SF Bay Area Indymedia indymedia
About Contact Subscribe Calendar Publish Print Donate

California | Central Valley | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections

DFG wardens cite lobster poacher inside new 'marine protected area'
by Dan Bacher
Sunday Jan 15th, 2012 1:29 PM
While the DFG rightfully apprehended the alleged lobster poacher Sunday morning, the same Department did absolutely nothing to stop the biggest fish kill ever in the Delta in 2011 by the biggest poachers in California history, the California Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Photo of poached lobsters by Department of Fish and Game.
poach-2-1.jpg
poach-2-1.jpg

DFG wardens cite lobster poacher inside new 'marine protected area'

by Dan Bacher

California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) wardens cited a Southern California man early Sunday morning, January 15, for allegedly poaching dozens of lobsters inside a so-called "Marine Protected Area" (MPA) created under the privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative.

The citation took place less than one day after an article written by AP reporter Jason Dearen appeared in the Silicon Valley Mercury News describing the challenge that California's fish and game wardens face in enforcing the "marine protected areas" (http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_19743552). 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, while the DFG has fewer wardens per capita than any other state or Canadian province.

"Wardens observed Marbel A. Para, 30, of Romoland (Riverside County) and a companion SCUBA diving in the Laguna Beach State Marine Reserve after midnight on Jan. 15," according to a DFG news release. "This location, which is in the Heisler Park area off the coast of Laguna Beach, has historically been closed to lobster fishing for years (even prior to the establishment of the MPA)."

"After the divers left the water and returned to their vehicle, the wardens made contact with them and discovered 47 California spiny lobsters in their possession. In addition to illegally taking the lobsters from an MPA, the divers were well over the legal possession limit of seven lobsters per diver, and all but five of the lobsters were undersize. Para claimed that all the lobsters were his, and his companion was not cited," the release stated.

This is the first major violation that DFG wardens have cited in any of the controversial "marine protected areas" since they went into effect in Southern California on Jan. 1, 2012. "The MPAs were created through the Marine Life Protection Act in order to simplify and strengthen existing marine reserves and fishing regulations to allow recovery of fish populations that have been in severe decline," the release claimed.

"The vast majority of our fishing and diving constituents are responsible and law-abiding," said DFG Assistant Chief Paul Hamdorff. "It is always our goal to catch those who choose to intentionally abuse the resources of this state for their own benefit."

Wardens cited Para for several poaching violations including unlawful take and illegal possession of lobster, and possession of overlimits and undersized animals. A report will be filed with the Orange County District Attorney and Para may face additional charges related to this case.

"All the lobsters were confiscated, photographed as evidence and then safely returned to the ocean," the DFG concluded.

What the DFG release left out

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

First, 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."

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

Second, 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.

Third, 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.

Fourth, 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?

Fifth, 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.

Also, while the DFG rightfully apprehended the alleged lobster poacher on Sunday morning, the same Department did absolutely nothing to stop the biggest fish kill ever in the Delta in 2011 by the biggest poachers in California history, the California Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Agency staff "salvaged" over 11 million fish, including 9 million Sacramento splittail, in the Delta pumping facilities. Scientists point out that the actual numbers of fish lost in the pumps are 5 to 10 times the salvage numbers. These "death pumps" killed more fish than all of the poachers in the state combined.

The annual export total, including water diverted by the Contra Costa Canal and North Bay Aqueduct, was 6,633,000 acre-feet in 2011 – 163,000 acre-feet more than the previous record of 6,470,000 acre-feet set in 2005, according to DWR data. The annual export total, excluding water diverted by the Contra Costa Canal and North Bay Aqueduct, was 6,520,000 acre-feet in 2011 - 217,000 acre-feet more than the previous record of 6,303,000 acre-feet set in 2005.

And while the DFG is willing to make a high profile bust to garner publicity, the DFG leadership is not willing to challenge the Obama and Brown administration campaign to build a peripheral canal to export more water to corporate agribusiness and southern California. This canal would result in the extinction of Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other imperiled species.