Shark Fin for All

Shark fin dumplings: not a "luxury" item

On Sunday morning, our family schlepped out to Rosemead for my niece’s 17th birthday. The destination for Isabel’s festivities was Sea Harbor, one of my brother Jonathan’s favorite dim sum places in the county. After all of these decades of grubbing with Jonathan, I generally don’t even bother looking at a menu or making an order. However, since it was a seafood palace AND the big vote on AB 376 is scheduled for today or Wednesday, I decided to see what shark fin soup went for on the menu.

Much to my dismay, not only did I see three different kinds of shark fin dumplings on the menu, but now the taste of extinction is affordable for all. The myth of shark fin’s availability for weddings and banquets is just that. In today’s society where shark fin dumplings have become a staple at dim sum, everyone can indulge in the consumption of the ocean’s apex predators.  Continue reading

MPAs Get a Chance to Work

Point Dume

Portions of Malibu's Point Dume are part of SoCal's new network of Marine Protected Areas

Yesterday, the California Department of Fish and Game boldly approved the official initiation of the Southern California Marine Protected Area (MPA) network. Despite the ongoing threat of litigation from fishing industry opponents, the Commission approved the October 1st start date by a 4-1 vote.

This means that the SoCal MPA network requirements will be enforceable starting this October. Fish and Game, along with community groups, environmental groups, aquaria, educational institutions, and the many groups that have been following the MPA process over the past several years, need to really focus on public education over the summer. In particular, a targeted effort on educating the wide-ranging fishing and broader ocean user community is critical for two reasons: 1 – to dispel fears of use restrictions in MPAs (for example – non-consumptive uses like surfing, diving and kayaking are NOT limited); and 2 – to provide accurate information on the consumptive use (fishing) restrictions in marine reserves (no take of any marine life) and marine conservation areas (limited take – usually affecting only the commercial fishing industry).

Meanwhile, Heal the Bay will continue its research on how the Malibu MPAs and adjacent coastal waters are used by visitors and commercial fishermen. This baseline data will prove critical as a point of comparison to assess changes in consumptive and non-consumptive uses in the new MPAs and adjacent waters.  If you’re interested in walking Malibu’s beaches and observing and tracking uses for this research effort, visit our site to get involved.

The recent Census of Marine Life findings that the CA Current has incredibly rich species diversity, equivalent to the Serengheti of the sea, as well as the International Earth System Expert Workshop results warning of pending marine species collapse, show the importance of these MPAs.

As the new MPAs take effect this fall, we should celebrate this historic move to help safeguard SoCal’s ocean economy and environment for the future.

Clear Victory for Malibu Lagoon

The Coastal Commission voted 11-0 to support Lagoon plan.

The California Coastal Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to support the State Parks and Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission plan to restore Malibu Lagoon. The 11-0 vote provided the last needed permit approval before the rehabilitation of the brackish wetland can proceed next summer. The restoration will increase salt marsh acreage by four acres and will provide long-needed water circulation to the often stagnant marsh, but there was still vocal opposition against the project. The challengers even brought in a high-priced attorney and an East Coast wetland restoration consultant to bolster their case, which argued against the use of heavy machinery to repair the wetland.

Despite these efforts, the recommendations of the Bay Commission, Coastal Conservancy and State Parks prevailed. Heal the Bay helped put together the plan back in 2004. Key testimony from renowned UCLA coastal ecologist Rich Ambrose and wetland nutrient scientist Marth Sutula was very persuasive.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state Fish and Game, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Regional Water Board all had previously signed off on the project. Environmental group support from Santa Monica Baykeeper, the local Audubon, Surfrider and Sierra Club chapters, Malibu Surfing Assn. and Friends of Ballona didn’t hurt either.

Evidently, successful wetland restorations at Bolsa Chica, Carpinteria and San Diego County that used earth moving equipment helped sway the commission that the Malibu plan is prudent.

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Another Malibu Morass

Malibu Lagoon is sick and needs repair.

Tomorrow marks a milestone day for environmental rehabilitation in Malibu, Surfrider Beach and Santa Monica Bay. The much-needed restoration of oxygen-starved Malibu Lagoon faces one more regulatory obstacle Wednesday — California Coastal Commission approval. Because the project has gone through an extensive public involvement and CEQA process, including a legally unchallenged EIR approved in 2006, one would have hoped that the effort to remove polluted sediments and rebuild the lagoon would remain free of controversy.

The plan remains one of the five highest priorities in the Bay Restoration Plan assembled by the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission. The Malibu Lagoon restoration effort, which has been led by Heal the Bay scientists under the auspices of State Parks and the Coastal Conservancy, took more than two years to develop.

Some of the foremost wetland scientists in California participated in assembling the plan, including UCLA’s Rich Ambrose, Humboldt State’s Bob Gearhart, UCSB’s Andy Brooks, L.A. County Natural History Museum’s Kimball Garrett, USF’s John Callaway and the Southern California Coastal Waters Research Project’s Marth Sutula.

But welcome to Malibu, where every issue is destined for controversy.

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Playing Politics with MPAs

Palos Verdes' Rocky Point: a political pawn

Sanity was restored last week to the California State Fish and Game Commission’s efforts to establish a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Southern California. The Schwarzenegger administration has long made it a priority to meet the requirements of the Marine Life Protection Act, which calls for establishing a statewide network on MPAs. 

But pressure has built from opposition groups the past few months to extend the Draft Environmental Impact Report comment period for the South Coast.  The end result would have stalled MPA implementation in Southern California, an area where protections are much needed.

In the days leading up to last week’s hearing, Fish and Game Commissioner Michael Sutsos was removed from the panel and replaced by Jack Baylis, an environmental engineering executive at AECOM who previously served as a State Parks Commissioner, Coastal Conservancy member and Heal the Bay vice-chair.

In a compromise measure, the commission voted 5-0 to extend the DEIR comment period by 15 days.  This move provided additional time for public comment, but will not affect the timing of the commission’s final vote on Southern California MPAs, scheduled for mid-December.

A disturbing side issue has been the effort by the L.A. County Sanitation Districts to use the Marine Life Protection Act implementation process to lobby the State Water Board.  The Districts’ sewage outfall sits about two miles from the proposed MPAs, so officials fear that their sewage discharge will lead to tougher water quality requirements to ensure clean water in the reserves. 

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Fish Fight

Jonathan Gold's diet would put a mako's to shame.

My brother Jonathan Gold, the food writer, will moderate a panel Wednesday night on sustainable seafood at the Skirball Center.  Zocalo is putting on the free event.  The other panelists will be renowned seafood chef Michael Cimarusti, from Providence, and Logan Kock, the chief buyer and seafood encyclopedia from Santa Monica Seafood.  Michael and Logan are two of the most knowledgeable people in the field of sustainable seafood, and definitely a heck of a lot more informed on the issues than the Gold Brothers.  But my focus will be on the moderator.

This will be our first public dust-up on seafood issues since our whale wars over a year ago.  Jonathan has the advantage.  This is definitely a foodie audience and, as moderator, he has control of the mike.  I still have a fighter’s chance because the topic is sustainable seafood and Jonathan may not have been in an ocean since his high school days.

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Blink 10-22

Chadwick students spoke at MPA hearing but didn't get satisfaction of a vote Thursday night

Chadwick students spoke at MPA hearing but didn't get satisfaction of a vote Thursday night

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.

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Strange Adversaries

mlpa2_adjustedYesterday, I went to the Blue Ribbon Task Force hearing on the latest controversy under the Southern California deliberations of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). About 400 people attended the meeting at the LAX Airport Sheraton to battle it out on the issue of retaining a marine conservation proposal among the seven draft maps which currently exist in the negotiation process.

About 350 of the 400 people were sport or commercial fishermen. They were all wearing black, reminiscence of an afternoon in the Black Hole at a Raiders’ game.  Many wore MLPA shirts on which the acronym was spelled out as “Means Less Public Access.” I have to give props to the fishermen for their passion and their numbers.

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Holy Trash

Israel is more like LA than I possibly imagined.

Both areas definitely suffer from the scourge of plastic pollution. From the iconic Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall in the old city of Jerusalem to the shores of Lake Kinneret, one can follow the histories of three great religions through trash. Important Muslim, Christian and Jewish historic sites were all tainted by plastic bags. Nothing was more disgusting than seeing the dirty diapers along the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

As a society, if we can’t protect and respect the holiest places on Earth, what does that say about humanity’s chances for providing effective environmental stewardship?

Note: This being the last of my Israel trip posts, you can read more at the Jewish Journal: No Easy Solution for Israel’s Water Problem.

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Claws and Effect

6a00e54f11417288340112797307af28a4-800wiA guest post today from Charlotte Stevenson, our staff scientist working on implementation of Marine Protected Areas:

There is a reason Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea continues to fascinate readers. The fisherman, Santiago, embodies the frequent human urge to conquer nature as he battles for three days with an immense marlin caught on his line. But he also embodies the complicated emotion of regret once he has harpooned and killed one of the largest marlins his village has ever seen.

Thankfully, Tom Powers, an avid California freediver, anticipated a similar feeling of remorse earlier this week as he held an 11-pound lobster that he wrestled out of its cave in the Northern Channel Islands. Instead of giving way to the impulse to immediately conquer, kill, and make a legend of this immense beast, Tom decided that “the largest lobster he had ever seen” should live on and be enjoyed by all in the Enchanted Kelp Forest Exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

It’s worth noting the location where Tom caught the remarkable lobster — the one place in Southern California where a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) exist. Mere coincidence? Maybe.

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