Tribes take issue with restrictions

Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

Despite the 1,000-plus page report, tribal officials and county residents found omissions in the latest document from the process to implement Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) on the North Coast.

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.

Reach Adam Spencer at aspencer@triplicate.com .

14020170
The Del Norte Triplicate
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