Saturday, June 27, 2009

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)

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