Conservative Newspaper Backs Marine Life Protection Act

Steven Maviglio

San Diego Union-Tribune Endorses MLPA Compromise

One of California's most conservative newspapers, the San Diego Union-Tribune, today editorialized in favor of the Marine Life Protection Act's Blue Ribbon Task Force recommendation to the California Fish and Game Commission to protect a large swatch of ocean in southern California.

"There is no doubt that there will some short-term economic pain for fishing businesses in the county and elsewhere, but the panel’s well-reasoned compromise will be good for everyone in the long run if it allows our coastal bounty to grow and thrive," notes the newspaper in an editorial today. "The state Fish and Game Commission, which will consider the recommendations next month, should give them great weight."

The newspaper's endorsement is somewhat of a surprise; most of the publication's editorial coverage had been slanted toward arguments of the fishing indusry. Supported by foreign fishing interests, the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans made wild and erroneous predictions about possible socio-economic impacts of protecting small amounts of ocean to encourage sustainable fisheries that was reported in the paper.

However, that even this right-leaning newspaper supports the MLPA is another sign of strong support for ocean protection from a broad variety of backers. The original legislation, signed by Gov. Gray Davis, had broad bipartisan support, and the Schwarzenegger Administration is backing its implementation.

The newspaper noted that ocean protection supporters weren't completely happy with the Blue Ribbon Task Force's findings but were pleased the arguments of the foreign-subsidized fishing interests were largely rejected. As noted in the editorial, Kate Hanley, of San Diego Coastkeeper said “I’m glad the task force recognized the economic and environmental value of protecting iconic places, but we would have liked to see more protections for south La Jolla’s kelp forest.”

Her position was supported by hundreds of local business owners, environmentalists, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and San Diego officials. The Blue Ribbon Task Force supported much of it, but ultimately voted unanimously to recommend a compromise marine protected area plan that is a step in the right direction, and includes critical protections for iconic places like south La Jolla, Point Dume, and Naples Reef while leaving nearly 90 percent of the coast open for fishing.

Scientists say setting aside ecological hot spots -- those super productive canyons, reefs, and kelp forests that act as fish nurseries --the overall health and sustainability of southern California's ocean and fisheries will be improved. That’s not only good for ocean habitat, but good for the California coastal economy that is connected to the ocean through tourism, recreation, and other small businesses.

The Task Force will present their recommendation to the California Fish & Game Commission on December 9, and the Commission is expected to make a final decision next summer.