By Kent Gray
Triplicate staff writer
Maps of state-proposed marine protected areas will be scrapped until local fishermen have more say.
The California Department of Fish and Game announced last week its plans to start over on the process.
Local fishermen remain skeptical about the whole proposal.
This is not addressing the real fundamental problem for the fishing industry. Theyre not doing it because its good for the fishery but because of the law, said Crescent City fisherman Richard Young. The fear is this is all window dressing. Its just a way for Fish and Game to fulfill their political obligations.
Fish and Game spokesperson Chamois Andersen agreed the agency is responding to the law but said it is doing its best to accommodate fishermen in the regions being affected.
In the first workshop planned, we will be asking what does the MLPA (Marine Life Protection Act) mean? The way its written it is pretty broad, said Andersen. Areas have been set aside for 30 years to protect our resources but because they werent managed they were not beneficial. We want to make sure we have fish at a sustainable level for long-term use.
In 1999, the Marine Life Protection Act was signed into law and required Fish and Game to eventually establish marine protection areas along Californias coast. The protected areas are meant to replenish fish stocks, depleted by overfishing, by limiting or banning certain kinds of fishing within their boundaries.
Last year, Fish and Game biologists proposed two protected zones off Del Norte County. One called for a complete fishing ban around St. George Reef. The second zone, which stretched the entire length of Crescent City, called for restricted fishing.
These zones, along with others up and down California, were met with resistance from fishermen.
If science says its good for fishermen, then lets do it, said Young. But wheres the science? The issue of MPAs is an open question. Maybe in some small coastal areas there might be some value to them. But there is a very good chance income will go down in Del Norte County as a result of MPAs.
Fisherman Bob Brewer said he believed marine protection areas were Fish and Games answer to environmental forces.
Creating MPAs is a way of them kissing environmentalists butts some more, said Brewer.
Young and Brewer said the main problem with marine protected areas is that alone it can never revive a spiraling fishing industry. Young was a proponent for a federal buyback program being suggested last year to reduce the size of Californias fishery.
Id say from $50 million to $100 million would be able to buy enough boats from the fishery to make it a viable industry again, said Young.
I can understand eminent domain but they never compensate us for anything, said Brewer. They (the federal government) have paid farmers in the Klamath Basin a lot of money but theyve never given us anything.
Andersen said Congress recently approved the Coastal Impact Assistance Program which will provide $1.3 million to Fish and Game. Of that amount, $372,000 is earmarked for the marine protection area program, and $180,000 of that for socio-economic programs.
We need more a lot more than that, said Andersen. Were still looking for other dollars and other help.
According to Andersen, March and April workshops will discuss requirements of the MLPA. The second set of workshops scheduled for this summer will determine the size and scope of the areas to be included.
According to Fish and Game, regional panels will include representatives from some or all of the following categories: kelp harvesting, commercial fishing, scientific collecting, charter and party boats, sport fishing, divers, environmental groups, ecotourism, harbor districts, planning team scientists, non-team scientists, Sea Grant and the US Department of Defense.