Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

North Cost MLPA a very different tale

I'm interested in the completion of the Marine Protected Areas process - under the state's MLPA law - so I've been reading up on that lately. Here in Southern California, we've got protected areas proposed and under final consideration at the state's Fish and Game Commission. Further up the coast - the North Coast region is still hashing out where protections might go. It's kind of interesting to check in on their process.

As in southern California, the negotiated process has achieved a measure of local consensus. Trouble is, according to a report a few days ago in the Eureka Times-Standard, state biologists aren't impressed with what they've come up with:

The proposal has unachievable goals, scientific shortcomings and unenforceable provisions, Fish and Game marine biologist Rebecca Studebaker said, and the 17 marine protected areas won't meet the requirements of state law without substantial changes.

It was the first showing of the state's position on the proposal developed by more than two dozen fishermen, environmentalists, tribes and seafood gatherers over months of meetings and work. The proposal has been nearly universally supportedlocally, despite the expected economic and social effects of the Marine Life Protection Act.

”These are unable to fulfill the intended purpose of the MLPA,” Studebaker said.

An economic study of the impacts of the MLPA found the commerical fishery there could take a 3 percent hit. Commercial fishing operations say they could handle that. But maybe nothing more.

In a lot of ways, it's the opposite of our South Coast: it's sparsely populated, with a smaller diversity of interests, though a specific concern raised by native tribes:

The task force also developed language meant to address traditional tribal uses in marineprotected areas.

Throughout the process, North Coast tribes have held that the state cannot legally regulate such uses, while Fish and Game has said it can't exempt any particular group from the restrictions. A legislative remedy will be needed to correct the problem, but the task force agreed to a motion that signals the intent to create shoreline areas open to traditional tribal uses once the legal issue is resolved by the state.

The North Coast region stakeholders used a different strategy than other places: unity. They decided to hang together. Apparently everybody's on board with the plan, even if the state isn't. "Three counties, 10 coastal cities, the Shelter Cove Resort Improvement District, the Harbor District and the Crescent City Harbor District" told the Blue Ribbon Task Force they liked what they saw. So it's going forward, albeit with an alternate proposal that would address the concerns of fish and game staffers.  

The state won't settle on a final plan up north till next year.

Our process will happen sooner. We never got the kind of consensus the North Coast did. In fact it seems like everybody's still disgruntled about how it turned out. But I wonder if this kind of experience the North Coasters had would have been better or worse in the minds of South Coasters?