Special Interests Taking Over Marine Life Protection Act Implementation Process

Latest MLPA decision side-steps established Blue Ribbon Task Force guidelines



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SACRAMENTO, CA - June 1, 2009 – It’s becoming increasingly evident that the interests of ocean closure advocates are taking precedence in California’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) implementation process which threaten to overshadow democratic process, the state’s budget crisis, and the lack of scientific data needed to designate effective and efficient marine protected areas (MPAs) off California’s coast.

The Partnership for Sustainable Oceans (PSO) – the organization that represents recreational fishing and boating interests, along with other organizations – has expressed its strong disappointment to the MLPA staff and the Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) regarding the manner in which the MLPA implementation process is progressing and which could restrict or close a significant area of California’s coastal waters to public access, which primarily means recreational fishing.

“There is no doubt that we support the state’s intentions to protect essential habitat and maintain healthy fish populations,” said Patty Doerr, Ocean Resource Policy director for the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), a PSO member. “However, we question the wisdom of establishing no-fishing zones that cannot be scientifically monitored and enforced, given the state’s financial crisis, when the result will be the loss of jobs in both the public and private sectors.”

It was disclosed last week that proposal "C," the most extreme marine protected areas (MPAs) closure plan, was allowed to move forward as one of seven alternatives, despite being soundly defeated in voting held at the end of the Regional Stakeholder Group (RSG) meeting held May 19-21 in Santa Ana. In a reversal of its own guidelines, the MLPA staff allowed seven proposals, of which “C” is one, to move forward to the BRTF and the Science Advisory Team for their consideration despite the staff’s guidance to the RSG that only six could move forward. Proposal C is supported by the closure advocates and garnered the support of less than half the RSG during its vote last week.

“Recreational fishing and boating supporters are understandably outraged over last week’s decision. Despite having support from less than half of the RSG members, MLPA Executive Director Ken Wiseman and the MLPA staff moved the proposal forward despite their ground rules that only proposals with strong cross-interest support would be left on the table for consideration,” said Steve Fukuto, president of United Anglers of Southern California and a PSO member.

“The PSO has repeatedly expressed our concerns regarding the lack of scientific data and guidance from the BRTF, as well as the blind adherence to an arbitrary timeline,” continued Doerr. “The blatant bias shown after the most recent RSG meeting is the latest example of how the South Coast process has gone awry, and it is also the incident of greatest concern for the recreational fishing and boating communities.”

“As the process of deciding what portions of California's coastline will be designated as MPAs, and therefore off-limits for recreational fishing, the parameters keep changing.” Doerr further said, "Repeated requests from the PSO and numerous other stakeholder groups to slow down the implementation process and address the very real issues of future funding and better scientific data, have fallen on deaf ears."

Based on this latest development, speculation about the authenticity of the MLPA process is again at the forefront. Gordon Robertson, ASA vice president concluded, "This most recent incident regarding the South Coast MPA proposals only serves to further expose the bias toward the preservationist community exhibited throughout the entire South Coast process. It is now apparent that the MLPA Initiative is not returning the good-faith efforts of the angling and boating communities and others that have worked diligently to play by the rules. We call on California’s legislature to address this issue and put the brakes on the MLPA implementation process.”

For more information about the MLPA and the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans and to sign up for action alerts, go to www.keepamericafishing.org/california.

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