

However, using "citizen monitors" to "report any potential violators and collect data" sounds like a very creepy idea that smacks of neighbors spying on their neighbors - and helps to expand the "surveillance society" that the federal, state and municipal governments have promoted to crush the First Amendment and our rights under the Constitution.

This idea of "citizen monitors" helping to patrol the oceans opens itself to numerous abuses, especially when California's fishing laws are very complex and confusing even to the wardens that enforce them. For example, if an angler is fishing in a marine protected area where salmon fishing is allowed but rockfishing is not, how is an inexperienced person going to even know this?

There is no substitute for having professionals, wardens who are trained in enforcing Fish and Game laws, enforcing the closed zones. Yet the state doesn't have the money to enforce existing MPAs, let alone the new reserves, in a time of shrinking state budgets and growing deficits.

In a superb opinion piece in the Sacramento Bee on January 31, 2010, Jerry Karnow, Legislative Liason for the California Fish and Game Wardens Association, exposed the insanity behind the MLPA process (http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/story/2500939.html).

“It is impossible for the warden force to effectively enforce existing regulations, much less new regulations that the Fish and Game Commission approves over our objections,” said Karnow. “Many of the regulations approved by the commission will not protect the natural resources of California. They will serve only one purpose; they will stretch the warden force ever thinner, which will eventually result in another warden’s on-duty injury or death.”

“While it seeks to design Marine Protected Areas, my warden colleagues have a different meaning for ‘MPA’ – we call them Marine Poaching Areas. Since the protection act closes productive fishing areas, poachers will know where to rape our resources, and they will know that there is unlikely to be any law enforcement presence or legal anglers present to turn in poachers," he emphasized.

The MLPA Initiative, like the parallel Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build a peripheral canal to divert Delta water to corporate agribusiness and southern California water agencies, is a corrupt process overseen by corporate interests with numerous conflicts of interests.

The Initiative is a very bad example of public policy, since it kicks sustainable fishermen and gatherers off huge areas of the ocean while failing to protect our marine waters from polluters, water diverters, energy companies, the oil industry and ocean industrialists.

The failure of the MLPA to address ocean industrialization and other human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering is undoubtedly the reason why Safeway Stores, the Western States Petroleum Association and the Walton Family Foundation (Walmart) are huge supporters of the MLPA Initiative and similar corporate greenwashing efforts. (http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/11/30/the-worst-of-the-one-percent)