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Archive for the ‘Ocean Zoning’ Category

DAN BACHER, IndyBay.org, September 1, 2010

In a great show of unity between Tribal members, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen and environmentalists, the 33 members of the Regional Stakeholder Group for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative on August 31 adopted one unified proposal for marine protected areas (MPAs) stretching from Point Arena in Mendocino County to the Oregon border.

The North Coast stakeholders were the first ever to develop a single consensus proposal under the controversial, privately funded process. In the Central Coast, North Central Coast and South Coast regions, environmental NGOs and fishing groups supported separate proposals.

The proposal will be submitted to the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for review at before their October 25-27 meeting at the Fortuna River Lodge. The final proposal will then go to the Fish and Game Commission for final approval at their meeting in Sacramento in December.

“Everyone talked about a unified community proposal at the beginning of the MLPA process, but I wasn’t expecting to pull it off,” said Adam Wagschal, Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreational and Conservation District Conservation Director, in a news release from Cal Oceans, a coalition of three environmental NGOs. “Sure enough though, everyone came together and we did it. It’s a great accomplishment.”

Tribal representatives also applauded the adoption of a unified proposal that allows for traditional tribal fishing and gathering rights. The stakeholders meeting was preceded by a historic protest in Fort Bragg on July 21 where over 300 Tribal members from 50 Indian nations, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, immigrant seafood industry workers and environmentalists peacefully took over an MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting in defense of tribal fishing and gathering rights.

“There was significant progress by the stakeholders in coming together to create a unified proposal that protects tribal rights,” said Megan Rocha, Acting Self-Governance Officer of the Yurok Tribe. “The stakeholders did the best they could in respecting tribal gathering and fishing rights. Now this issue will go to the state of California and tribes to work it out at the next level.”

Rocha emphasized that every MPA proposal includes language to allow continued tribal uses in marine protected areas. In certain areas, the stakeholders also included language allowing for co-management between the tribes and the state.

Over the past few months, the initial set of MPA eight proposals was whittled down to four. The Regional Stakeholder Group (RSG), including Tribal leaders, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, harbormasters, divers, seaweed harvesters, business leaders and conservation representatives found enough common ground to develop one final proposal.

“The stakeholders took a strong position affirming tribal rights,” said Rocha. “It was unbelievable how committed the stakeholders were to making sure that tribal rights were respected. All of the tribes really appreciated that support.”

The proposal will result in about 13% of the North Coast region being restricted or closed to fishing and gathering, versus 16-20% in other regions of the state.

Representatives of conservation groups applauded the effort, despite some concerns that the plan may not fully meet the scientific guidelines laid out for the MLPA process.

“Everyone made sacrifices to get to this point,” said Jennifer Savage, Ocean Conservancy’s North Coast Program Coordinator. “We started out with a number of significant differences regarding needs and desires, but ultimately our respect for each other and willingness to work together enabled us to develop a plan we can all send forward.”’

The plan includes three “State Marine Reserves,” zones completely closed to all fishing, just south of Cape Mendocino, about a mile offshore of the Mattole River and along an area west of Petrolia. Another MPA along Samoa allows for Dungeness crab, chinook salmon and smelt fishing. The MPAs include two areas to the south of Redding Rock, one allowing fishing and the other a no-take zone.

Recreational and commercial fishermen also praised the development of a single proposal.

“I’m happy that we came up with a single proposal,” Tim Klassen, captain of the Reel Steel charter boat out of Humboldt Bay, told the Eureka Times Standard on August 31, “and hopefully we’ll keep our fate in our own hands.”

Despite the adoption of a unified proposal for the North Coast, significant concerns about the overall MLPA process remain.

Fishermen, Tribal members and environmentalists are concerned that the MLPA process under Schwarzenegger has taken oil drilling, water pollution, wave energy development, habitat destruction and other human uses of the ocean other than fishing and gathering off the table. The MLPA would do nothing to stop another Exxon Valdez or Deepwater Horizon oil disaster from devastating the California coast.

MLPA critics have also blasted the Governor for appointing an oil industry lobbyist, a marina developer, a real estate executive and people with conflicts of interest on the Blue Ribbon Task Forces that develop the marine reserves.

Many are puzzled whey Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association, is allowed to make decisions as the chair of the BRTF for the South Coast and as a member of the BRTF for the North Coast, panels that are supposedly designed to “protect” the ocean, when she has called for new oil drilling off the California coast.

Many fishermen and environmentalists are also concerned that a private corporation, the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, is privatizing ocean resource management in California through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the DFG.

Nonetheless, the development of a unified marine protected area (MLPA) proposal on the North Coast is a great victory for fishermen, Tribes, seaweed harvesters, environmentalists and other stakeholders in the MLPA process. Rather than being “divided and conquered” by the Schwarzenegger administration as has happened elsewhere in the MLPA study regions, they chose to work together and overcome their differences to develop a consensus proposal.

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MICHAEL COLLINS, Ventura County Star, January 18, 2010

Americans’ insatiable love of seafood is back on the federal government’s plate.

Five years after former President George W. Bush’s administration first proposed allowing fish farming in federal waters, the Obama administration is set to come up with its own set of rules for offshore aquaculture, including deepwater fish farming.

The new rules, which are expected to spell out a permitting process for offshore aquaculture operations, could come as early as this summer, said Michael Rubino, manager of the aquaculture program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“We’re looking at this whole question of aquaculture in federal waters — how to go about it,” Rubino said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, has filed legislation that would establish a regulatory framework for aquaculture operations in federal waters, which begin three miles beyond the nation’s shores.

Capps’ proposal not only lays out the permitting process for offshore aquaculture facilities, but also contains environmental safeguards to see that any such projects pose a minimal risk to ocean ecology — a concern that derailed the Bush administration’s efforts.

“It is important to take a strong public health standard approach and make sure we have food safety and environmental protection as a basis for any kind of aquaculture project that would come up,” Capps said.

Ocean fish farming has long been seen by advocates as a way to guarantee a plentiful bounty of seafood even as a number of wild fish stocks decline. An estimated 80% of all edible seafood supplies in the United States is imported, and nearly half of all seafood is farmed, according to the San Diego-based Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute.

Right now, fish farming is limited to state waters, which begin at the shoreline and extend out for three miles.

In 2005, the Bush administration proposed allowing fish-farming operations up to 200 miles off the coast, which would have marked the first time such facilities would have been permitted in federal waters.

But that proposal, and subsequent plans, died in Congress in large part because of environmental concerns associated with fish farming, such as the discharge of waste and the use of pesticides, antibiotics and other potentially harmful chemicals.

Capps objected to the Bush plan because of the environmental issues and a belief that it was too closely tied to the fishing industry. “They wanted to go out of their way to see that industry was satisfied,” she said.

In contrast, the congresswoman’s aides say, her proposal offers a comprehensive policy that spells out the permitting process for aquaculture facilities while putting in place standards for environmental, public health and consumer protection.

Under the Capps plan, a special office to deal with offshore aquaculture would be established within the National Marine Fisheries Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

The office would be responsible for implementing the aquaculture permitting and regulatory program, as well as conducting environmental impact studies for each region of the country. The studies would determine which locations are appropriate for offshore aquaculture, the type of fish suitable for farming in each region and the impact such projects would have on other marine life.

Aquaculture permits would be good for 10 years and could be renewed for subsequent 10-year periods. Permit holders would be required to report fish escapes, the prevalence of disease and parasites and the use of any antibiotics, pesticides or other drugs and chemicals.

By putting in place a comprehensive regulatory framework, “It will be very clear to all of the stakeholders what the rules of the game are,” Capps said.

President of Hubbs-SeaWorld, said Capps’ bill would create “a regulatory jumble” because some of the safeguards it would put in place already are covered by other federal agencies.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, for example, already regulate the use of antibiotics, he said.

The additional requirements would be so cumbersome that, if the proposal were to become law as written, “there won’t be an (aquaculture) industry in federal waters in the United States,” he said. “I won’t do it under the existing bill.’’

Hubbs-SeaWorld had wanted several years ago to set up an experimental fish farm on Platform Grace — an old oil rig about 10 miles off the coast of Ventura County — to raise California yellowtail, bluefin tuna and striped bass. The project eventually was abandoned, however.

The research institute also has put on hold plans for a commercial fish farm five miles off the San Diego coast in light of the Obama administration’s announcement that it is developing an aquaculture policy.

Capps’ office responded to his concerns by saying the congresswoman’s proposal attempts to legislate “a common sense national framework for aquaculture” and that it is the result of a collaboration with environmental and consumer groups, the scientific community, the aquaculture industry and others.

The congresswoman will continue to work with all stakeholders as the process moves forward, said her spokeswoman, Emily Spain.

Rubino said NOAA has no comment on the Capps proposal, other than to reiterate that the administration prefers a national approach to aquaculture instead of a region by region approach.

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MendoCoastCurrent, January 11, 2010

In December, Obama’s Ocean Policy Task Force published it’s Interim Framework and approach for waterways, oceans and all things marine.

WASHINGTON – President Obama’s Ocean Policy Task Force released its Interim Framework for Effective Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (Interim Framework) today for a 60-day public review and comment period. With competing interests in the ocean, our coasts and the Great Lakes, the Interim Framework offers a comprehensive, integrated approach to planning and managing uses and activities. Under the Framework, coastal and marine spatial planning would be regional in scope, developed cooperatively among Federal, State, tribal, local authorities, and regional governance structures, with substantial stakeholder and public input.

What jumps out at me is the 60-day public REVIEW and COMMENT period.

If you care about our oceans, waterways and coasts, I hope you’ll read the report (read what is interesting to you) and consider commenting, participating. The 60-day public review and comment period ends February 12, 2010.

I’ll be reading it.

To read the Ocean Policy Task Force Releases Interim Framework & more, click on this link and keep digging for the actual report link: http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/initiatives/oceans

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FRANK HARTZELL, Fort Bragg Advocate News, December 24, 2009

Image by Larry R. Wagner

The California State Lands Commission last week found its own regulations designed to protect marine mammals so inconsistent and confusing as to be unenforceable.

That was good news for Fugro Pelagos, owner of the 176-foot survey vessel Pacific Star that reported it fatally struck a female blue whale on Oct. 19.

“On behalf of all of us at Fugro Pelagos, we thank … the California State Lands Commission (SLC) for assessing the facts of the matter and deciding not to revoke our offshore geophysical survey permit. In making such a decision, they recognized that language of the current permit is unclear and could be subject to interpretation,” said Fugro Company President David Millar, in a statement issued after the meeting.

State Lands Commission staff had recommended that the company’s permit be yanked and that Fugro pay $13,000 for staff investigatory expenses.

Instead, the commission hashed out an agreement by which the company now agrees to follow the conditions of the permit — as the commission wrongly believed had been happening all along.

“It is now clear that the California State Lands Commission considers hydrographic surveying using only an echo sounder to be an activity covered by the offshore geophysical survey permit. Fugro Pelagos has agreed to comply with this interpretation on the basis that all other permit holders will receive written notification of the State’s position and that the State will work with Fugro Pelagos and other stakeholders in reviewing and modifying the current permit language so that there can be no future misunderstandings about what activities are and are not covered by the offshore geophysical survey permit,” Millar stated.

The whale bled to death in about half an hour, washing up just south of Fort Bragg.

The entire matter is a gigantic “I told you so” for Steve Sullivan, who has been criticizing these very regulations for being confusing and widely ignored.

Sullivan owns a Fugro rival surveying company. He has harped at state authorities for about five years, saying others should be made to do what his company does, including always having a marine mammal observer on deck and employing a spotter boat.

Sullivan had predicted catastrophe for marine mammals unless regulations became consistent. Prior to the Oct. 19 whale strike, Sullivan not only criticized Fugro, but also state and university agencies for ignoring the regulations designed to protect marine mammals.

At last Thursday’s meeting, the State Lands Commission set out to demand those agencies and Fugro all now follow consistent rules.

Sullivan’s pleas seemingly fell on deaf ears at the State Lands Commission and the Ocean Protection Council. In fact when Sullivan contended following the whale strike that Fugro was operating without a permit, state and federal officials had vociferously refuted Sullivan’s contention.

But technically, Sullivan was right. Fugro never finalized a marine mammal plan required by the permit because they felt it did not apply to any of the work they were doing. Yet, the company kept renewing the incomplete (and thus theoretically invalid) permit, all a demonstration of how meaningless and unintelligible the permit process was.

The marine mammal plan, had it been prepared, would be expected to contain measures that might or might not prevent whale strikes.

Fugro has consistently maintained that the whale killing would likely have happened even if there had been a NOAA-certified marine mammal observer on deck.

“During the hearing, it was noted that State scientists considered this tragic accident unavoidable, and not the result of Fugro Pelagos not following survey permit conditions,” Millar said.

“Nevertheless, we were deeply saddened by it. In the decades that the company has been in existence, no incident of this type has ever occurred and we acknowledge the loss that comes with the death of such a large and precious marine animal,” Millar said.

Fugro will carry a marine wildlife monitor in the future. Perhaps more importantly, State Lands has launched a process designed to standardize all permits and require more measures to protect marine mammals, as the permitting process originally intended.

At one point, state officials were working on a plan for better protections of marine mammals, but that effort collapsed due to the state budget crisis.

“I am very pleased that the State Lands Commission has finally required the multi-billion dollar international firm, Fugro, to abide by the same regulations to protect marine mammals that us small California survey companies have complied with for years,” Sullivan said in a statement after the meeting.

“At their meeting on Dec. 17, the State Lands Commission disclosed that Fugro and a new permit applicant, the California State University at Monterey Bay, have for years been conducting marine surveys without compliance with regulations to protect marine mammals,” Sullivan said.

A community effort stripped the whale of its flesh and buried the skeleton so it can be dug up later and displayed.

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FRANK HARTZELL, Mendocino Beacon, December 17, 2009

The Obama administration has launched a new “zoning” approach that puts all ocean activities under the umbrella of nine regional planning bodies.

Public comments are being accepted through Friday, Feb. 12.

The approach is more local and integrated than the current strategy, which puts separate functions under different federal agencies. But it remains to be seen how such a plan can satisfy a plethora of federal laws that now protect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes.

The issue of whales killed by ships (like the blue whale kill in October off Fort Bragg) is cited in the new report as an example of how the regional planning approach could solve problems that single agencies cannot.

In the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off Boston, the Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and several other government agencies and stakeholders reconfigured the Boston Traffic Separation Scheme, after numerous fatal collisions between marine mammals and ships.

This kind of joint action is what the new Obama approach anticipates using nationwide.

The reconfigured shipping lanes reduced risk of collision by an estimated 81% for all baleen whales and 58% for endangered right whales, studies show.

NOAA is the lone federal agency dealing with the whale kill issue locally, working with two state agencies, which have regulations that are inconsistent. With the Fort Bragg incident highlighting weaknesses in the regulatory process, a regional board could propose solutions.

In another example of oversight conflict, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) planned and launched a policy for wave energy leasing completely without local governments’ knowledge. Other federal agencies also bombarded FERC with criticism and problems their federal fellow had failed to anticipate when FERC’s program came to light.

The Obama administration’s idea is to bring all the federal and local agencies to the table at the planning stage, not the reactive stage.

“The uses of our oceans, coasts and Great Lakes have expanded exponentially over time,” said Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, who also heads the Ocean Policy Task Force. “At the same time they are facing environmental challenges, including pollution and habitat destruction, that make them increasingly vulnerable.

“Without an improved, more thoughtful approach, we risk an increase in user conflicts and the potential loss of critical economic, ecosystem, social, and cultural benefits for present and future generations,” said Sutley, in a press release.

Many scientific studies have called for ocean zoning, but this is the first effort to make the idea work.

California, Oregon and Washington would be included in a single planning area The participants in the planning process, such as Indian tribes, federal agencies, states and local entities, would be asked to sign a contract modeled on development agreements.

Development agreements are widely used by housing developers to bring all county and state permitting agencies to the table so they can get loans and prepare to launch a project.

Sutley said the administration will reconvene the National Ocean Council to work with the regional planning bodies.

While the new approach promises more locally responsive planning, the job of the National Ocean Council will be to ensure that planning is consistent from region to region. That is likely to create some conflicts with monied interests representing some uses, such as oil drilling, and leave other uses with less ability to advocate at the table.

The proposal comes from the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, established by President Obama on June 12. It is led by Sutley and consists of 24 senior-level officials from administration agencies, departments and offices.

The task force’s interim framework is available for a 60-day public review and comment period. After the close of the comment period, the task force will finalize its recommendations in both this report and the Sept. 10 interim report and provide a final report to the President in early 2010.

For more details on the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, including the interim framework, and to submit comments, visit www.whitehouse.gov/oceans.

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