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California | North Coast | Environment & Forest Defense

Conflicts of interest, terminally flawed science taint MLPA Initiative
by Dan Bacher
Friday Jun 29th, 2012 10:25 PM
While Michelle Woo's article in the Orange County Weekly is much more fair and fact-based than most other pieces written about the alleged "marine protected areas" that went into effect in Southern California on January 1, there are five "inconvenient truths" about the MLPA fiasco that Woo is apparently not aware of.

Conflicts of interest, terminally flawed science taint MLPA Initiative

by Dan Bacher

Michelle Woo has written a good investigative piece in the Orange County Weekly covering the Southern California fishing community's many problems with the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative.

This well-written article is a welcome relief from many of the corporate media puff pieces that regurgitate Natural Resources Agency, Department of Fish and Game and corporate "environmental" NGO press releases falsely claiming that the new "marine protected areas" will actually "protect" the ocean.

You can read this article at: http://www.ocweekly.com/2012-06-21/news/fishing-conservation-ivar-southern-marcos-voyatzil-rodger-healy-michael-thompson-paul-romanowski-mark-wisch-ray-hiemstra-don-brockman-josh-fisher/

While the article is much more fair and fact-based than most other pieces written about the alleged "marine protected areas" that went into effect in Southern California on January 1, there are five "inconvenient truths" about the MLPA fiasco that Woo is apparently not aware of.

First, the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces that oversaw the implementation of these "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 Forces 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 task force that developed the MPAs that went into effect in Southern California on January 1.

If having a big oil lobbyist in charge of the development of "marine protected areas" on the South Coast isn't corporate greenwashing and bad public policy, I don't know what is!

Many grassroots environmentalists and fishermen believe that Reheis-Boyd was appointed to the task force to make sure that the oil industry’s interests were protected – and to ensure that recreational and commercial fishermen and seaweed harvesters, the most vocal opponents of offshore oil drilling, are removed from many areas on the ocean to clear a path for ocean industrialization.

The big question that remains is: why did MLPA Initiative advocates, including representatives of corporate "environmental" NGOs, not oppose the appointment of a big oil lobbyist to the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces, let alone her appointment as chair of the South Coast process?

Second, these so-called "marine protected areas" do not protect the ocean from oil spills and drilling, military and seismic testing, corporate aquaculture, wind and wave energy projects and all other impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering. In violation of the letter and spirit of the landmark Marine Life Protection Act of 1999, these marine reserves fail to comprehensively protect the ocean from ocean industrialization and other threats to the marine ecosystem.

For example, while fishermen are prohibited from fishing in the Point Buchon State Marine Reserve on the Central Coast, the Pacific Gas and Electric Company has asked the California Fish and Game Commission for a “scientific collecting permit” to possibly “cleanse" a huge swath of ocean including the marine reserve while conducting seismic testing. The testing has been mandated by the Federal Regulatory Commission as a condition for the relicensing of the controversial Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. (http://noyonews.net/?p=6344)

Third, the allegedly "open and transparent" process was privately funded by the shadowy Resources Legacy Foundation. This is an inherent conflict of interest, since this foundation also funds many of the corporate "environmental" NGOs who lobbied for the creation of marine reserves with the least possible protection from all other human impacts on the ocean other than fishing.

Fourth, 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 MLPA Initiative developed by Schwarzenegger's Science Advisory Team is "incomplete and terminally flawed."

The Yurok Tribe said it has attempted on numerous occasions to address the scientific inadequacies with the MLPA science developed under the Schwarzenegger administration by adding "more robust protocols" into the equation, but was denied every time. This denial of consideration of the Tribe's scientific data flies in the face of false claims by MLPA advocates that the privately funded initiative creates "Yosemites of the Sea" and "underwater parks" based on "science."

Fifth, the new regulations on the North Coast, in a great miscarriage of justice, prohibit Yurok Tribe members from gathering seaweed, mussels and fish at their traditional gathering areas at Reading Rock and the False Klamath. Two Tribal Elders told the Fish and Game Commission in Eureka on June 6 that they would continuing gathering food, regardless of the Commission’s decision.

“We are hunters, fishermen and gatherers and we have lived here since time immemorial,” said David Gensaw Sr., a member of the Yurok Tribal Council. “We have gathered on these shores forever since the Creator put us here.”

“We’re here today to tell you that we need that subsistence, and we will continue to provide our people with that nourishment,” he stated. “Hopefully, we can work this out without a confrontation.”

Yurok Tribal Elder Jack Matz emphasized, “If the regulations are implemented the way they are planned now, you will have a confrontation with a lot of elders, including myself.”

I encourage Woo to write a more complete investigative piece that covers the conflicts of interest, failure to comprehensively protect the ocean, shadowy private funding, incomplete and terminally flawed science and violation of tribal gathering and fishing rights that have made the MLPA into one of the most egregious examples of corporate greenwashing in California history.