SoCal coastal waters will remain open on October 1

Dan Bacher

"Whatever the OAL's issues with the South Coast MPAs may be – we don't yet know what their questions to the Commission are at this point – it is clear to us that these regulations are the result of a flawed process, and should be overturned," said David Elm, chairman of United Anglers of Southern California.

Delay casts further doubt on when, if ever, the MLPA Initiative regulations will go into effect

Sacramento, CA – A delay in the approval of California's controversial South Coast Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative regulations "means that anglers will now have more time on the water," reported a news release from United Anglers of Southern California on August 29. October 1, 2011 was the date that the no-fishing zone regulations were to have gone into effect.

California's Office of Administrative Law (OAL), which must first review and approve the regulations before they go into effect, informed the California Fish and Game Commission that it has additional questions and requests for more information, according to a press release issued by the California Department of Fish and Game on August 25,

After the Commission responds to the OAL's issues, it may be required to re-notice the regulatory package. The Fish and Game Commission will meet on September 15 to discuss alternative effective dates for implementation of the Southern California "marine protected areas."

Adding further uncertainty to the timeline for these regulations is a pending lawsuit filed by members of the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans (PSO), a coalition of fishing groups representing the interests of California's recreational anglers and boaters in the MLPA process.

The lawsuit seeks to set aside the MLPA regulations for the North Central and South Coast study regions, citing "a lack of statutory authority" for the Fish and Game Commission to adopt the regulations, and, in the case of the South Coast regulations, numerous violations of the California Environmental Quality Act in the commission's environmental review of the regulations.

A hearing on the North Central Coast portion of the case has been set for September 26, in San Diego. The opening brief describing the petitioners' claims in the lawsuit is available on the Web site.

"The delay in approving the MLPA South Coast regulations should provide some comfort to the many anglers and commercial fishermen who may have had concerns about whether come October 1, they'd be able to fish in their favorite areas," said Bob Fletcher, former president of the Sportfishing Association of California and a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

"For example, lobster fishermen can now set traps in areas they have historically used with confidence that they won't be forced off the water on October 1. The outcome of the OAL's questions to the Commission, and eventually the lawsuit itself, may enable anglers to continue to enjoy tremendous fishing," he explained.

"Whatever the OAL's issues with the South Coast MPAs may be – we don't yet know what their questions to the Commission are at this point – it is clear to us that these regulations are the result of a flawed process, and should be overturned, said David Elm, chairman of United Anglers of Southern California, also a plaintiff. "I urge all anglers, and anyone who supports public access to public resources, to join our fight against the MLPA process in the courts by visiting and making a donation today."

For more information, contact: Dave Elm, United Anglers of Southern California, (949) 660-8757.

North Coast environmental leader continues to urge support for lawsuit

Grassroots environmental leaders, including John Lewallen, the co-founder of the Ocean Protection Coalition and the North Coast Seaweed Rebellion, are supporting the litigation against the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative.

“A California Superior Court lawsuit challenging the authority of the state to let the private Resources Legacy Fund Foundation operate a process of setting up Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in violation of the 1999 Marine Life Protection Act, the California Environmental Quality Act, the Coastal Act, and other state laws, deserves the support of all Californians,” said Lewallen.

Lewallen said United Anglers of Southern California,, versus the California State Fish and Game Commission, has an “excellent legal team which has won a string of victories."

“If successful, the United Anglers lawsuit will invalidate all Marine Protected Areas created by the illegal and corrupt process financed and run by the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation on California’s South Coast and North Central Coast, probably leading to the invalidation of Marine Protected Areas declared on the Central Coast and proposed for the North Coast,” emphasized Lewallen.

Lewallen has been in the forefront of grass roots campaigns against oil drilling, the clear cutting of ancient forests, wave energy projects and military testing off the coast and other environmental battles for over three decades. Unlike some well-funded initiative advocates who support greenwashing under the privatized MLPA process, Lewallen sees the MLPA Initiative for what it truly is - a resource grab by corporate interests.

Lewallen is the author of “Ecology of Devastation: Indochina” (Penguin Books, 1971) and “The Grass Roots Primer: How to Organize for Local Environmental Action,” co-authored with James Robertson (Sierra Club Books,1975). He has written numerous articles on environmental issues for an array of publications since then.

Lewallen urges all anglers, and anyone who supports public access to public resources, to help fight the severely flawed MLPA process in the courts by visiting and making a donation today.

MLPA Initiative Background:

The Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) is a law, signed by Governor Gray Davis in 1999, designed to create a network of marine protected areas off the California Coast. However, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004 created the privately-funded MLPA “Initiative” to “implement” the law, effectively eviscerating the MLPA.

The “marine protected areas” created under the MLPA Initiative fail to protect the ocean from oil spills and drilling, water pollution, military testing, wave and wind energy projects, corporate aquaculture and all other uses of the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

The MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces that oversaw the implementation of “marine protected areas” included a big oil lobbyist, marina developer, real estate executive and other individuals with numerous conflicts of interest. Catherine Reheis Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association who is pushing for new oil drilling off the California coast, served as the chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast.

The MLPA Initiative operated through a controversial private/public “partnership funded by the shadowy Resources Legacy Fund Foundation. The Schwarzenegger administration, under intense criticism by grassroots environmentalists, fishermen and Tribal members, authorized the implementation of marine protected areas under the initiative through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the foundation and the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG).

Tribal members, fishermen, grassroots environmentalists, human rights advocates and civil liberties activists have slammed the MLPA Initiative for the violation of numerous state, federal and international laws. Critics charge that the initiative, privatized by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004, has violated the Bagley-Keene Open Meetings Act, Brown Act, California Administrative Procedures Act, American Indian Religious Freedom Act and UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

MLPA and state officials refused to appoint any tribal scientists to the MLPA Science Advisory Team (SAT), in spite of the fact that the Yurok Tribe alone has a Fisheries Department with over 70 staff members during the peak fishing season, including many scientists. The MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force also didn’t include any tribal representatives until 2010 when one was finally appointed to the panel.