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.