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New Northern California MPAs to go into effect Dec. 19
The Department of Fish and Game's announcement that "marine protected areas" on California's North Coast will go into effect on December 19, weeks earlier than expected, has taken many by surprise.
New North Coast MPAs to go into effect Dec. 19
by Dan Bacher
In a press release issued on Thursday, November 29, the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) announced a "suite of new or modified marine protected areas (MPAs)" created under Arnold Schwarzenegger's Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative will go into effect on Dec. 19, 2012 along California’s north coast from the California/Oregon border south to Alder Creek near Point Arena.
"Northern California MPAs are the last of the state's coastal protected areas to go into effect off California, and will complete the network from Oregon to Mexico," the DFG stated.
"Developed pursuant to the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), the northern California network includes 19 MPAs, one marine managed area, and seven special closures, covering approximately 137 square miles of state waters and 13 percent of the north coast region. The network will include four of the five pre-existing MPAs, with Punta Gorda State Marine Reserve no longer in effect as of Dec. 19," the DFG said.
Interestingly, the DFG made no mention of the fact that the "marine protected areas" will go into effect weeks earlier than expected, as was noted in another press release the day before.
"The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is pleased to announce the new MPAs will go into effect on Dec. 19 in the north coast and that effective date is weeks earlier than expected," the earlier release, issued on November 28, stated (http://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/north-coast-marine-protected-areas-effective-december-19/).
In a June press release announcing the Commission's June decision adopting the controversial "marine protected areas, the DFG claimed, "The north coast MPAs adopted by the Commission today are expected to go into effect by early 2013." "http://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/north-coast-marine-protected-areas-adopted-in-final-coastal-ocean-region/)
The DFG gave no reason for the December 19 effective date, other than stating, "The State Office of Administrative Law recently approved the north coast MPA regulations and boundaries adopted by the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) in June 2012."
As far as I know, this is the first regional network of MPAs created under the MLPA Initiative that has gone into effect earlier than expected.
Representatives of the Yurok Tribe and the Coastal Justice Coalition, who have challenged the MLPA Initiative for violating traditional tribal harvesting rights and for using questionable "science," and Department of Fish and Game officials were not available for comment on the announcement at publication time.
David Gurney, Co-Chair of the Ocean Protection Coalition and an independent journalist who was arrested for filming a MLPA "public workshop" in April 2010, responded to the announcement by emphasizing the MLPA “Initiative’s” total violation of state open meeting laws," while "Initiative" advocates claimed it was the “most open and transparent process ever.”
"They refused to allow a record to be made at their public meetings, or public comment to be heard, in flagrant violation of the Bagley Keene Open Meetings Act, and later denied that the MLPA 'Initiative' was any sort of legal entity," he said. "Illegal secret meetings, perks, cronyism and favoritism were routine."
"The same standard for 'size and spacing' of these closures was mandated statewide, in a totally unscientific manner, applying the same criteria for the North Coast as the South, despite a 25 times difference in human population," said Gurney. "They had no idea what was underwater in over a quarter of the area they proposed to close. In addition, the co-chair of their vaunted 'Science Advisory Team' is now under indictment for an embezzlement scheme of close to a million dollars."
"The list of obscene corruption goes on and on," explained Gurney. "But as a result, we now have privatized closures that remove coastal people from their spiritual and subsistence resource, but offer no protection from oil drilling and exploration, nor other industrial projects and privatization schemes."
"The 'monitoring' of these closures will no doubt be funded and staffed by the very same individuals who financed and staffed this whole sickeningly corrupt process. The private funders of this phony 'initiative' will control who has access to our once public common. And once again, there will be no legitimate oversight nor legal accountability. What a disgusting rip-off," Gurney concluded.
A complete list of all north coast MPAs, including detailed regulations and maps, can be found at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/ncmpas_list.asp.
DFG’s MPA mobile website, located at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/m/MPA, will be updated to include the new MPAs on Dec. 19. The mobile website allows the public to use any web-enabled device to locate MPA boundaries and regulations by using an interactive map or searching by name, county or general area. A mobile device’s GPS can also be used to find a person’s current location relative to any MPA.
In addition to the mobile website, boaters can view MPAs on nautical charts or other background maps by visiting MarineBIOS athttp://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/gis/viewer.asp, DFG’s interactive online marine and coastal map viewer.
For more information on the northern California MPAs, please visit http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/ncmpas_list.aspor call DFG Environmental Scientist Elizabeth Pope at (707) 445-5301.
Yurok Tribe challenges MLPA Initiative’s ‘terminally flawed’ science
Before the California Fish and Game Commission voted on June 6, 2012 to approve the network of so-called “marine protected areas” for the North Coast, the Yurok Tribe issued a statement outlining several serious concerns with the final proposal that will go into effect on December 19.
These included questions about the so-called “science” used under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create the MPAs and concerns over the protection of tribal harvesting rights at Reading Rock and False Klamath.
In spite of moving testimony by Tribal Elders, Commissioners Michael Sutton, Richard Rogers and Jack Baylis voted 3 to 0 to approve new regulations covering state waters from the California/Oregon state line south to Alder Creek near Point Arena in Mendocino County that failed to address these concerns. Commissioners Jim Kellogg and Richard Rogers, both critics of the MLPA process, were absent.
“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 meeting. “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.”
“Today might mean the end of the discussion for some North Coast residents,” O’Rourke continued. “For us, it’s the beginning of a conversation about how the State can better work with Native people to preserve and protect cultural and natural resources. The proposed project simply does not do enough to address tribal rights. The Yurok Tribe has and will continue to reserves all rights as a sovereign nation as we work towards finding a solution.”
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.”
For example, in a reversal of scientific logic, the MLPA provides for more regulation of highly abundant species such as mussels – and no harvest limits on fish such as the threatened Pacific eulachon.
“Under the MLPA each marine species is assigned a certain level of protection,” according to the Tribe’s statement. “Species like mussels are given a low level of protection, which in MLPA-speak, translates to more regulation. To date, there has been no scientific data submitted suggesting that mussels on the North Coast are in any sort of danger or are overharvested. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The readily available quantitative survey data collected over decades by North Coast experts shows there is quite an abundance of mussels in this sparsely populated study region.”
The Tribe said species like Pacific eulachon, also known as candlefish, are given a high level of protection; or in other words, their harvest is not limited by the proposed regulations. Eulachon are near extinction and listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).
“Both of these marine species are essential and critical to the cultural survival of northern California tribes,” said Chairman O’Rourke Sr. “However, under the proposed regulations they would be summarily mismanaged. It’s examples like these that compel our concerns.”
Science Advisory Team refused to address scientific inadequacies
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.”
For example, the MLPA Science Advisory Team, co-chaired by Ron LeValley of Mad River Biologists, in August 2010 turned down a request by the Yurok Tribe to make a presentation to the panel. Among other data, the Tribe was going to present data of test results from other marine reserves regarding mussels.
“The data would have shown that there was not a statistical difference in the diversity of species from the harvested and un-harvested areas,” wrote John Corbett, Yurok Tribe Senior Attorney, in a letter to the Science Advisory Team on January 12, 2011. “The presentation would have encompassed the work of Smith, J.R. Gong and RF Ambrose, 2008, ‘The Impacts of Human Visitation on Mussel Bed Communities along the California Coast: Are Regulatory Marine Reserves Effective in Protecting these Communities.’” (http://yubanet.com/california/Dan-Bacher-MLPA-Officials-refused-to-Include-Tribal-scientists-in-process.php)
No Tribal scientists were allowed to serve on the MLPA Science Advisory Team, in spite of the fact that the Yurok and other North Coast Indian Tribes have large natural resources and fisheries departments staffed with many fishery biologists and other scientists.
During the historic direct action protest by a coalition of over 50 Tribes and their allies in Fort Bragg on July 21, 2010, Frankie Joe Myers, Yurok Tribal member and Coastal Justice Coalition activist, exposed the refusal to incorporate Tribal science that underlies the questionable “science” of the MLPA process. (http://blogs.alternet.org/danbacher/2010/07/26/tribes-and-allies-take-control-of-fort-bragg-mlpa-meeting/)
“The whole process is inherently flawed by institutionalized racism,” said Myers. “It doesn’t recognize Tribes as political entities, or Tribal biologists as legitimate scientists.”
Justice denied: Commission fails to protect Tribe’s harvesting rights
Of the “marine protected area” options before the Fish and Game Commission on June 6, Yurok Tribal representatives supported the adoption of the following:
• Reading Rock- Tribal Take Option (B) Reclassify Reading Rock from a State Marine Reserve to a State Marine Conservation Area. This would allow for specific federally recognized tribes to take living marine resources pursuant to existing regulations.
• Reading Rock SMCA- Name Option (B) Rename as Reading Rock Onshore SMCA if Reading Rock SMR Take Option B (above) is selected.
• ‘No change’ for the specific location of False Klamath Rock Season Special Closure and require the “Special Closure” for False Klamath Rock to be dealt with in a future process that includes the Tribe.
The Tribe said the MLPA Environmental Impact Report, pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), reviewed two different proposals. The first was a “No Project Alternative” that compares “the impact of approving the action against the impacts of not approving the action.”
In the “Enhanced Compliance Alternative,” the second proposal, there were two possible protected areas within Yurok ancestral territory near Reading Rock and False Klamath Rock.
At Reading Rock, there were two options before the Commission. The first, and preferred alternative, was an offshore State Marine Reserve (SMR) status that calls for zero human take of any marine species.
The second option was a State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) designation, both on and offshore, which would allow some commercial and recreational harvest, while authorizing access to Tribal members with a valid Tribal ID card.
The proposal also called for a Seasonal Special Closure for False Klamath Rock. In this area there would be a 300-foot seasonal closure around the rock from March 1 to August 31 for avian nesting.
Inexplicably, the Commission failed to approve the Tribe’s proposal that would protect traditional tribal gathering rights in Yurok ancestral territory. After the public comment period, the Commissioners rushed through the approval of Option 1, the preferred alternative, without even discussing the Tribe’s recommended options.
Tribal elders vow to keep gathering in traditional areas
During the June hearing, Yurok Tribal leaders told the Commission they were unhappy with the regulations that would prohibit them from gathering seaweed, mussels and fish at their traditional gathering areas at Reading Rock and the False Klamath – and vowed to keep gathering 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.”
Gensaw told the Commission about the Tribe’s problems with diabetes, high blood pressure and other illnesses caused by a change in diet since the arrival of Europeans, who took many of the traditional foods from the tribe.
“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.”
Nonetheless, Alicia T. McQuillen, Marine Resource Coordinator for the Yurok Tribe, noted after the Commission meeting that she is hopeful that the Tribe will be able to resolve its differences with the state of California over the MLPA process. She said she is encouraged by comments made by DFG Director Chuck Bonham that this was the beginning of a “new era” in the state’s relationship with Tribes.
“We are hopeful that there will be a more positive and more open relationship between the state and Tribes – and more open and honest communication,” McQuillen said. “We anticipate some disappointment over the results of the hearing, but it takes time to change hearts and minds.”
Yurok people consider themselves to be “a vital part of the marine ecosystem.” Yurok Tribal members have traditionally harvested marine resources for religious, ceremonial and subsistence use with carefully adapted methods that have maintained balanced abundance on the North Coast since time immemorial.
To read a copy of the Yurok Tribe MLPA and Marine Resource Plan, go to:http://www.yuroktribe.org/government/tribalattorney/documents/2011.08.29_YurokTribe-FactualRecordtoCAFGC.pdf.
MLPA Initiative Background
The Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) is a landmark 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, 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 and chaired the task force for the South 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. (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/06/24/18716180.php)
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).