A public hearing was held in Crescent City last Wednesday on the draft environmental impact report (DEIR) that analyzed the effects of the MPAs slated for the region.
The restructuring of the network of MPAs is a result of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) passed in 1999.
Officials from the Yurok Tribe raised several issues they thought were ignored in the report, like the traditional harvesting done by Native Americans for centuries.
John Corbett, senior attorney for the Yurok Tribe, said the MLPA’s Science Advisory Team (SAT) did not assess the level of Indian take. Corbett also said that the “level of protection assumption” used by the SAT overestimates the amount of fishing that could be done in the proposed marine reserves.
The assumption assumes that recreational harvest will occur at the maximum extent allowed by law, meaning that every one of the 2 million recreational fishing license holders in California are fishing for the maximum amount of mussels allowed every day in North Coast marine reserves, Corbett said.
“It’s impossible. It could not happen,” Corbett said.
The Yurok representatives also questioned why the limited amount of shellfish gathering that can occur on the coast due to natural conditions wasn’t taken into account.
Gathering can only safely be done during a minus tide — and even then 9-foot or greater sustained waves often prevent it, said Christa Norton, a paralegal with the Yurok Tribe. In addition, for at least six months out of the year, shellfish gathering is prevented by Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning, a form of food poisoning that affects shellfish, she said.
Natural conditions limited the amount of days when gathering was possible to seven in 2011, nine in 2010 and 13 in 2009, Norton said.
A special seasonal closure from March 1 to Aug. 31 is proposed for False Klamath Rock, a popular Yurok spot for harvesting.
Doug Corrigan, a recreational fishermen who also serves on the Del Norte Fish and Game Commission, concurred with the Yuroks’ findings.
“We’re self-regulating up here,” said Corrigan, who was in the Regional Stakeholder Group for the MPAs. Corrigan also cited other fishing restrictions that are already in place.
The near-Del Norte MPAs include Pyramid Point, Point St. George, Southwest Seal Rock, Castle Rock, False Klamath Rock and Reading Rock.
Three of the four proposed options (including a State Marine Conservation Area) for Reading Rock, which the Yurok refer to as Redding Rock, would allow some tribes, including the Yuroks, to take marine resources from the area.
The Smith River Rancheria submitted comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report that highlighted its belief that the state cannot grant other tribes the right to fish in MPAs currently managed by the rancheria.
“As we have stated numerous times, it is our strong held belief that this is a question to be decided only by tribes, and should not be broached in any manner by the state of California,” the rancheria’s comment letter states.
The DEIR is now available to the public on DFG’s website at www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/impact_nc.asp. Printed copies and related documents are available at Del Norte County Library branches in Crescent City and Smith River.
Public comment will be taken until April 16.