Thursday, January 22, 2009

Schwarzenegger Freezes Funding for MLPA-Related Activities Due to State Budget Crisis

SACRAMENTO, CA, January 22, 2009 – Governor Schwarzenegger’s December 19, 2008 Executive Order (S-16-08), designed to help prevent a state budget shortfall, suspended indefinitely funding for essential Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) oversight initiatives. The budget cuts have created concern among stakeholders that, with a loss of funding, critical scientific and enforcement safeguards in newly created marine protected areas (MPAs) may unnecessarily restrict recreational angling or prohibit it entirely.

Proposed cutbacks related to the MLPA implementation total more than $6,756,000. This does not include work stoppages or potential furloughs or cutbacks within the Department of Fish and Game itself. In response, the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans (PSO) recently sent a letter to the governor urging him to consider the impact of such funding restrictions on the effectiveness of the implementation process and the impacts on anglers, boaters and local economies.

The California Department of Finance has released a 161-page, 5,300-item list of public works projects that will be suspended or delayed indefinitely because of the state's cash crunch which can be found on the following Website:

“The MLPA is supposed to be a science-based initiative, and with the current budget crisis in California, that will no longer be the case,” said Gordon Robertson, vice president of the American Sportfishing Association and a member of the PSO, a coalition of angling and boating groups. “Without funding, the MPA review process will lack basic enforcement safeguards. In addition, without a scientific basis and required scientific baseline and monitoring data, there cannot be a proper five-year review and a chance for adaptive management, which is clearly prescribed in the statute.”

In order for the MLPA process to work, MPA management requires a scientific baseline, along with continued monitoring and enforcement. Absent such enforcement and scientific monitoring, future scientists will not have the data to analyze the success or failure of a marine protected area, significantly curtailing its utility.

“California cannot pick and choose which part of the statute to implement,” Robertson continued. “Without scientific monitoring and adequate enforcement, vast areas of the California coast will be closed to public access and public resources. In the end, such piecemeal implementation only costs California more jobs and more economic woes, with coastal communities taking the brunt of the economic hit.”

The PSO has requested a meeting with Governor Schwarzenegger to develop a strategy to ensure the future health of the marine environment without unnecessary restrictions on recreational anglers and boaters. To download a copy of the PSO letter to the governor, go to

PSO members include the American Sportfishing Association, Berkley Conservation Institute, Coastside Fishing Club, International Game Fish Association, Kayak Fishing Association of California, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Nor-Cal Kayak Anglers, Shimano Sport Fisheries Initiative, Southern California Marine Association and the Sportfishing Association of California.

Following are the entries to the "shut down or suspended" list for clarification along with the amount for the project and if it was active or just in the pipeline.
  • 3760 Santa Monica Bay survey of science needs relative to the Marine Life Protection Act Los Angeles $ 142,818 x was active
  • 3760 California Ocean Science Trust will develop and implement the California Marine Life Protection Act Monitoring Program Statewide $ 1,789,427 x was active
  • 3760 Initiate, manage and implement data acquisition for nearshore and offshore substrate and marine habitat mapping within the Central and North Central Coast Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) project areas Statewide $ 1,092,727 x was active
  • 3760 Funds are being used to conduct intertidal visual surveys for year two of the Central Coast Marine Protected Area Baseline Monitoring project (“the project”) for the Central Coast Study Region (CCSR) of the Marine Life Protection Act. Statewide $ 197,690 x was active
  • 3760 Funds are being used to conduct two distinct surveys to assess MPAs in the Central Coast Study Region (CCSR) of the Marine Life Protection Act: (1) submarine surveys of deep waters and (2) hook and line surveys of nearshore fish in cooperation with recreational fishermen. Statewide $ 1,180,190 x was in pipeline.
  • 3760 The grantee shall use these funds to conduct SCUBA surveys for year two of the Central Coast Marine Protected Area Baseline Monitoring project (“the project”) for the Central Coast Study Region (CCSR) of the Marine Life Protection Act. Statewide $ 325,870 x was in pipeline
  • 3760 Funds are being used to carry out the Central Coast ROV Monitoring Research Project Central Coast MPAs $ 843,729 x was active

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Partnership wants to slow marine protection process

In the third inning, MLPAI flaws seem to be catching up with it.

Ed Zieralski Union-Tribune Staff Writer
2:00 a.m. January 17, 2009

A group of recreational fishing interests has asked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to suspend the Marine Life Protection Act process until financially challenged California has the money to fund it properly.

The Partnership for Sustainable Oceans, which includes MLPA South Coast Region stakeholders such as Bob Fletcher of the Sportfishing Association of California, has sent a letter to Schwarzenegger requesting a meeting.

The partnership has “serious concerns regarding the availability of funds necessary to adequately implement the MLPA going forward,” the letter states. The PSO wants to meet with the governor to discuss a strategy to “ensure the health of our marine environment going forward.” The PSO's alternative to the MLPA process is to allow existing state and federal fisheries' management practices to play out and do the work for which they were funded and designed to do.

The PSO told the governor that when there's enough money to properly complete the MLPA, then the state should proceed.

The MLPA calls for the redesign of California's system of marine protected areas along its 1,200 miles of coastline. The Department of Fish and Game estimates that the state needs as much as $40 million a year to monitor, enforce and do public outreach with regard to these protected areas.

Lacking proper data, enforcement and funding, the PSO said, the MLPA process will result in permanent placement of marine protection acts that “either unnecessarily restrict recreational angling or prohibit it entirely.”

“Not only does that fail to comply with the requirements of the MLPA, it arbitrarily and unnecessarily creates additional economic hardship in California whose citizens are suffering terribly,” the PSO said.

Much of these financial struggles were evident at the two-day Marine Life Protection Act's regional stakeholder event in San Diego this week. The major theme of the meetings was haste.

No question the MLPA Initiative's paid facilitators are in a hurry-up offense the likes of which any NFL offensive coordinator would envy.

They talked fast and continually asked South Coast stakeholder members, especially the commercial and recreational fishermen, to talk to scientists and others “off-line.”

Even the scheduled scientist-presenters, armed with Power Point presentations and such, were shoved along.

The public was hustled in and out. Attorney Peter Flournoy, who represents commercial fishing interests, spoke during the public comment period and scolded the MLPA Initiative team for “steamrolling” the process.

The reason for the accelerated pace of the MLPA process is obvious now. The Marine Life Protection Act Initiative team has run out of allotted state money. It once again will put out its hand to its financial backers, the preservationist-backed Resources Legacy Fund Foundation. The RLFF has donated more than $18 million to keep the MLPA process afloat.

But now other funding for the MLPA process has dried up.

Projected state money will be wiped out in proposed budget cuts.

Schwarzenegger this week asked the Legislature to make more tough cuts to close a record $42 billion deficit forecast over the next 18 months.

All of this has gotten the attention of the Fish and Game Commission, which has the final approval on any marine protected areas. Commissioner Dan Richards of Upland has been the panel's common-sense voice in asking that any future marine protection acts be properly funded. He asked for the cost analysis by the Department of Fish and Game.

The recreational fisheries partnership isn't asking the MLPA initiative team to leave the playing field. It is asking Schwarzenegger to recognize this financial fiasco and headlong rush to fisheries management, and call a timeout to get the play right.

Ed Zieralski: (619) 293-1225;

Monday, January 19, 2009

Getting Real

Could it be that the lack of substantial data behind the MLPAI is going to stop enactment of closures?

Fish and Game Commissioner Dan Richards voiced substantial concerns about the MLPA closures, though he and others want to honor the public input to the process so far. He is one of two, possibly three, commissioners who are currently voicing this concern. His comments can be seen in
Western Outdoor News . In summary, the concerns are:
  • No science that supports abalone closure
  • Lack of state funds to enforce the law
Richards noted that the evaluation contracts for the Central Coast MLPA project had been put on hold due to lack of funding.