First and foremost I wish to thank all of the stakeholders for their time and emotional investment sitting at the Marine Protected Area table. Also, I am grateful to all you who helped to produce a single MPA array for our North Coast. No other study area has been able to do this. It is quite an achievement.
Now we must face the Science Advisory Team, the Blue Ribbon Task Force, and the Fish and Game Commission with united support for this proposal.
Everyone who cares about access to your renewable ocean resource can help. The Science and Advisory Team is meeting Wednesday starting at 1 p.m. and Thursday beginning at 8:30 a.m. at the Red Lion in Eureka. Public comment starts at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon and should be available at the Flynn building here in town.
There is the real possibility that the science team will give the alternative from our regional stakeholder group a low value for conservation. Most of the closures do not have full protection due to our need to accommodate Native American usage. The state should have had the decency to work with the native tribes before ever trying to close any areas, but instead the stakeholders got stuck with the task. They worked hard and did a great job.The public can also make comments any time on all aspects of this process on the Internet at MLPAcomments@resources.ca.gov.
Two weeks after the SAT meeting, the Blue Ribbon Task Force is having meetings Oct. 25-26 at the River lodge Conference Center 1800 River Walk Drive, Fortuna. This is the meeting where the regional stakeholder group presents its preferred alternative. The task force will then take public comment beginning 3 p.m. Oct. 25.
Now here is what they are proposing to close in our county.
Pyramid Point State Marine Conservation Area from the Oregon border to just north of Prince Island and out three miles - this area would be closed to all gathering except night smelt taken by cast or dip net. Also allowed would be the take of finfish from shore using hook and line, dip or cast net. Surf smelt beach nets, and hand harvest of marine invertebrates, and aquatic plants except for sea palms, is also allowed.
The other large closure in our county is an area outside the St. George Reef Lighthous. It is the Point St. George Reef Offshore State Marine Conservation Area, a deep-water closure that is anchored by the navigational buoy outside the light and is about a four-mile square box. It closes some deep-water area that was very productive in years past when we could fish the shelf. This SMCA will allow both sport and commercial crabbing and salmon fishing. Pictures of these closures are at the website below.
Also included in the proposal are three 300-foot buffer zones around area rocks. Southwest Seal, Castle and Wilson rocks each get one. The one around Wilson is only in affect from March 1 to Aug. 31.
I suggest that if this may affect your fishing or gathering that you go to the website dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/pdfs/northcoastproposals/round3
descriptions.pdf, this will get you to both physical descriptions and overview maps. Please take the time to learn what these closures mean to you and make comments at the next meetings, and watch the process.
The Blue Ribbon Task Force may change the nature of these closures or add to them. I know how hard it is, but we must stay involved. There are many actions being taken to try to stop this entire process, but I am not sure that any of them will come in time to help us here on the North Coast. The task force means to have this in front of the Fish and Game Commission by the end of the year. Thanks for your support.
Kenyon Hensel is a local fisherman who has been closely involved with California's MPA process.