Triplicate Staff

It had all the makings of a train wreck, or perhaps the better metaphor is shipwreck. A North Coast fishing industry already beset by decreasing stock and increasing regulations faced the prospect of a whole new layer of restrictions - including establishment of new no-take zones.

California's Marine Life Protection Act may make perfect sense from a conservation standpoint, but it also seemed like it had the potential to be another serious blow to a vital industry that helps define who we are on the North Coast.

The issue is still playing out, but at this point it appears a unified proposal for the establishment of Marine Protection Areas in this region may get adopted by the state.

That unified proposal was no small accomplishment. It's the product

of collaboration and compromise by diverse stakeholders such as

commercial fishermen, conservationists and tribal representatives. Those

are not parties prone to easy agreement. Heck, it must've been a huge

challenge just to get all the fishing interests in Del Norte, Humboldt

and Mendocino counties to back the same plan.

The stakeholders had to consider fishing safety and profitability

issues along a diverse coastline, in addition to addressing the MLPA

guidelines for adequately protecting and preserving marine species.

They worked hard, and it's nice to see their efforts rewarded by the

decision Thursday of the Blue Ribbon Task Force to back the full

proposal and recommend its approval by the state Fish and Game

Commission in February.

There's still some suspense here, because everyone acknowledges that

the unified proposal calls for a lower level of protection for some

species than what is advised by MLPA science guidelines. In areas where

commercial fishing would be restricted, the plan would still allow

harvesting by noncommercial fishermen to preserve traditional tribal


There is currently no legal way to allow only tribes to harvest in

certain areas. That could soon change. Blue Ribbon Task Force members

indicated they were passing along the North Coast proposal as-is in

hopes that new legislation will resolve the issue. There might even be

draft legislation on the table before the Fish and Game Commission

considers the North Coast plan.

For now, we should appreciate the efforts of regional stakeholders to

fully engage in a process that could have inspired division rather

cooperation. The emergence of a single, unified proposal hasn't

happened, by the way, in any other region of California.

We also applaud the state officials who have shown they weren't just

paying lip service to the idea of valuing local input. The MLPA

Initiative people helped the stakeholders along, and the Blue Ribbon

Task Force members have given this grass-roots effort a real shot at

gaining final adoption by the state.

Mark it down, folks. So far this would appear to be an example of

state government working well with its citizens to resolve difficult,

complex problems.