Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How Effective Are Marine Protected Areas?

Evidence about Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) is mixed (see good summaries here and here and here).  MLPA assumes that reserves of a certain size and spacing will cause regeneration of all California intertidal and marine areas.  According to a study published in Environmental Management (2008) 41:599–612) human visitation is more significant than harvesting in intertidal habitats.  Unfortunately, MLPA does nothing to prevent the intensity of human activity.

"At sites subjected to higher levels of human visitation, mussel populations were significantly lower than low-use sites. Comparisons of mussel populations inside and outside of regulatory MRs [marine reserves] revealed no consistent pattern suggesting that California no-take regulatory reserves may have limited effectiveness in protecting mussel communities. In areas where many people visit intertidal habitats for purposes other than collecting, many organisms will be affected by trampling, turning of rocks, and handling. In these cases, effective protection of rocky intertidal communities requires an approach that goes beyond the singular focus on collecting to reduce the full suite of impacts."

See Jayson R. Smith, Peggy Fong, Richard F. Ambrose: "The Impacts of Human Visitation on Mussel Bed Communities Along the California Coast: Are Regulatory Marine Reserves Effective in Protecting These Communities?"

Friday, November 20, 2009

California Fisheries Health

In the Science Magazine article Rebuilding Global Fisheries (July 2009), Boris Worm, Ray Hilborn et al conclude:
  1. California and New Zealand have the least over-exploited fisheries in the world.
  2. Existing fisheries management tools (e.g., catch limits) are sufficient to rebuild these fisheries without MPAs.
  3. Closure via marine protected areas will result in increased abundance of species with low mobility, rather than the larval dispersal panacea touted by MLPA.
Here's a video synopsis of the study.

Ray Hilborn:  “Much of the motivation for the MLPA was concern about the state of the groundfish stocks – there is clear evidence that these can be rebuilt without MPAs resulting from the MLPA that have only recently begun to be implemented.”  ... “The benefits of the MPAs established under the MLPA will be primarily to have some areas of high abundance of species with limited mobility.”

This is not the first time that Dr. Hilborn has criticized the MLPA process. In 2006, Hilborn and others reviewed the MLPA model for size and spacing of MPAs and found: “It appears to us that those prescriptions were pulled out of the air, based on intuitive reasoning.”

Click the graphic for the dataset from the study:

What is most interesting about this study is that it brings together for the first time two scientific perspectives: 

"In large part, the Worm-Hilborn clash reflects the different worldviews of the two disciplines. Fisheries scientists see marine ecosystems as a resource to be used, whereas marine ecologists usually envision pristine, unfished habitats as the ideal. 

"The two fields also tend to rely on different types of data. In their 2006 Science paper, Worm and his co-authors were trying to look at the global impacts of marine biodiversity loss. For that, they had to rely on the most comprehensive kind of data available: the tonnages that countries report are caught. Fisheries scientists, by contrast, tend to look at individual stocks of fish and typically use sparser data gathered by scientific means; they consider catch reports unreliable."

D├ętente in the Fisheries War, 10 April 2009 Volume 324 Science Magazine

MLPAI Steamroller Rolls Over Southern California

Reality hits hard

Paul Lebowitz for Western Outdoor News
Monday, November 16, 2009

Paul Lebowitz was among the South Region stakeholders. This is a final MLPA Log for WON now that the fate of SoCal closures in the hands of the Fish and Game Commission.

When the MLPAI Blue Ribbon Task Force finished their sausage making last week, I was nauseous from the bitter taste of this vile recipe. The disgusting ingredients included some of the most obvious agenda-driven science yet seen during the stomach-churning ordeal of the South Coast process.

Jolly SAT pirate Steve Murray surely lined up plenty of grant money booty for himself and his colleagues with the overnight invention of a new guideline. Habitat quality – there’s no definition, but as Murray showed for all the world to see, in place after place it favored maps drawn by the close-it-off-camp.

Maybe their maps were better? You couldn’t think so if you were forced to sit silently through the glaring inconsistencies. Precious and rare deep rock off Malibu was worthless at Del Mar. Persistent kelp at Pt Loma suddenly turned into garbage. Only the equivalently classified persistent kelp (an earlier SAT surprise) at La Jolla would suffice. The bias was never clearer.

Dessert was a heaping help of betrayal, as an eleventh hour backroom political deal between Los Angeles County Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Don Knabe delivered every inch of Malibu’s Point Dume to the radical environmentalists, Palos Verdes’ Rocky Point standing in for a wretched thirty pieces of silver.

I suppose they were inspired by the MLPAI contrived ‘cross-interest’ machinations that came out of RSG Workgroup 1, the first place this tit for tat popped into public view. It didn’t matter in the least that no recreational fishing group bought into it. A couple of commercial RSG reps sidled close enough to get some of the slime on themselves, but to their credit they eventually repudiated the trade-off.

Of course the Point Dume debacle was just the tip of the iceberg aimed at sinking much of Southern California’s fishing economy and lifestyle. Greater Laguna suffered the same fate, as the SAT and DFG ignored directives that should have prevented acceptance of a triangle shape aimed squarely at maximizing the shoreline hit. MPAs too small to count for conservation value but just right for serving special interests ended up all over the final closure map. Examples include Catalina’s Long Point, reputedly to protect black seabass (already protected and thus unnecessary and counter to MLPA guidelines), Santa Barbara’s Naples Reef (linked to shoreline development), and a significant chunk of northern La Jolla (another trophy for the NGOs).

In the end, only the location of the Palos Verdes closure and Isla Vista up north came from the fishing-friendly maps. Everything else was a straight-up smack-down, a clear signal the governor’s Task Force has nothing but contempt for grubby fishermen and honest hard-working folk. That the largest, most egregious coastal closures landed squarely on ritzy Malibu and chic and exclusive Laguna was no coincidence. Get thee gone, rabble!

Remember this, the fishing-preferred Proposal 2 was already a serious economic hit, one that offered just a fraction less in terms of conservation value and overall acreage at significantly reduced cost. Rather than select this option and go arm in arm to the Fish and Game Commission, the BRTF shoved their sausage down our throats.

I’m sad to say none of this was a surprise. That fishing interests would lose was obvious from day one. Sooner really, as most of us who fought this hopeless battle for fisheries were aware of Central California’s ugly prior MLPA history. Few of us harbored illusions that it would be any different down here. We only knew it would be worse if we sat on the sidelines.

Did our participation make any difference in this march to a predetermined outcome? Yes, it did. Take a look at the early proposals if you doubt me. The preservationist proposals started with an ‘Ocean Closed’ sign.

We fought a stubborn rear-guard action fueled by the army of kayak anglers and free divers who turned out every time we issued the call. Other groups weren’t so obvious, but played critical roles. And of course the solidarity among the RSG’s fishing representatives was remarkable to behold. Old arguments and jealousies were largely shelved for the duration.

Now that I’m finally free of the RSG, there’s no reason to bite my tongue. The Torquemadas who drove this process twisted and tortured it at will to reach their single-minded goals. Those just getting started with the MLPA in Northern California should take heed.

Base lines repeatedly shifted; the science bar was lifted ever higher and higher. Procedure changed mysteriously in the dark of night, without explanation. And I defy you to find much in the way of public debate between BRTF members. They didn’t have the stomach to do their dirty work in the light of day, preferring instead to hide behind closed doors.

Contempt for the public was palpable, demonstrated in the bullying ways of MLPAI Executive Director Ken Wiseman. Many anglers who stood up for themselves were hectored and harassed, treated dismissively. Twenty or thirty seconds of speaking time was the norm. The BRTF didn’t want to hear it. They had their minds made up. Why else would they order their public relations staffers to actively discourage attendance? That was an outrageous, anti-democratic topper that reveals the lie in the words “open and transparent process,” and it’s on the record.

What else should we expect when private money funds public policy? The MLPAI staff served their paymasters rather than the people of the state. The MLPA law itself would not be the problem if it were enforced as written. It’s supposed to cost the state $250,000 a year, not $25 million or more. Point the finger at those who hijacked it.

There’s much more I’d like to say, but I’ll close this series of columns written from the belly of the MLPA beast with heartfelt thanks to WON’s editors and publishers for their unwavering support over the past year and this message. There’s a long way yet to go before this drastic snatch of public resources is completed. The battle for an equitable outcome will continue at the Fish and Game Commission. As it stands today the deck is stacked 3-2 against us, but circumstances change quickly in politics. A vote can’t be assumed until it happens. Whether you’ve sat on the sidelines or are only just awakening to the threat, it’s time to get involved.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Underwater Yosemite

Editor (San Francisco Chronicle) –
Regarding “Fish and Game to vote on marine reserve network” (SF Chronicle, August 5): Who could deny that the “world's oceans seem in an unstoppable slide?” Who can argue with “underwater Yosemites?” Surprise! The “preferred proposal” was opposed by most people on the coast. Here’s why.
* The Kashia Rancheria and other North Coast Indian tribes because it locks them out of their traditional use of the sea.
* A large majority of businesses and citizens from Pt. Arena to Fort Ross because it devastates their economy and will close the port of Pt. Arena.
* The California Fish and Game Wardens Association because they know an unenforceable law encourages disregard for all laws.
* Coastal land stewards because they recognize a “paper park” when they see one.

Do all these people care more about their selfish interests than the oceans? No. It is a classic battle between locals with deep knowledge and concern for the environment and national interest groups with a well-funded agenda. Not many people know that the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) is an experiment in privately-funded governance. Back in 2004, power players in Sacramento realized that the state couldn’t afford to set the rules for reserves. So instead, a law firm in Sacramento is channeling millions from the Packard and Moore foundations to set up the reserves. Local voices do not stand a chance.

Contrary to the propaganda, fisheries scientists and marine ecologists openly disagree about marine reserves. A simple story helps make the point. Red abalone (Haliotis rufescens) is a success story on the North Coast. You can take only three per day, 24 a year. As a result, the red abalone is plentiful at depth from Fort Ross north. But now, marine reserves will close half of the areas open to the public for abalone. More people concentrated in fewer areas will quickly empty the shellfish from remaining open areas and force their closure as well. Fisheries science created this success story; the proposed marine reserves destroy it. Is this an isolated case? Unfortunately not, because the “science” on which this proposal is based consists of simplistic computer models with little local data. Public input has been tightly controlled by these models to ensure a predetermined result.

In Gualala, we were bulldozed. But there is a “seaweed rebellion” brewing in Fort Bragg.

Walter Ratcliff
Gualala, CA

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Game Wardens to MLPA: Stop!

July 9, 2009

Ms. Cindy Gustafson, President
California Fish and Game Commission
1416 Ninth Street
P.O. Box 944209
Sacramento, CA 94244-2090

Dear Ms. Gustafson:
Thanks to you and the Commission for recognizing the ongoing plight of Wardens in California. We greatly appreciate the tremendous support from those who understand and value California's wildlife and its susceptibility. Poaching and environmental law violations are an everyday occurrence as we continue to provide the ''thin green line" of protection in spite of the ongoing statewide budget crisis and a requirement for taking three furlough days each month. With only a little over 200 field game wardens, the furloughs create a situation where we loose the time equivalent to 28 wardens. We are well aware that a number of state law enforcement agencies have not been furloughed. We have met with cabinet level personnel, but no one can explain how some are exempt and some are not. It is clear so far, that the protection of wildlife resources and ensuring public safety do not appear important enough to remove furloughs from wardens.

We understand the need for the Commission to move forward with mandates but must request that you delay or suspend any and all mandates that place additional responsibilities on wardens until such time that furlough and staffing issues are addressed. A prime example of this is the ongoing work by the Commission related to the Marine Life Protection Act and the designation of protected areas along our coastline. Insofar as legally possible, please delay any further designations of such areas. With the furloughs in place, we now have field level staffing that provides us about 175 field level wardens. We simply cannot effectively enforce additional mandates without some relief from furlough issues that may continue through June, 2010.

We appreciate and support the difficult and conscientious work the Commission must consider. We look forward to your help.

Todd Tognazzini, President
P.O. Box 2785
Paso Robles, CA 93447-2785

Saturday, June 27, 2009

View from the Coast Highway

May 11, 2009 Arch Richardson

For the last 3 mornings I have sat on the hill above Highway 1 watching the same cars northbound before the tide and then again going south after the tide. Where are they going? North for abalone at some open public area: Stornetta Ranch, Mote Creek, maybe The Sea Ranch. County Parks do no open their gates until after sunrise. Hundreds of cars storming north. Cate and her family watched the same migration at Sail Rock, near Saunders Reef in Mendocino County. It was a windy and rough ocean, not even a boat from the south came north. And they will be back again for the big -1.9 tides in late May and again in late June.

I looked at our ranch: less than 8 people in three days (none this morning). Only 9 abalone were taken in 3 days, a couple sea trout, a handful of cabezon and 20 lbs of mussels. What impact do we have on the resources? Very little if any. What good is it to close these private lands? The locals who own land here on the coast are not the problem of diminishing resources. It is outsiders. How do we save the resources by punishing the locals who have been the stewards of the ocean and the ecosystem for years? The migration of people will still appear here on the coast to rape it. What are they losing with MLPA? Not much. Without closing some of the public access trails, nothing changes.

Come look for yourself at the parking lots and key access areas. You will see first hand what is happening to the habitat. Once the "Preferred Alternative" is put in place, the overload begins. New regulations must follow ASAP to lower the daily and seasonal limit, shorten the season, restrict gear type, etc. More enforcement personal are needed to patrol and enforce both open and closed areas. Illegal commercial take of abalone will flourish.

I’m at a loss for what really is going to happen. But I do know that this is a slap in the face for those of us that have lived here for generations.

The 5 Richardson families, 5 ranches, 4.6 mile of coastline, 130+ years heritage

Ft. Bragg Gets Organized

June 5, 2009

Mike Chrisman, Secretary
California Natural Resources Agency
1416 9th Street, #1311
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: Marine Life Protection Act Initiative Process for the North Coast Study Region

Dear Secretary Chrisman,

This letter represents a consensus view of interested local government agencies, tribes and port authorities within the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative North Coast Study Region. It is our understanding that the MLPA Initiative will begin our Marine Protected Area (MPA) planning process in late 2009 or early 2010. We are united in our commitment to assist the State with MLPA implementation. However, as described below, we have several concerns regarding the proposed MPA planning process. We are anxious to discuss these concerns with you and collectively determine how we can improve the process for the North Coast Study Region.

1. Insufficient data are available for science-based North Coast MPA design. We have reviewed the existing ecological data and find it inadequate for undertaking a scientifically sound MPA design process in the North Coast Study Region. Despite our attempts, we have been unsuccessful in securing funds to collect needed data. Recently, partners throughout the North Coast Study Region developed a research proposal that would gather information essential to your effort. The proposal was submitted for funding to the Ocean Protection Council but was not funded. A comparison of data used by the MLPA Initiative verses other preserve design efforts would reveal that the MLPA Initiative has a low data standard which we consider inadequate as a basis for MPA design in our region. We therefore believe that implementation of the MLPA Initiative in our region should be delayed until critical data gaps are filled. In collaboration with local fishermen and scientists we can help secure funding and conduct the necessary research to support MPA planning.

2. Implementation of MPAs without secured funds for monitoring, adaptive management and enforcement is inconsistent with the law. The MLPA provides a sound conservation framework by calling for ". . . monitoring, research, and evaluation at selected sites to facilitate adaptive management of MPAs . . ." In addition, one of the specific goals of the MLPA is "to ensure that California's MPAs have clearly defined objectives, effective management measures, and adequate enforcement, and are based on sound scientific guidelines." The MLPA Master Plan estimates the cost of statewide MLPA implementation at $20 - 60 million dollars annually. The State’s ability to fund this effort is highly uncertain, especially given the current fiscal crisis and recent news that there is insufficient funding to manage the State Park system. Although private partners may contribute funds, a secure funding mechanism for long term monitoring, adaptive management and enforcement has not been identified.

In the North Coast Study Region, the MLPA Initiative is posed to design MPAs based upon coarse and insufficient data with no realistic expectation for future monitoring, adaptive management or enforcement absent a reliable funding source. The potential economic and ecological consequences of such an effort are significant and unacceptable for our region. MLPA implementation should not occur here until secure funds are available.

3. Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF). To date, only one member of the BRTF has actively participated in fisheries and none have had experience developing fishing regulations. This is a concern because a major component of MLPA implementation involves regulation of fishing activities. The BRTF should be composed of people from the Study Region who understand and represent local interests. If a BRTF is utilized in the North Coast Study Region, we strongly believe that the members must include a balanced representation of local interests, which includes fishing.

4. MPA Planning needs to consider existing fishery management and proposed ocean uses. The widespread curtailment of fishing effort due to existing fishing regulations needs to be explicitly considered if further closures are pursued. Our area has suffered from severe closures which continue to provide ecological benefits and should therefore be a central consideration during the MLPA process. As an example, MPA planning needs to consider the Rockfish Conservation Area and the Klamath Management Zone, which constitute the most significant impact to fishing on the California coast. Additionally, wave power development may significantly constrain fishing access and should be considered in any proposal. Full consideration of the interrelationships between existing policies, current and future ocean uses, and MPA design will be a challenging process. Comprehensive dialogue will be necessary to ensure that existing regulatory impacts and progressive science methodologies are considered.

5. The MLPA Initiative must minimize economic impacts to the fishing community. Recreational and commercial fishing are proportionally more significant to our economy than in other regions. The State has a responsibility to ensure that MPAs do not compromise the short and long-term economic viability of North Coast fisheries. The MLPA Initiative has been deficient in this regard, as exemplified by proposed MPA designations on both sides of Point Arena Cove in the North Central Coast Study Region, which will have devastating impacts on the community of Point Arena. Beyond economic concerns, fish and fishing are a vital part of who we are and to impose non-science based closures could devastate our fishermen, dependent businesses and our coastal infrastructure.

6. Restriction of traditional fish and shellfish harvest by Native Americans. The North Central Coast MLPA process may eliminate traditional harvest of fish and shellfish by the Pomo Indians that spans centuries, if not millennia. Our North Coast Region has numerous indigenous Tribes that still reside in their ancestral territories and we find this precedent unacceptable.

Residents of our region, and we as their elected representatives, welcome efforts to maintain the health of coastal and ocean resources. However, for adequate implementation of the MLPA, the issues above must be resolved. We have always supported sound regulatory process. The limited entry programs initiated by the local fishing industry and the industry's strong objections to open seas gill netting are good examples. However, at this time, because of the cumulative regulatory impacts to our fishing economy, and the MLPA Initiative’s lack of scientific documentation and secured long-term funding, we respectfully request that our areas MPA planning process be postponed. With adequate resources and time, we will work proactively with the State to implement the MLPA. However, such an effort needs to be driven by sound science, not an arbitrary timeline. MLPA implementation should result in long term benefits to ecosystems and economies; we owe it to our communities to spend the time and effort required for a scientific and comprehensive MPA planning process.

We would like to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss MLPA implementation for the North Coast Study Region. Please send correspondence to Adam Wagschal, Director of Conservation for the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District (PO Box 1030, Eureka CA, 95501:


Craig Bell and other civic leaders in Ft Bragg

Fisherman to Chrisman: Shame On You

Mr. Mike Chrisman
State of California Resources Agency
1416 Ninth Street
Suite 1311
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Mr. Chrisman, June 20, 2009

My name is Allan Jacobs. I am a 3rd generation Californian. My heritage includes subsistence hunting and fishing. I am a retired science and math teacher and a retired commercial fisherman. I just received a copy of your letter to Cindy Gustafson, President of the California Fish and Game Commission dated June1, 2009. You stated that you were “…writing to clarify the Schwarzenegger Administration’s position on the implementation of California’s Marine Life Protection Act.” In a like fashion, I am writing to you to clarify the North Coast Citizens’ position on the implementation of the MLPA, because your letter suggests that you may not be clear on “…the wishes, needs, and desires of all those who enjoy these resources…” along the rural California coast.

Let’s take a moment to review more of the text from which I extracted the two quotes in my opening paragraph. You wrote “I am writing to clarify the Schwarzenegger Administration’s position on the implementation of California’s Marine Life Protection Act. Commentary among California Fish and Game Commission members during your May14 meeting suggests that some commissioners may not be clear on their charge to adopt a Marine Life Protection Program network of marine protected areas.” After reading this part of your letter I was reminded that the Commission’s web site also states their “charge” very nicely and it differs somewhat from your interpretation. It says in part: “The Commissioners’ ultimate decisions must reflect not only the biological needs of our fish and wildlife, but also the wishes, needs and desires of all those who enjoy these resources with the interest, understanding and involvement of everyone who appreciates our magnificent fish and wildlife resources. The California fish and Game Commission will continue along the path of sound and enlightened resource management.” It is clear to me that the commissioners would be derelict in their duties if they adopted any MPA proposal if there is evidence that it does not represent the “…the wishes, needs, and desires of all those who enjoy these resources…” along the rural California coast. Again, the key words necessary for the Commission’s decisions here are “…the wishes, needs, and desires of all those who enjoy these resources…” and not as you wrote, just because, “Hundreds of people have directly participated, tens of thousands of hours have been dedicated, and dozens of groups are committed to making this process a success.” In addition, the Commissioners would be derelict if they adopted any MPA proposal that could not be enforced or monitored as required by legislation, for any reason, including a lack of funding. To do so would not be “… continuing along the path of sound and enlightened resource management.”
Further into your letter you wrote: “The Legislature was clear that the Fish and Game Commission’s charge is to adopt a final master plan and network of marine protected areas to be managed through the Marine Life Protection Program within the California Department of Fish and Game. The issue of MLPA funding is beyond the Commission’s scope and is more appropriately the purview of the Governor and Legislature, where budgeting decisions are made.” (Or, I might add that based upon recent history: where budgeting decisions are not made.) I submit to you that delaying any further adoptions of MPAs is exactly the most responsible step the Commissioner’s can make. Your demand that they move blindly on to adopt MPAs just because there was adequate funding to write them on paper, but obviously not enough for enforcement or monitoring them – as legislated - is a completely irresponsible expectation. Shame on you for pressuring the Commissioners to shirk their greater responsibility to the Citizens of the California just to please some special interest groups who apparently lack the patience and maturity to make sure the current proposals are the best choices and represent “…the wishes, needs, and desires of all those who enjoy these resources…” along the rural California coast where they will have the greatest impact, and that they are adequately funded in order to continue “…along the path of sound and enlightened resource management.”
My final point concerns your comment: “Ultimately, those who will most directly benefit in the long term from a healthy ocean, namely recreational and commercial fishermen, are being hurt by those few who seem opposed to the MLPA Initiative.” This statement shows that you have missed the most important point of all. You need to go back and listen to what is being said by myself and others at all of the meetings (including the May 14th meeting you referred to in your letter). Allow me to say it again now as clearly and carefully as possible. The vast majority of “…those few [of us] who seem opposed to the MLPA Initiative” are the recreational, commercial and subsistence fishermen. Oh, and by the way, we are not few in number. In Northern California and the more rural areas we are the majority. We are well aware of the necessity of responsible regulations and MPAs. We strongly believe that our chosen lifestyle, including the gathering of local sea food in a sustainable fashion, is a legitimate right that we wish to continue. We subscribe to the philosophy that humans can continue to exist harmoniously as active, participating members of our local ecosystem. We don’t disagree with the intent of the MLPA, as legislated. We don’t disagree with the need to use good science in forming MPAs. What continues to cause us to react strongly and negatively is:
1. Some proposals, as written on paper, are excessive to the point of being punitive. For example the IPA proposal closes over one third of Subregion 1 of the NCCSR, and what the IPA proposes for the Point Arena area has become the classic example of the worst case scenario of MLPA applications.
2. Some proposals, as written on paper, are not based on the best current science.
3. Some of the guidelines of the masterplan are not based upon the best current science.
4. Some proposals do not follow the guidelines of the masterplan.
5. Some proposals will do more ecological harm than good.
6. The arrogance of many of those in positions of authority and power, and their lack of willingness to work openly and cooperatively with the rural communities, has alienated most locals.
The MLPAI process has been advertised as being a transparent “…process that fosters inclusiveness and progress.” However, for us the MLPAI process has too often been not readily available or not accessible to the general public and could more aptly be described as “invisible” and “fostering exclusiveness.” We have tried hard to work within the system and participate in every stage of the MLPA process. At times we felt as if we were being considered. At other times we felt as if our rights and the wishes, needs, and desires of the locals who enjoy our marine resources were being completely ignored. Your June 1, 2009 letter was another of these occasions when we felt our rights were being violated. It is a shining example of governmental arrogance and ignorance of the true “…wishes, needs, and desires of all those who enjoy these resources…”
Having our concerns heard and considered by the Fish and Game Commission is nearly our last hope for a fair and equitable solution for the North Central Coast Region. It is also an important step for setting the course in preparation for the MLPAI process on the North Coast Region. Do not make matters worse by attempting to bully the Commissioners into making a hasty, poor decision.


Allan Jacobs
Point Arena, Ca

Vivian Helliwell Resigns MLPA Statewide Interest Group

June 25, 2009

Dear Mr. Ken Wiseman, Mr. Don Benninghoven, and Ms. Melissa Miller-Henson

I find that I must withdraw from participation in the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Statewide Interests Group (SIG). I am realizing late that apparently the invitation to participate in the SIG comes accompanied by an expectation to act as a communication link or “liaison.” Although I did wish to stay informed and involved, I am unable to appreciate the dubious honor of encouraging fishermen to participate in the MLPA process for the following reasons:

--The MLPA process is neither fair nor transparent.
--The MPAs (Marine Protected Areas) as proposed are not necessary or effective.
--The MLPA process draws tremendous State and community resources at a time when they could be better used for other things.
--I have enough unpaid jobs.
--My work with the fishing community in salmon recovery and restoration may be compromised by association with the flawed MLPA process, under which, in every case, fishermen and fishing communities lose—it is only a matter of how much they lose--for speculative future benefit.

To elaborate:
I work mainly as an advocate for restoring salmon populations, salmon habitat, and the salmon fishery. The MLPA and the Marine Protected (study) Areas do nothing for salmon, and, in fact, draw seventeen Department of Fish and Game staff and huge community resources away from salmon recovery issues at a critical time.

The MPAs will require a tremendous amount of State funding into the future at a time when the State is closing State Parks and losing the salmon. There are currently only 193 Fish and Game Wardens for the whole state, which encourages large scale poaching in reserves while limiting legitimate public uses. The Department of Fish and Game’s Marine Management News indicates that many convicted poachers are multiple, repeat offenders.

The letter I received by email dated 2/5/09 “congratulating” me for being part of the Statewide Interest Groups phone conference calls implies that I will “help spread the word so that different viewpoints are reached.” While I did wish to remain informed through the phone calls, I am not the right person to reach out to the community and encourage participation. Fishermen see it as advocacy for the process, which I am not willing to do. Therefore, I am unwilling to participate further in the SIG. However, Mr. Aaron Newman, President of Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association, has shown an interest in providing such a link. He is in a more appropriate position to do so.

I am not convinced of the necessity for creating these marine study areas, which is not addressed in this process. Under this circumstance, the losses of the already closed fishing areas, as well as the potentially closed fishing areas, more than being economic, are too personal for me.

The Fish and Game Commission has no authority to protect from extractive uses other than directed fishing. Any supposed protection from federal extractive uses is trumped by the Federal Powers Act. This makes the MPAs essentially additional layers of fisheries management that are not needed, at tremendous cost and no apparent benefit.

There is no way to adequately balance the compensation of those who are salaried to attend and those who are not, even with the stipend.

The use of small, invitational meetings to “shape the process” causes divisiveness in communities. Though perhaps considered expedient in the short term, this method causes State business to be carried out in secret, counter to the stated goals of being transparent and public.

The arbitrary behavior of the Initiative team was exemplified recently by nullifying a Stakeholder Working Group vote that eliminated one of the proposals. Arbitrary powers of authority surely demoralize the participants, especially the volunteer ones and those whose economic life support systems are at stake. What is the value of the Stakeholder Group vote?

Isolation and disenfranchisement of minority views occur at Stakeholder Groups using the “Delphi technique.” Instead of working toward agreements, individuals whose viewpoints are outnumbered are put into breakout groups where their views are nullified in the outcome. What then is the value of the Stakeholder vote?

Additionally, I have no confidence in Mike Chrisman’s appointed Panel or the Governor’s appointed Fish and Game Commission to fairly arbitrate areas of disagreement between fishermen and marine research interests. There are too many marine research paychecks on the Panel and on the Commission from organizations supported by the same foundations that want MPAs, and no fishermen. Conflicts of interest in the decision-making bodies also negate the Stakeholder vote.

This list is only a sample of the irksome juxtapositions that make it difficult for me to be involved in the MLPA process. No doubt people need to get in there and fight for what can be salvaged, but I am not the right person to be in the middle of it.

Thank you for taking me off the Statewide Interests Group email list.


Vivian Helliwell
Watershed Conservation Director
Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA)

Of taxis and abalone...

Spotted heading South on Highway 1 passing Sail Rock Ranch on a recent low tide morning: a San Francisco Taxicab with fare. Does the resale value of abalone now make the trip cost effective? At least the cab was a Prius.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Law of Unintended Consequences

Arch's post below points to an unforeseen consequence of the so-called "Integrated Preferred Alternative" (IPA). When the state reduces access but changes nothing else, the intensity of abalone take in the few areas that remain open increases. More people, fewer abalone, until open areas are depleted.

Abalone depend on clusters to procreate. Larval dispersal is very local: they tend to stay close to their home coves.

A reasonable person can predict the next step. The abalone population will crash in the areas that remain open. To bring them back, the area will be closed or take limits will be substantially reduced. Fewer open areas add pressure and a negative spiral ensues.

If the IPA is ratified by the Fish and Game Commission, an immediate reduction in abalone take is called for to prevent a crash in the abalone population. Since the consequence is foreseeable now, F&GC should take action in parallel with Marine Protected Area closures.

View from the North Coast

Dan Richards -
For the last 3 mornings I have sat on the hill above Highway 1 watching the ranch and enjoying the view. Watching the same cars, 3 days in a row northbound before the tide and then again watching them go south after the tide. Where are they going? North for abalone at some open to the public area: Stornetta Ranch, Mote Creek and maybe The Sea Ranch, except the County Parks do no open the gates until after sunrise. Hundreds of cars storming north. Cate and her family sat and watched the same migration at their ranch near Sail Rock, below Saunders Reef in Mendocino County. It was a windy and rough ocean, not even a boat from the South came North. And they will be back again for the big -1.9 tides in late May and again in late June.

Then I looked at our ranch, less than 8 people in three days (none this morning). Only 9 abalone were taken in 3 days, a couple sea trout and a handful of cabazon and 20 lbs of mussels. What impact do we have on the resources. Very little if any. What good is it to close these private lands? The locals that own lands here on the coast are not the problem of diminishing resources. It is outsiders. How do we save the resources by punishing the private landowners who have been the stewards of the ocean and the ecosystem for years? We have done nothing wrong for 130 years, but we are the ones who lose if the IPA is implemented. The migration of people will still appear here on the coast to rape it. What are they losing? At this time not much of anything. So without closing some of the public access trails (The Sea Ranch/2XA) nothing changes. If 2XA is adopted, the ecosystem gains by having a longer stretch of coastline protected by The Sea Ranch and the Richardson family. And the Sonoma County Park access trails are already in place for enjoyment and study of an SMR, unlike private lands which don’t have trails and you don’t even know if you can access yet…or ever.

And now that brings us to the cost factor. You and Comm. Kellogg have the right idea. Just send it back to the state for their real opinion of the cost for the future. I don’t think this will happen, so we will just have to guess. With the present budget how it is and prop 84 in limbo, where will it come from? As the state is broke and for how may more years will it be broke? Will the outside interests still be there in years to come…or will they take it over from the state. What would happen if the state dropped all funding and the outside organizations took control? Is this legal? Would the Fish and Game still have a say in what goes on? Will it really cost $60 million a year as I have read about?

Before any action is taken by the Commission I think it is advisable that you all come take a look at our coast on a major abalone low tide. Either in person or have F&G personal take pictures of the parking lots and coastline in key access areas. You will see first hand what is happening to our resources. Once the process is put into place, and it doesn’t really mater which one, the overload will begin. New regulations must follow ASAP…lowering the daily and seasonal limit, shortening the season, restricting the gear type…boats should go!!! More enforcement personnel is needed to patrol and enforce both open and closed areas. As the landowners will not be keeping an open eye any longer. Cal-Tip will have to put in more lines. The illegal activity, commercial take of abalone will flourish under these or any changes.

I’m at a loss for what really is going to and will happen, it is a slap in the faces for those of us that have lived here for generations. If anything does happen I sure hope that 2XA is the “chosen one” and we deal with the financial problems as they arise. See you on the 14th and let’s hope all goes well. As my family and the people of Sub-regions 1 & 2 can only live with 2XA. It doesn’t matter what “she” says…It was the popular and supported proposal in this area…2XA!!!

Arch Richardson

The 5 Richardson families, 5 ranches, 4.6 mile of coastline, 130+ years heritage

The thousands on the coast that support 2XA

Friday, February 13, 2009

Pt. Arena City Council Petitions F&G Commission

January 22, 2009

California Fish and Game Commission

1416 Ninth Street

PO Box 944209

Sacramento, CA 94244-2090

Attention: Richard B. Rogers

Cindy Gustafson

Jim Kellogg

Michael Sutton

Daniel Richards

Dear Commissioners,

As we have previously stated,

  • We the City Council of Point Arena, speaking on behalf of our citizens and members of the surrounding community, value our Municipal Pier as a vital part of the City and as an access point for recreational and commercial boating and hope that the final Marine Protected Areas will permit continued boating operations, both for recreational users and the professionals that constitute our tiny fleet.
  • Many members of our community, including a number of particularly dedicated sport and professional fishermen, have been diligently involved in the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) process and have advocated for those alternatives that appeared at each stage of the process which best achieved both the goals of the MLPA and also reduced the impact on socioeconomics, fishing tradition, heritage and safety.

At this point, as the Blue Ribbon Task Force sets forth before the California Department of Fish and Game yet another array of options - 1-3, 2XA, 4, an Integrated Preferred Alternative (IPA) which combines elements of the first three and No Action - the City of Point Arena continues to favor Proposal 2XA for reasons including:

1. Proposal 2XA protects 18.5% of the coastline from Alder Creek to Pigeon Point, the same amount of protected areas as the new Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) in the Central Coast region. What more does our remote and less populated coast need to protect its resources from?

2. Socioeconomic impact is not a consideration in the environmental impact report that is currently being prepared by the Department of Fish and Game, but it matters gravely to us. Reduced fishing opportunities have a direct impact on our already strained economy. 2/XA places one MPA near Point Arena whereas the preferred alternative option has 3 MPA areas to the north and south of Arena Cove. We believe there will be a negative impact resulting from increased fishing pressure in the open area in front of the Cove.

3. Sea Lion Island is unique. For a long time access from shore was limited to the Stornetta family and their guests, therefore harvest from the shore was minimal. However, be aware of the fact that it has been a favorite destination of recreational dive boats from the pier over the last 15 years! Sea Lion Island is also unique in that the inside cove is almost landlocked and therefore Abalone can’t easily migrate there. If left open to Abalone harvest, it will be part of the other harvest locations and because of increased effort needed to get the mollusks, popularity will subside. If closed to Sea Urchin fishing and Abalone diving it will still take a long time to reach its pre-BLM population and when it does it will tempt any poacher due to the easy access and monitoring of arriving cars on lighthouse road. Food is not plentiful in this cove and water movement is nothing compared to the south side of Arena Cove where the winter 07/08 storms twice deposited hundreds of Abalone. Healthy Abalone populations are found everywhere in our area just outside of free diving range and the fishery is very well managed with a yearly take of 24 Abs per person and a daily limit of 3 as well as a size limit and limited season. Why support a special closure in an area that is easily studied but is not representative of the other harvest locations?

4. Proposal 2/XA managed to come up with a solution for the Sea Ranch and Stewarts Point area that we think is fair to all interests. This design balances issues of preservation, private land, private land with public access, and fishing interests. The claim that it has wide support is well founded.

In addition, knowing that the BRTF deliberated at its April 22-23 meeting and recognized that the four proposals (1-3, 2XA, IPA, and 4) all generally met the science of the master plan for the MPAs, the City of Point Arena City Council, speaking on behalf of our citizens and members of the surrounding community, urges in the strongest possible terms that, should the IPA be chosen, the following changes be implemented in the IPA:

While the size and location of the Point Arena SMCA in the IPA are agreeable, please return to the description of it in 2XA. Also, remove the Saunders Reef Conservation Area and remove Sea Lion Cove Conservation Area.

Yours respectfully,

Lauren Sinnott, Lloyd Cross, Brian Riehl, Laura Smith

City of Point Arena Councilmembers