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Fish and Game Commission fails to affirm tribal rights
by Dan Bacher
Wednesday Jun 29th, 2011 11:43 PM
“I cannot accept the part about the fishing license. The Fish and Game has taken an unjust and patronizing step,” said Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas O’Rourke Sr. “No one can separate these resources from our culture.”

Yurok Tribal Member Richard Myers cleans mussels inside of Patrick's Point State Park. The Park does not recognize the rights of indigenous tribes who depend on gathering there to perpetuate their lifeways.

Photo by Matt Mais, Yurok Tribe.

For Immediate Release
Contact Matt Mais
(707) 482-1350 ext. 306
Cell: (707) 954-0976

Fish and Game Commission fails to affirm tribal rights

(Stockton) The California Fish and Game Commission accepted a preferred alternative Wednesday, June 29 that failed to affirm traditional tribal gathering in the North Coast Study Region of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative.

According to Option 1, tribal members would have to use a state fishing license in addition to a Tribal ID for those sixteen or older and be limited by state regulations.

“I cannot accept the part about the fishing license. The Fish and Game has taken an unjust and patronizing step,” said Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas O’Rourke Sr. “No one can separate these resources from our culture.”

Option 1 states “tribal gathering to continue in SMCAs (not SMRs), by specific tribal users, where a factual record can be established that shows ancestral take or tribal gathering practices by a federally-recognized tribe in that specific MPA (marine protected area), and by allowing only those tribes to take specified species with specified gear types.”

The Northern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association and the Inter-Tribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council, which represent all of the recognized tribes in the study region, proposed a motion that would have affirmed traditional tribal harvest managed by individual Tribal governments.

The motion states: “Consistent with the tribal gathering general concepts described in Option 1…Traditional, non-commercial tribal uses shall be allowed to continue unimpeded within the proposed SMCAs and SMRMs in the MLPA’s North Coast Study Region for all federally recognized tribes that can establish that they have practiced such uses within a specific SMCA or SMRMA.”

The motion was supported by California Assembly Member Wesley Chesbro and California Senator Noreen Evans.

Northern California Tribes, which have much more stringent marine harvest guidelines than the state, depend on coastal resources for ceremonial, medicinal and subsistence purposes. In other words, having safe access is indivisible from tribal culture.

The Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative is a public-private partnership between the State of California and a hand-full of private foundations to implement the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), which was signed into law in 1999.

Throughout the process there have been proposals to aggressively reject existing native rights. There were also proposals to support Native rights such as the North Coast Regional Stakeholder Group’s Unified Proposal.

The 28 member stakeholder group, comprised of fishing industry representatived, environmental groups and tribes, was the only stakeholder group in the entire MLPA process to develop a singular proposal. The Unified Proposal is supported by 41 city and county governments, tribes, conservation groups and fishing organizations.

“We’ve said from the beginning tribal rights are nonnegotiable,” Chairman O’Rourke Sr. said. “We’ve said that because we are in charge of our destiny.”

The amendment and preferred alternative for marine protected areas will now be vetted through the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

The Yurok Tribe, the largest tribe in California, has 5,500 members. The Tribe’s ancestral territory runs eighty-three miles along the California coastline from the Little River to Damnation Creek. To the east the Tribe’s ancestral lands reach above the Klamath River’s confluence with the Trinity River. For more information about the Yurok Tribe, please visit

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by C-gull
Friday Jul 1st, 2011 9:02 PM
Let's briefly look at the qualifications of those on the Fish and Game commission and Wildlife Strategic Vision Commission(s). The Fish and Game commission has a labor leader, an electrical engineer, a past park ranger, a real estate developer and the vice president for AECOM Technology.

On the executive committee for Fish and Wildlife Strategic Vision we have, a past assemblyman, a past congressional aid, a chemist & energy specialist, a union organizer,an agricultural economist, the regional director of the USFWS and the regional administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service.

On the Blue Ribbon Citizens Commission we have, a member of the Unemployment Insurance Appeals board, a past assemblyman/little Hoover commission member, another assembly member and past Chula Vista City Council member, director of Calif law and policy at UC Davis, a Hearst Corp manager, and finally the director of corporate governance of the Calif Teachers Retirement system. The stakeholders committee is in progress.

If you ask yourselves, "why are some of these people on a fish and wildlife commission" ? That is a good question. Most of them by their experience and past work have a corporate vision unrelated to the earths natural systems. That is not my vision and probably not the vision of most of people called "regular" citizens. An indigenous vision is probably not even in the realm of possibility for them and since there are no ecologists on these commissions, I assume that ecology is not welcome either. These committee and commission members see through business lenses and they do not see very far. They are blind to Grandmother Earth and Mother Ocean and know not the people that really care.