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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

State Legislative Committee Aired MLPA

• Pro Forma Hearing Did Not Provide Option to Revisit Plan

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


Environmental groups, including Heal the Bay and other Marine Protected Area advocates, are hailing last week’s Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture meeting as another step toward successful implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act for the south coast region, which includes the Point Dume MPA.
The committee met in Sacramento specifically to review the ocean protection plan approved in December for California’s south coast. The legislators heard presentations from MLPA Initiative and Department of Fish and Game staff followed by public testimony.
The two-hour meeting included a summary of the south coast process, which included more than 50 public meetings, 150 hours of public comments and 18,000 e-mails during a two-year period.
“Agency staff, elected officials and stakeholders testified about the inclusiveness of MLPA planning efforts,” a press release states. However, MPA opponents, primarily from the sportfishing community, reportedly outnumbered proponents 2:1 during public comments.
Opponents who hoped the opportunity to address the legislators would lead to changes in the approved plan were disappointed.
Point Dume is at the center of the south coast MPA plan controversy. The proposed State Marine Reserve extending from the west side of Paradise Cove to the outflow of Zuma Creek and out to the three-mile state boundary will receive the highest level of protection, prohibiting recreational and sport fishing activities, causing an outcry from sportfishing organizations and lobbyists, including the United Anglers of Southern California, the Sportfishing Association of California, Kayak Fishing Association of California, American Sportfishing Association.
Observers say a lawsuit filed by a coalition of sportfishing organizations is unlikely to be heard before the MPA plan is implemented.
Numerous blogs and recreational fishing websites encouraged their readers to attend the Sacramento meeting and to contribute to the lawsuit on the basis that the MLPA process was “corrupt,” and that the science that forms the basis for the MPAs is inaccurate, and that sportfish populations are not declining, but instead are rebounding.
Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro, who chairs the Joint Committee, explained that his committee does not have authority to make changes to the plan.
Chesbro called for ongoing public participation and cooperation as California works to complete the statewide marine protected area network called for under the MLPA. “It is critical that we have ocean users as partners in conservation,” he said.
“I am impressed by the science available to back up the MLPA …Looking at the monitoring results from the Channel Islands, and based on scientific studies from around the world, we know that marine protected areas work,” State Senator Fran Pavley, who represents Malibu, said.
Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, in a letter to the Joint Committee, called the south coast plan a “balanced marine protected area network that protects the region’s most iconic ocean areas while leaving nearly 90 percent of state waters open for fishing.”
“Southern California’s coastal economy employs more than seven million people and contributes nearly $900 billion to the overall state economy,” Newsom wrote, urging the Joint Committee’s “continued support for the Marine Life Protection Act.”
The MPAs are expected to become official later this year. The City of Malibu will host docent classes next month.

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