Most of the signs Thursday pointed towards a state panel adopting a protective Marine Protected Area (MPA) network for Southern California. A strong op-ed piece supporting Map 3 was penned by her deepness herself — Sylvia Earle. An L.A. Times editorial endorsed a strong conservation network. Analysis by the panel’s Scientific Advisory Team — made up of some of California’s best marine scientists — clearly stated that Map 3 best met the scientific criteria. The group also noted that the compromise alternative, Map 1, did a decent job of meeting the criteria, but the fishing alternative, Map 2, failed to meet numerous guidelines.
The “MPAs Work” folks had put together a PSA with star power including Pierce and Keely Brosnan, John McGinley, Amy Smart and others. Even the circus of a public hearing in Long Beach was a balanced affair. With about 500 conservationists garbed in blue and 500 fishermen in black, the hearing room looked like a giant bruise.
Despite having the science, media and a great deal of public opinion on the side of a strong MPA network, the state’s Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) decided to . . . blink. The members postponed their recommendation till sometime in November.
The BRTF, over the course of Thursday, inexplicably decided to take matters into its own hands. Despite a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars on facilitators and meeting rooms, and dozens of hours of stakeholder negotiations over the last year, the panel decided to draw some of their own lines in the ocean to come up with yet another proposal.
The process has been anything but democratic, with the fishing community outnumbering the environmentalists in negotiations. The three proposals ranged from the science alternative, to a middle ground alternative, to a fishing alternative. Why didn’t the BRTF stick to the three maps and make a recommendation? Even a few mild tweaks of the middle ground proposal would have been better than postponing the decision for a later day. The delay will allow animosity to grow and fester and will encourage high-level, intense lobbying until the new D-day.
Bad politics. Bad policy. Bad science. It certainly was not a red letter day for the BRTF. Instead, Southern California’s coast and marine life suffered yet another setback. I hope it is justice deferred. But I’m afraid it will be justice denied by a BRTF that blinked under pressure.