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Archive for the ‘State Waters’ Category

Dan Bacher, July 24, 2010

In a historic protest on July 21, members of dozens of California Indian Tribes and their allies marched through the streets of downtown Fort Bragg protesting the violation of indigenous fishing and gathering rights under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative.

“This is the biggest protest on any issue held on the North Coast since the Redwood Summer of 1990,” said Dan Hamburg, former North Coast Congressman and a current Green Party candidate for Mendocino County Supervisor, as he marched beside me on the way to the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting in Fort Bragg.

Members of the Yurok, Tolowa, Cahto, Kashia Pomo, Karuk, Hoopa Valley, Maidu, Hopi, Navajo and other tribes and the Noyo Indian Community shouted “M.L.P.A. – Taking Tribal Rights Away” and other chants as they marched. Recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, seaweed harvesters, environmentalists, sea urchin divers and seafood industry workers walked side by side with tribal members in a show of solidarity.

Alongside tribal flags, participants hoisted banners with slogans including “Keep Away MLPA,” “Native Conservation, Not Naive Conservation,” “No MLPA,” “ MLPA=Big Oil,” and “RLF – What Are You Funding.”

The group peacefully took control of the task force meeting in a great example of non-violent direct action. After rallying at Oak and Main Street, over 300 people walked a half-mile to the C.V. Star Community Center. Just before heading into the meeting, tribal community members standing twenty deep chanted, “No Way M.L.P.A.!” to the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) members convened inside.

“Our message was clear: the state will no longer impose its will on indigenous people,” said Frankie Joe Myers, organizer for the Coastal Justice Coalition and a Yurok Tribal ceremonial leader. “This is about more than a fouled-up process that attempts to prohibit tribes from doing something they have done sustainably for thousands of years. It is about respect, acknowledgement and recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights!”

Before the group began their march, they spent an hour holding signs and chanting on the corner of Oak and Main Streets as driver after driver honked their horns in support.

“The outpouring of support from the Fort Bragg community was amazing,” said Jim Martin, West Coast Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance. “It was clear that the majority of people supported our protest. Some people were driving around several times so they could honk in support again.”

After the protesters entered the meeting, tribal elders, including Walt Lara of the Yurok Tribe, said they would continue to do what they have done for centuries – harvest seaweed, mussels and fish.

“We’ve managed the ocean in sustainable way for thousands of years,” Lara stated. “We only take what we need so that nobody should be hungry. You take our water, you take our land and now your are going to take our appetite.”

Thomas O’Rourke, the chair of the Yurok Tribal Council, said, “We as an Indian Nation have the right to manage our resources. The people who have managed for the last 200 years haven’t done so well in managing the land and our coast.”

“It is wise to listen to the people who managed these lands for thousands of years,” he continued. “We believe in protecting species. We will continue to exercise our right to harvest seaweed and fish as we always have. You have to take us to jail until you go broke and you fix this law.”

The Yurok Tribe has a representative, Megan Rocha, on the MLPA’s Regional Stakeholder group. However, O’Rourke said the MLPA process has viewed tribes exactly the same as recreational fishermen, even though tribes are sovereign nations.

“There is nothing more offensive than the lack of recognition we have received from the Initiative,” he stated. “We are a sovereign government within the State of California and should be treated accordingly. We would like the Blue Ribbon Task Force to do what is morally right and remove tribes from this inappropriate process.”

Jimbo Simmons, a Choctaw Tribe member and a leader of the American Indian Movement, emphasized that numerous laws, including the American Indian Religious Freedom Act and the UN Declaration of Human Rights, affirm the right of indigenous people to conduct their traditional religious ceremonies including traditional ocean food gathering. “Food is a human right,” he stated.

“Our tribal rights are not negotiable,” Dania Colegrove, Hoopa Valley Tribe member and a member of the Coastal Justice Coalition, told the task force. “Get used to it!”

Some Tribal members and fishermen at the protest questioned the task force’s real motives in kicking indigenous people and other fishermen off the ocean.

Susan Burdick, Yurok Elder, pointedly told the Blue Ribbon Task Force that “You are like the Ku Klux Klan – without the hoods! We’re not going to stop what we have doing for generations. We have young people here, old people here and we will march everywhere you go.”

“What is your real purpose: to start drilling for oil off our coastline?” she asked. “Be honest with us!”

Burdick’s concerns over the push by the oil industry and others to industrialize the California coast were echoed by environmentalists including Judith Vidaver, Chair of Ocean Protection Coalition (OPC).

“For over 25 years OPC, with our fisher and seaweed harvester allies, has protected our ocean from threats such as aquaculture projects, nuclear waste dumping, offshore oil development and recently, wave power plants,” Vidaver stated. “We are requesting that final Marine Protected Area (MPA) designations include language prohibiting these industrial-scale commercial activities.”

She also shocked the panel by asking that task force member Catherine Reheis-Boyd voluntarily step down from her position on the BRTF.

“Oil and water do not mix—as we are being reminded daily by the disaster spewing in the Gulf,” she stated. “Mrs. Reheis-Boyd’s position as President of the Western States Petroleum Association and her lobbying efforts to expand offshore oil drilling off the coast of California are a patent conflict of interest for which she should recuse herself from the BRTF proceedings which are ostensibly meant to protect the marine ecosystem.”

Meg Caldwell, a BRTF member, responded to Vidaver’s request in defense of Reheis-Boyd.

“I am a died-in-the-wool environmentalist and I have worked for the past year with Reheis-Boyd. Not once has she demonstrated any bias for any industrial sector on the Task Force,” she stated.

The overwhelming majority of people making public comments criticized the MLPA process for any array of reasons.

However, Karen Garrison, policy analyst for NRDC, affirmed her support for the MLPA Initative. She said that her organization “is committed to creating an effective marine protected area network that also supports continued noncommercial traditional Tribal uses.”

“The Kashia Pomo regulation shows it’s possible to do both, at least under some circumstances, and shows the flexibility of the MLPA to accommodate Tribal uses,” Garrison stated. “We also support the Tribe’s proposal to separately identify noncommercial traditional Tribal uses in any regulation that allows both Tribal and recreational uses.”

The MLPA, a landmark law signed by Governor Gray Davis in 1999, calls for the creation of marine reserves with varying levels of protection from one end of the state to the other.

Many fishermen, environmentalists and Tribal members have blasted Schwarzenegger’s MLPA Initiative, privately funded by the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, for taking water pollution, oil drilling and all other human uses of the ocean other than fishing and gathering off the table while denying Tribes their fundamental rights.

“Whether it is their intention or not, what the Marine Life Protection Act does to tribes is systematically decimate our ability to be who we are,” Myers said. “That is the definition of cultural genocide.”

“The MLPA process completely disregards tribal gathering rights and only permits discussion of commercial and recreational harvest,” Myers concluded. “The whole process is inherently flawed by institutionalized racism. It doesn’t recognize Tribes as political entities, or Tribal biologists as legitimate scientists.”

“The protest surpassed my wildest dreams,” said Mike Carpenter, a sea urchin diver and local protest organizer. “I’m glad that tribal members, fishermen, Latino sea urchin industry workers and local environmentalists all banded together to keep our communities from being robbed by outside interests and big corporate money.”

The latest action was preceded on June 29 by a protest during which a group of 40 Tribal members and their supporters interrupted the MLPA Science Advisory Team meeting in Eureka. Members of the Coastal Justice Coalition during both protests emphasized that there is no scientific data that says tribal gathering has any negative impact on the coastal ecosystem and the Act does nothing to stop pollution and off-shore drilling — the real threats to the ocean ecosystem.

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AMBROSIA SARABIA with edits, theLog.com, June 10, 2010

In May 2010, a reporter that was attempting to videotape proceedings was forcibly removed from a Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) North Coast Regional Stakeholder Group work session. MLPA staff then reversed their ban on videotaping and audio recording at future sessions. However, the move has not eased tensions between those tied to the planning process for new Marine Protected Areas off the California coast (where fishing will be off limits) and sport anglers who advocate retaining open fishing areas.

On May 28, United Anglers of Southern California (UASC) and the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans, who have opposed the direction MLPA’s appointed Blue Ribbon Task Force appears to be heading, filed a suit against the task force and the MLPA Science Advisory Team, claiming they have violated the California Records Act.

“It has become more and more evident that the MLPA process is being steered off course by special interests — and political motivations — with dangerous potential for restricting many popular areas enjoyed by fishermen and other outdoor enthusiasts,” said UASC president Steven Fukuto, in a prepared statement.

The law firm of Allen, Matkins, Leck, Gamble, Mallory & Natis LLP, acting on behalf of the UASC and petitioner Robert Fletcher, filed suit at the Sacramento County Courthouse as the first step of a multistage litigation process, according to Fukuto. The filing is the first step in what he expects to be an ongoing, thorough examination of the “flawed process.”

“Our legal team has identified several potential causes for action, and we will aggressively pursue any and all legal avenues to protect recreational access for fishermen, and all Californians,” Fukuto added.

According to the UASC, the suit is tied to the Blue Ribbon Task Force’s and Science Advisory Team’s failure to respond to requests made by Fletcher for documents and records relevant to the MLPA implementation process. The verified petition for writ of mandate and complaint seeks declaratory and injunctive relief.

Under the California Public Records Act, the public has the right of access to information that is in the possession of state and local agencies. By law, public records are open to inspection at all times during office hours of state or local agencies, except for those that are exempt from disclosure by express provisions of the law.

Transparent Process?

California’s Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act of 1967 requires that “meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies shall be open to public scrutiny” and requires open meetings for all California state agencies, boards and commissions. Its purpose is to mandate accountability and transparency of government activities and to protect the rights of citizens to participate in state government.

However, MLPA’s staff has long stated that its work sessions do not qualify as “public meetings,” as the MLPA initiative process is privately funded through a unique public-private partnership.

When a Fort Bragg journalist was forcibly removed from a North Coast Regional Stakeholder Group work session after refusing to stop videotaping, claiming California’s open meetings laws gave him the right to cover the event, there was public uproar — and a protest from United Anglers of Southern California.

According to MLPA staff, members of the media and the public were permitted to attend work sessions but were not permitted to make comments, take photos or make recordings of any kind. The rule was put into place to create a “safe space” for individuals to speak openly and toss out ideas, according to staff.

In May, the rule was revisited and redefined to allow videotaping and audio recording by the public and members of the media, after MLPA staff members determine that the ban “was not reflective of the process.”

“We always err on the side of being open and transparent,” said Ken Wiseman, executive director of the MLPA Initiative. He said the sessions do not fall under Bagley-Keene, since there is not a quorum. “It is important that people not be given this idea that we are somehow restricting access, or that it is not open and transparent.”

The change in policy has not changed UASC’s mind about the openness of the process. The organization has cited various instances where decisions were made during Science Advisory Team meetings.

One occurred in 2009 when “persistent kelp” was mentioned — a subject that UASC said no one but perhaps team members understood. The classification of “persistent kelp” reduced the amount of kelp used in scientific guidelines that the Science Advisory Team uses to evaluate habitat replication. At the time, stakeholder groups were not provided enough time to fully understand what it meant or how it applied, according to UASC.

“The Blue Ribbon Task Force said they would operate the process in the spirit of Bagley-Keene, and we feel they have not lived up to that spirit,” Fukuto said. “We feel that decisions have been made in private.”

Others argue that the process is anything but open. Months of planning and revising Option 2, an alternative for the South Coast Region that would implement the fewest fishing closures, were wasted, many participants in the process said, when the Blue Ribbon Task Force threw out the options recommended by stakeholders and instead developed its own preferred plan — the IPA. If approved, the plan will close approximately 400 square miles of ocean off the Southern California coast to fishing.

However, Wiseman argues that anglers’ time was not wasted and their input was not thrown out. The resulting plan created by the Blue Ribbon Task Force was a blend of all three stakeholder proposals, Wiseman said.

“For sportfishing associations to say their ideas were ignored is ludicrous,” he said. “Their ideas are incorporated into the preferred alternative that is in front of the commission.”

He added, “They did not get everything they wanted, but nobody did.”

Greg Schem, who served as a member of the South Coast Region Blue Ribbon Task Force and currently sits on the Blue Ribbon Task Force for the North Coast Region, said the process invites everyone to the table. Every proposal made by varied interested groups, information provided by the Science Advisory Team and the Blue Ribbon Task Force is open to public comment.

Schem said he is an angler who joined the process two years ago, so he understands where other anglers are coming from — but he said he also understands that fishing closures are necessary as marine resources continue to degrade.

“I don’t like closures either, but I recognize this is a necessity,” said Schem, president and chief executive officer of Harbor Real Estate Group, a firm specializing in marina and waterfront real estate investments — including a marina, fuel dock and boat- yard in Marina del Rey.

“It is not a question of how do we not close anything, but a question of how do we close areas while still preserving adequate areas for consumptive users, and provide protected areas that will allow this network of MLPAs to operate as scientists anticipated,” Schem said.

Closing specific fishing areas was especially difficult since everyone has a favorite spot, Schem said. These emotional ties made it difficult for many to compromise on closures, he added.

“Not everybody is going to be happy,” Schem said. “Everybody is going to give a little bit, and that’s how you come up with a compromise.”

The Fish and Game Commission will vote on the plan for Southern California’s MLPA closure areas this summer and plans to finalize and implement new Marine Protected Areas by the end of the year. The study region includes the area extending from Point Conception to the California/Mexico border.

The North Coast Regional Stakeholder Group is in the early stages of drafting alternatives for establishing Marine Protected Areas in Northern California. The group will work with the Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Science Advisory Team and staff to evaluate existing Marine Protected Areas within the North Coast study region. The study region extends from the California/Oregon border to Alder Creek in Mendocino County.

The planning process is expected to be completed in December 2010.

For more information on MLPAs, visit dfg.ca.gov.

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May 22, 2010

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the State of California have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to coordinate procedures and schedules for review of hydrokinetic energy projects off the California coast.

This marks the fourth hydrokinetics MOU that FERC has signed with other states, following agreements signed last year with Washington and Maine, and with Oregon in 2008. Today’s agreement ensures that FERC and California will undertake all permitting and licensing efforts in an environmentally sensitive manner, taking into account economic and cultural concerns.

“This agreement with California shows FERC’s continuing commitment to work with the states to ensure American consumers can enjoy the environmental and financial benefits of clean, renewable hydrokinetic energy,” FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said.

“I am delighted the State of California has signed an MOU with the Commission on developing hydrokinetic projects off the California coast,” Commissioner Philip Moeller said. “This completes a sweep of the West Coast which, along with Maine, is showing its commitment to bringing the benefits of clean hydrokinetic energy to the consumers of the United States.”

FERC and California have agreed to the following with respect to hydrokinetics:

  • Each will notify the other when one becomes aware of a potential applicant for a preliminary permit, pilot project license or license;
  • When considering a license application, each will agree as early as possible on a schedule for processing. The schedule will include milestones, and FERC and California will encourage other federal agencies and stakeholders to comply with the schedules;
  • They will coordinate the environmental reviews of any proposed projects in California state waters. FERC and California also will consult with stakeholders, including project developers, on the design of studies and environmental matters; and
  • They will encourage applicants to seek pilot project licenses prior to a full commercial license, to allow for testing of devices before commercial deployment.

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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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