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Legal battle against MLPA Initiative continues
by Dan Bacher
Thursday Jun 21st, 2012 8:20 AM
“We are hopeful that through this appeal, the serious flaws in the MLPA process will be recognized by the court and, subsequently, overturned," said Coastside Fishing Club’s President Rick Ross. The Club is challenging the legality of the so-called "marine protected areas" that went into effect on the North Central Coast on May 1, 2010.

Legal battle against MLPA Initiative continues

by Dan Bacher

The recent adoption of so-called "marine protected areas" (MPAs) on the North Coast has resulted in a vast network of no-fishing zones along California’s coastal waters being put into place.

While MLPA advocates falsely tout these zones as "Yosemites of the Sea" and "marine parks," they in fact fail to protect the ocean from oil spills and drilling, pollution, seismic and military testing, corporate aquaculture, wind and wave energy projects and all human impacts other than fishing and gathering.

However, the legal status surrounding how these controversial no-fishing zones were established remains a question. Coastside Fishing Club (http://www.coastsidefishingclub.com), a member of the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans (PSO) that represents the recreational fishing and boating community, has announced that legal efforts against the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative that established the no-fishing zones continue.

Coastside recently filed an opening brief in its appeal of an October 2011 ruling that upheld the regulations created through the MLPA process.

“While anti-fishing groups have celebrated the adoption of MLPA regulations throughout the state, we remain confident that these regulations were enacted without legal authority,” said Coastside Fishing Club’s President Rick Ross. “We are hopeful that through this appeal, the serious flaws in the MLPA process will be recognized by the court and, subsequently, overturned.”

Coastside Fishing Club, along with United Anglers of Southern California and California citizen Robert Fletcher, filed a lawsuit in January 2011 against the California Fish and Game Commission to invalidate regulations established through the MLPA process. The lawsuit cites a "lack of statutory authority" for the California Fish and Game Commission to adopt the closure regulations.

"The Commission relies on a statute that was enacted as part of the Marine Managed Areas Improvement Act. This Act has certain prerequisites to regulatory action, which the Commission admittedly did not satisfy," according to Coastside.

Despite this, a judge in the San Diego Superior Court ruled against Coastside Fishing Club in October 2011, upholding the MLPA regulations. After a careful review, Coastside concluded that the ruling is inconsistent with the mandates of the law as established by the legislature, and initiated the appeal process. A ruling from the appellate court is expected by year's end.

On January 30, the Fourth District Court of Appeal in San Diego denied a motion by the Fish and Game Commission to dismiss Coastside's appeal regarding the imposition of so-called "marine protected areas" on the North Central Coast of California under the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative.

The lawsuit is supported not only by fishermen and boaters, but by grassroots environmental environmental leaders on California's North Coast.

"The corrupt and illegal MLPA Initiative process will be exposed and overturned eventually," said John Lewallen, North Coast environmental leader and co-founder of the Ocean Protection Coalition and North Coast Seaweed Rebellion. "The brave fishermen and fisherwomen of Coastside Fishing Club are protecting ocean access and government by the people, now under assault by private corporate interests."

Ali Hussainy, president of BDOutdoors.com, urges anglers to contribute to the legal battle against the MLPA Initiative.

“The legal effort against the MLPA is our best chance to stop these burdensome closures from continuing to negatively impact California’s fishing community,” said Hussainy. “The best way for anglers to help fight for their fishing rights in California is to visit http://www.SaveCAFishing.org and make a contribution. All anglers need to stand together and fight for our right to fish before it’s too late.”

Along with the PSO, BDOutdoors launched http://www.SaveCAFishing.org to raise awareness of the legal challenge against the flawed MLPA process and to provide an opportunity for all anglers, boaters and anyone interested in fair legal process to contribute to the effort.

The "marine protected areas" created under the MLPA Initiative are not only of dubious legality, but are based on highly questionable science, according to critics.

The Northern California Tribal Chairman’s Association, including the Chairs of the Elk Valley Rancheria, Hoopa Valley Tribe, Karuk Tribe, Smith River Rancheria, Trinidad Rancheria, and Yurok Tribe, believes the science behind the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative developed by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Science Advisory Team is “incomplete and terminally flawed.”

“While we appreciate the Brown administration’s support and the Fish and Game Commission effort to recognize tribal traditional harvesting rights, there is more that needs to be done in order to protect our culture and our resources for present and future generations,” said Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas P. O’Rourke Sr. prior to the Fish and Game Commission meeting on June 6 that approved the controversial North Coast marine protected areas. “We also have serious questions about the science, developed under the Schwarzenegger Administration, which the process relies upon. We believe it requires a truly impartial external review and revision in order to work for our region.”

For more information, go to: http://blogs.alternet.org/danbacher/2012/06/08/yurok-tribe-challenges-mlpa-initiatives-terminally-flawed-science/.

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, seismic 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, served on the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the North Coast and North Central Coast.

Reheis-Boyd, a relentless advocate for offshore oil drilling, hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the Keystone XL Pipeline and the weakening of environmental laws, also chaired the South Coast MLPA Blue Ribbon Task that developed the MPAs that went into effect in Southern California waters on January 1, 2012.

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).