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Marine Protection Planning: The Next Chapter
by William Lemos
Monday Jun 4th, 2012 5:20 PM
As the Fish and Game Commission prepares to make their final decision on the north coast community's ocean protection plan--completing the statewide underwater parks system called for under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA)--Mendocino resident William Lemos reflects on the north coast's ocean legacy, and residents' responsibility to be good stewards.
Fishing stories on the North Coast are about more than bragging rights. They’re a way of telling the story of our community’s way of life, and preserving our traditional connections to the sea. Fueled by one of the four strongest upwelling systems in the world, our coast is one of the most productive ocean regions on the planet.

When the California Fish and Game Commission meets in Eureka on June 6th, we’ll complete another chapter in the ongoing tale of fishing in northern California. The commission will vote on – and should approve – the adoption of a community-designed network of protected waters for the region.

Any history of fishing here must begin with indigenous people. The spiritual connection of coastal tribes and tribal communities to the ocean and to particular North Coast places helped preserve the resources for many generations. When European immigrants arrived, my Portuguese ancestors among them, they too used the resources of the north coast, braving the elements in vessels with hardly any navigational aids aboard.

Few people living today are old enough to remember just how big and plentiful fish in this region were early in earlier times. Those bountiful rockfish and salmon populations are legendary, and even as recently as the late 1970s, catching a forty-pound lingcod here was not that unusual. Big old prolific female rockfish can live for a century, and they have exponentially more babies as they grow. But they are now the stuff of dreams, remembered only thanks to fishing families who have held on to historic pictures.

That’s because with more effective navigation and fishing gear and more people working the reefs, the rockfish that had been a mainstay of Pacific coast fisheries declined sharply in the 1980s and ‘90s. When commercial abalone fisheries also crashed in the late ‘90s, the California legislature took action to better protect marine ecosystems, passing a bill to improve fishery management in 1998 and a companion bill in 1999 called the Marine Life Protection Act.

The goal of the MLPA is to set aside a portion (in the North Coast approximately 13%) of the near-shore marine environment so that wildness can work its magic to replenish depleted or endangered plant and animal communities. Studies show that well-designed protected areas have more fish, higher productivity, and a richer array of species than nearby fished areas.

Thirteen years later, we are approaching the goal of creating marine wilderness areas along the entire California coastline, with each region developing their own plan based on input from all ocean users.

In the North Coast, local citizens — including fishermen, divers, educators, tribal members and naturalists — spent many months coming up with the plan, which includes 19 new or modified fish and wildlife refuges along the North Coast. While the “unified” plan reflected numerous compromises on ecological and socio-economic issues, the stakeholder group agreed that this plan worked best for all of us.

The stakeholders and state officials alike hold traditional tribal use of the coastline in high regard. The preferred project reflects this support, providing for the North Coast tribes’ traditional subsistence, ceremonial, and stewardship practices to continue in marine conservation areas.

The achievement of solidarity in the North Coast on marine protection is a remarkable statement about who we are. In the beginning of the process few anticipated that such an agreement could be reached. And yet, in the end, we not only reached agreement, but we also created a deeper understanding of one of the basic needs of our community: protection of our invaluable marine resources.

William Lemos is a member of the Regional Stakeholder Group of the North Coast Marine Life Protection Act. He holds a Ph. D. in Education.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by David Gurney
Tuesday Jun 5th, 2012 8:12 AM
Mr. Lemos was a "stakeholder" in the MLPA "Initiative." During the "process" he was paid $37.50 per hour as a "consultant" for the NRDC.

The "Initiative" was in reality a privatized experiment in social engineering, that turns over the public resource - our ocean - to the very people who financed this boondoggle, and who stand to benefit from the end result.

MLPA meetings were run by Kearns and West, who lists as clients powerful natural gas and energy companies (see: The K&W facilitators, masquerading as legitimate government entities, ran public meetings illegally, and barred the public their right to record meetings, or offer public comment.

During the MLPA "Initiative," Lemos presented false information to the public, showing slides of drag-trawlers, and claiming the MLPA's were needed to stop this form of destructive fishing. In fact, the MLPA does nothing of the sort. Destructive trawl fishing, which occurs outside of California waters, will continue, if not increase, once a sustainable hook-and-line shore-based fisheries are closed down forever.

The true threats to the ocean - industrialization - including industrialized fishing - were purposefully kept off the table by the totally corrupt MLPA "Initiative." The president of the Western States Petroleum Association, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, sat on the top board of the MLPA "Initiative" throughout the statewide process, to make sure no regulations were included to regulate oil/gas drilling in and around the new "no fishing" zones. Other industrialization threats, such as wave energy, fish farms, US Navy testing and maneuvers - were deliberately kept off the table during this farce of so-called marine protection.

The MLPA "Initiative" is not about fisheries management. It's about human management. It will turn over access to the ocean and it's resources to a select few, among them the very people who financed this corrupt privatized takeover of public resources, and the democratic process.

Finally, one wonders - did Mr. Lemos bill the NRDC his standard rate, to produce this misleading fluff-piece on the totally corrupt MLPA "Initiative"?

by Alexis Alexander
Tuesday Jun 5th, 2012 9:37 AM
That's not nice attacking Mr. Lemos like that--he is a longtime upstanding member of our community.

On a less personal level, there are numerous factual errors with your statement -- all of which I think are rebutted by the fact that there are dozens commercial and recreational fishermen standing behind the community ocean protection plan and saying that this is something that will not only allow them to continue their livelihoods, but protect quality ocean habitat for years to come.
by David Gurney
Tuesday Jun 5th, 2012 10:01 AM
You claim to rebut facts, by citing "dozens commercial and recreational fishermen" standing behind the "community ocean protection plan." Baloney. How about rebutting the actual facts, instead of creating another lie?

The truth is, the entire community was coerced into going along with this privatized process, from the very beginning, knowing it was hopeless to oppose the corporate financed boondoggle. It is not, and never was, a "community plan." It was a coerced outcome, that everyone, at least in this area, could at least live with.

Ask the sustainable shore-based hook-and-line fishermen up in Shelter Cove how they feel about having the ocean taken away, and you will hear a different story. Ask the Lewallens, and others in the Point Arena/North Central region, about the draconian closures that are now in place and affecting them.

It is "hype" - hype that you are believing, from a corrupt, greenwashed ocean protection "plan" - that is not a plan, but the idiotic creation of "no fishing" zones that do not offer real protection or stewardship.

by Beeline
Tuesday Jun 5th, 2012 8:03 PM
The wilderness be it terrestrial or marine is lone gone. At best only part of the ecological damage done can be repaired and it will take as many years as humans have been hammering the ecosystems to allow them to rebuild.

Poaching is also a major issue. The "State of the World's Fisheries and Aquaculture Report" indicates that between 10 and 23.5 billion dollars are made off illegal fishing each year. Earlier this year one bluefin tuna sold for $736,000. With this kind of money potential, the poaching is not going away just because the state of California marks some "refuges" on a map.

Real ecology is hard to come by these days. The various candidates for public office will not discuss any ecology and the mainline news stations won't go there either. The minds of the new generation are ecology proof.

We are in the age of corporate power and the corporations, be they business or conservation oriented are here to perpetuate themselves, not Grandmother Earth.

by Dan Bacher
Friday Jun 8th, 2012 8:15 PM
The MLPA Initiative that Lemos extols is based on 'terminally flawed science." For the truth about the MLPA process, please read this article.

Yurok Tribe challenges MLPA Initiative's 'terminally flawed science'

by Dan Bacher