The process to close off public access in our ocean waters is now entering a critical stage.
Local groups, hoping to keep important access open, have almost finished their proposals for closures. This process will result in one group of possible Marine Protected Area sites that match the sizing and spacing requirements of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative. It is a local good-faith effort to minimize the impact of the closures on our fishing community.
This well-meaning group can’t change the MLPA Initiative process. The Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) makes the final decisions. This is the group that will decide what closures to send to the state Fish and Game Commission. They can choose from the proposals that come from the local arrays now being finished, the future Science Advisory Team (SAT), or Regional Stakeholder Group (RSG) yet to be formed. These proposals may or may not include local arrays. The Blue Ribbon Task Force is also allowed to mix, match or make up its own.
The biggest oversight of the MLPA Initiative process has been ignoring Native American rights to hunt and gather. This has left everyone involved in the North Coast process very uncomfortable. The local groups preparing MPA sites, whose members include first-nation representatives, cannot make any decisions affecting those rights. Yet, they are forced to try and propose sites, or leave the decisions completely to some one else.
No one locally can resolve this issue, but the Blue Ribbon Task Force will discuss it at their meeting here in Crescent City on Thursday. The task force also does not have the power to decide the issue, the only way this can be resolved is if the state enters into direct talks with the sovereign Indian nations.
For all of you who care about maintaining access to our renewable ocean resources, please take the time on Thursday to attend the task force meeting at the Elk Valley Rancheria conference room.
The meeting starts at 8 a.m. Public comment is on the agenda at 12:30. I will be trying to comment on the futility of this process and how destructive it is to our communities. We need everyone who cares about access to our renewable ocean resource to be there. Please join us and watch history being made.
Kenyon Hensel is a local fisherman who has been closely involved with California’s MPA process.