Reality hits hard
Paul Lebowitz for Western Outdoor News Monday, November 16, 2009
Paul Lebowitz was among the South Region stakeholders. This is a final MLPA Log for WON now that the fate of SoCal closures in the hands of the Fish and Game Commission.
When the MLPAI Blue Ribbon Task Force finished their sausage making last week, I was nauseous from the bitter taste of this vile recipe. The disgusting ingredients included some of the most obvious agenda-driven science yet seen during the stomach-churning ordeal of the South Coast process.
Jolly SAT pirate Steve Murray surely lined up plenty of grant money booty for himself and his colleagues with the overnight invention of a new guideline. Habitat quality – there’s no definition, but as Murray showed for all the world to see, in place after place it favored maps drawn by the close-it-off-camp.
Maybe their maps were better? You couldn’t think so if you were forced to sit silently through the glaring inconsistencies. Precious and rare deep rock off Malibu was worthless at Del Mar. Persistent kelp at Pt Loma suddenly turned into garbage. Only the equivalently classified persistent kelp (an earlier SAT surprise) at La Jolla would suffice. The bias was never clearer.
Dessert was a heaping help of betrayal, as an eleventh hour backroom political deal between Los Angeles County Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Don Knabe delivered every inch of Malibu’s Point Dume to the radical environmentalists, Palos Verdes’ Rocky Point standing in for a wretched thirty pieces of silver.
I suppose they were inspired by the MLPAI contrived ‘cross-interest’ machinations that came out of RSG Workgroup 1, the first place this tit for tat popped into public view. It didn’t matter in the least that no recreational fishing group bought into it. A couple of commercial RSG reps sidled close enough to get some of the slime on themselves, but to their credit they eventually repudiated the trade-off.
Of course the Point Dume debacle was just the tip of the iceberg aimed at sinking much of Southern California’s fishing economy and lifestyle. Greater Laguna suffered the same fate, as the SAT and DFG ignored directives that should have prevented acceptance of a triangle shape aimed squarely at maximizing the shoreline hit. MPAs too small to count for conservation value but just right for serving special interests ended up all over the final closure map. Examples include Catalina’s Long Point, reputedly to protect black seabass (already protected and thus unnecessary and counter to MLPA guidelines), Santa Barbara’s Naples Reef (linked to shoreline development), and a significant chunk of northern La Jolla (another trophy for the NGOs).
In the end, only the location of the Palos Verdes closure and Isla Vista up north came from the fishing-friendly maps. Everything else was a straight-up smack-down, a clear signal the governor’s Task Force has nothing but contempt for grubby fishermen and honest hard-working folk. That the largest, most egregious coastal closures landed squarely on ritzy Malibu and chic and exclusive Laguna was no coincidence. Get thee gone, rabble!
Remember this, the fishing-preferred Proposal 2 was already a serious economic hit, one that offered just a fraction less in terms of conservation value and overall acreage at significantly reduced cost. Rather than select this option and go arm in arm to the Fish and Game Commission, the BRTF shoved their sausage down our throats.
I’m sad to say none of this was a surprise. That fishing interests would lose was obvious from day one. Sooner really, as most of us who fought this hopeless battle for fisheries were aware of Central California’s ugly prior MLPA history. Few of us harbored illusions that it would be any different down here. We only knew it would be worse if we sat on the sidelines.
Did our participation make any difference in this march to a predetermined outcome? Yes, it did. Take a look at the early proposals if you doubt me. The preservationist proposals started with an ‘Ocean Closed’ sign.
We fought a stubborn rear-guard action fueled by the army of kayak anglers and free divers who turned out every time we issued the call. Other groups weren’t so obvious, but played critical roles. And of course the solidarity among the RSG’s fishing representatives was remarkable to behold. Old arguments and jealousies were largely shelved for the duration.
Now that I’m finally free of the RSG, there’s no reason to bite my tongue. The Torquemadas who drove this process twisted and tortured it at will to reach their single-minded goals. Those just getting started with the MLPA in Northern California should take heed.
Base lines repeatedly shifted; the science bar was lifted ever higher and higher. Procedure changed mysteriously in the dark of night, without explanation. And I defy you to find much in the way of public debate between BRTF members. They didn’t have the stomach to do their dirty work in the light of day, preferring instead to hide behind closed doors.
Contempt for the public was palpable, demonstrated in the bullying ways of MLPAI Executive Director Ken Wiseman. Many anglers who stood up for themselves were hectored and harassed, treated dismissively. Twenty or thirty seconds of speaking time was the norm. The BRTF didn’t want to hear it. They had their minds made up. Why else would they order their public relations staffers to actively discourage attendance? That was an outrageous, anti-democratic topper that reveals the lie in the words “open and transparent process,” and it’s on the record.
What else should we expect when private money funds public policy? The MLPAI staff served their paymasters rather than the people of the state. The MLPA law itself would not be the problem if it were enforced as written. It’s supposed to cost the state $250,000 a year, not $25 million or more. Point the finger at those who hijacked it.
There’s much more I’d like to say, but I’ll close this series of columns written from the belly of the MLPA beast with heartfelt thanks to WON’s editors and publishers for their unwavering support over the past year and this message. There’s a long way yet to go before this drastic snatch of public resources is completed. The battle for an equitable outcome will continue at the Fish and Game Commission. As it stands today the deck is stacked 3-2 against us, but circumstances change quickly in politics. A vote can’t be assumed until it happens. Whether you’ve sat on the sidelines or are only just awakening to the threat, it’s time to get involved.