A recently approved network of marine protected areas (MPA’s) in California is under attack from shadowy anti-conservation front groups. The underwater parks are part of the landmark Marine Life Protection Act, a bipartisan law passed by the California legislature in 1999 to establish pockets of protection along the state’s iconic 1,100 mile coast.
As a former member of the regional stakeholder group in Southern California, I was fortunate enough to participate in the 2+ years process that resulted in the new MPAs approved this past December. It was a grueling effort, trying to work collaborately with the other 63 stakeholders in the quest for conservation areas that balanced public use and stewardship. Every inch of the proposed parks was throughly though-out and discussed over days long meetings and re-hashed in the now legendary late night sessions, only to be re-examined again the next day in another 8 hour shift.
Imagine the atmosphere: 64 stakeholders trying to arrange areas that served the constituencies we were appointed to represent. 64 stakeholders of all walks of life, so passionate about the deep blue that they would devote unending hours to the process over two years. Now, I won’t pretend it was always a friendly endeavor, as the months dragged on and the pleasantries evaporated, passionate discussions could lead to heated arguments over popular sites over the coast. Yet despite it all, we managed to fulfill our charge and deliver three different proposals to the Blue Ribbon Task Force in charge of managing the process.
You can imagine my dismay upon learning of the latest ploys to do away with this landmark effort. Despite the fact that fishermen and consumptive representatives made up the majority of said stakeholder group in Southern California, they allege nobody took them into account. Despite the fact the adopted protected areas barely make up 10% of Southern California’s coastal ocean (area from shore to 3 miles out), detractors will say this is excessive. Despite the fact this process incorporated hundreds of hours over more than two years worth of public comment, they’ll claim there wasn’t enough public input. The facts prove all of these accusations are baseless.
The truth is a landmark ocean protection effort is under attack by foreign corporate interests, interests that won’t outright show their face all too often (except for that time Shimano USA’s CEO graced the process with his presence in Long Beach to threaten moving his company from CA should ANY of these protections go through) and will continue to fuel the legal ploys and media attacks on a process protecting one of California’s greatest treasures.
Today, a Fisheries forum will be discussing the matter in Sacramento and despite my best efforts, I’m unfortunately not there (transmission died, literally in transit as I was making my way up there), so this post will have to do.
I hope decision makers will listen to the overwhelming support for marine conservation and protect the protected areas.