A Well-Earned MPA Victory!

After years of debate, Point Dume has been designated as a Marine Protected Area by the state of California.

After two years of marathon stakeholder negotiation sessions, endless contentious public hearings and reams of studies and environmental documents, the California Department of Fish and Game today finally established a network of Marine Protected Areas in Southern California, passing a slightly revised version of the Integrated Preferred Alternative by a 3-2 vote.

The final vote reflects tough compromise. The maps protect some key places from extractive uses, like Point Dume, Naples and La Jolla, but fail to meet scientific guidelines in some locations. (For example, the fishermen won the battle for Rocky Point, and the MPA at Farnsworth Banks is little more than a paper park). The  commission also made a few small changes at Swami’s and La Jolla in San Diego County.

The final hearing and vote took place in Santa Barbara, a fitting location given that the northern Channel Islands became  California’s first designated marine protected areas years ago.

Continue reading

A December to Remember

Packages

Who's naughty or nice? This holiday season holds the promise of great gifts for the regional environment

December brings connotations of the holiday season.  Office parties, vacations, holiday shopping, football bowl games, family gatherings, overeating, lighting the menorah, and Christmas lights and trees.  For Heal the Bay, this December is anything but a time to ease into the new year.  As always, there is our push for year-end giving.  Tis the season for charitable write offs.  Also, once again, Heal the Bay is spearheading the Day Without a Bag event.  Over 25,000 bags will be given away at over 150 locations throughout L.A. County on Dec. 16 as a reminder to bring reusable bags whenever you go shopping.  Once again, partners include L.A. County, Los Angeles, other cities, retailers, grocers and other environmental groups.  This year, the event has spread across much of the state with counties from San Diego to San Francisco participating.

However, this December is as busy as any previous December I can remember.  Continue reading

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. 

Continue reading

A Reel Win

happy fishCall Ripley’s.  Sacramento finally got something right. On Wednesday the California Fish and Game Commission adopted a plan to create 24 marine protected areas (MPAs) along California’s north-central coast between Santa Cruz County and Mendocino Counties. These MPAs will protect about 86 square miles of coastal waters, but still leave 90% open to fishing.

The approved plan was a result of environmentalists and fishermen working together within the Marine Life Protection Act process. When it comes to protecting fish, these groups don’t always see eye to eye.  Despite these differences, they assembled a plan that included substantial compromise on all sides. The plan protects marine life AND keeps fishermen afloat.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading