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; firstname.lastname@example.org