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

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