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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: California | North Bay / Marin | North Coast | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections | Racial Justice
Commission Approves Kashia Pomo Proposal to Amend Marine Reserve
“The Kashia began on the coast,” Reno Franklin of the Kashia Pomo Tribe stated. “Danaga is the place where we believe the tribe first stepped on the earth. It has tremendous significance for our tribe. We are a very traditional tribe that still speaks our language, follows our culture and respects our elders and follows their direction.”
Photo of blessing ceremony at Stewarts Point on April 30 by Violet Wilder, Kashia Pomo Tribe.
Commission Approves Kashia Pomo Proposal to Amend Marine Reserve
by Dan Bacher
(Folsom) The California Fish and Game Commission today voted unanimously to approve an emergency regulation that will again allow the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians to harvest seaweed, shellfish and fish as they have done for thousands of years.
Under new regulations that went into effect on May 1 under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, the tribe was banned from subsistence and ceremonial gathering in the newly created Stewards Point Marine Reserve.
With some minor changes, the Commission approved the tribe’s proposed regulation that would amend the existing Marine Protected Area for the Stewarts Point Marine Reserve. The proposed changes would create a small shoreline State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) within the existing reserve.
The tribe proposed that the SMCA’s boundaries would be generally from the mean high tide line to 100 yards offshore, and from the northern boundary of the existing reserve to just below Rocky Point, approximately four miles south.
However, the DFG recommended that, in conformance with existing regulations, the buffer zone should be 1,000 feet rather than 100 yards and be in a straight line. Reno Franklin and other tribal leaders at the meeting and Scott Williams, the tribe’s lawyer, agreed to this change.
“This is a big victory for the tribe,” said Franklin after the vote. “This is a rare thing we did here today.”
To my knowledge, this is the first time that tribal fishing and gathering rights have been formally recognized in the creation of a MPA under the MLPA Initiative – and the first time that an already adopted marine reserve has been amended to allow for tribal subsistence and ceremonial use.
According to the tribe’s proposal:
• The State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) would be given the Kashia name for that location: “Danaga State Marine Conservation Area.”
• All commercial take of living resources would be prohibited.
• Recreational take of living resources from shore would be authorized consistent with other applicable laws.
The proposed conservation area would comply with science guidelines in that it would leave in reserve status an approximately three-mile shoreline stretch to the southern boundary of the existing reserve, as well as most of the near-shore kelp bed for the entire 7 mile span of the Marine Protected Area and the vast bulk of the nearly 25-square mile reserve.
The proposal also conforms to enforceability guidelines in that there exist visible markers of the boundaries of the conservation area.
Franklin emphasized the importance of the reopening the Stewarts Point Area to ceremonial and subsistence fishing and seaweed gathering by the tribe.
“The Kashia began on the coast,” Franklin stated. “Danaga is the place where we believe the tribe first stepped on the earth. It has tremendous significance for our tribe. We are a very traditional tribe that still speaks our language, follows our culture and respects our elders and follows their direction.”
When tribal leaders heard that the new reserve was going to prevent the tribe from harvesting seaweed shellfish and fin fish off their traditional areas, Franklin said they were very disappointed.
“The new regulations didn’t take into account the 10,000 years we have gathered off this spot,” he said. “This is a piece of who were are.”
Both sportfishing groups and environmental organizations, who have often clashed over the MLPA process, supported the amendments.
“I’m here to support the tribe’s proposal,” said Jim Martin, Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Program Outreach Coordinator for Mendocino County and the West Coast Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance.
“However, you as a Commission had the option last year to adopt 2XA, a proposal that would have left this area open to the Kashia Pomo," Martin reminded the Commission.
Kaitlin Gaffney of The Ocean Conservancy and Karen Garrison of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) also spoke in support of the amendment. They sent a joint letter in support of the proposal to the Commission on June 9.
“We view the Kashia’s proposed amendments as a thoughtful and balanced approach to resolving an unintended conflict between the existing Stewart’s Point SMR and traditional havest grounds important to the tribe,” Gaffney and Garrison wrote. “The Kashia carefully crafted their proposed amendments to address tribal concerns while also complying with the goals of the MLPA, the science guidelines contained in the MLPA Master Plan Framework, Department of Fish and Game feasibility guidelines and the interests of the California State Parks.”
Commissioner Michael Sutton, who made the motion for the proposal, said it would have been preferable for the proposal to have been made during the MLPA process. However, he referenced a letter from three members of the North Central Blue Ribbon Task Force – Catherine Reheis-Boyd, Bill Anderson and Meg Caldwell – who said that this issue was not considered by the task force at the time and recommended that it be considered now.
“Accordingly, we consider it appropriate for the Commission to consider this specific issue de novo,” the letter stated.
“The science guidelines are sacrosanct in the MLPA process and this proposal doesn’t affect the ability to meet those guidelines,” said Sutton.
This emergency regulation amendment will go now to the Office of Administrative Law for approval. Adrianna Shea of the Fish and Game Commission said this would probably take 30 days to be approved.
The adoption of this amendment by the Commission wouldn’t have been possible without the historic blessing ceremony, hosted by landowner Arch Richardson off Stewarts Point on April 30, that brought media and public attention to the injustice against the tribe.
Tribal elders Violet Chappell and her sister Vivian Parrish Wilder presided over the ceremony that drew 145 people, including members of the Kashia Pomo and other California Indian Tribes, recreational anglers, seaweed harvesters and environmental justice advocates, to thank and bless the ocean for the food it has provided to native peoples for thousands of years.
“This food was created by our creator - we treated it with care and respect,” said Chappell. “We are here to say respect us for our food - don’t close this area down because it’s part of our religion. I don’t think the Fish and Game Commission would be allowed to close down a Catholic Church, would they?
For more information and to view photos of the event, go to Violet Wilder's facebook page, "KEEP THE NORTHERN CALIFORNIA BEACHES ACCESSIBLE FOR THE COASTAL TRIBES" (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=105945012781743).