by Dan Bacher
A panel overseeing the creation of marine protected areas on the North Coast voted unanimously today to forward the unified proposal developed by Tribal, fishing and environmental stateholders to the Fish and Game Commission.
The Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) also unanimously passed a motion, made by BRTF member Roberta Cordero, affirming the uniqueness of tribal uses of ocean resources. The motion included a mutual reservation of rights by the state and California Tribes and Tribal communities.
In addition, the panel passed a motion, made by BRTF member Meg Caldwell, urging the state agencies to work with Tribes in the comanagement of marine protected areas, according to Annie Reisewitz of the MLPA Initiative. The Task Force also voted to forward an “enhanced compliance alternative” plan that aims to meet more science guidelines.
If adopted by the Commission, the unified proposal would result in about 13 percent of the North Coast region being restricted or closed to fishing and gathering, versus 16 to 20 percent in other regions of the state.
"The actions taken today really exemplified the unified voice that came from the North Coast communities and it was a nice ending to the MLPA process on the North Coast," said Reisewitz.
Jim Martin, West Coast Regional Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, said the approval of the single proposal represented a "tremendous effort by North Coast recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, Indian Tribes and Tribal Communities, local conservationists and local governments to come together."
On October 20, three counties, 10 cities and three harbor districts signed and sent a resolution to the state of California urging the adoption without modification of the unified array for marine protected areas developed by North Coast Tribal, fishing and environmental stakeholders.
Resolution endorsers include the Counties of Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte and the cities of Monterey, Point Arena, Fort Bragg, Willits, Ukiah, Fortuna Eureka, Arcata, Trinidad and Crescent City. Other agencies signing onto the resolution include the Shelter Cove Resort Improvement District, Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District and Crescent City Harbor District.
Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro (D-Arcata), who has been critical of the MLPA Initiative, urged the task force to adopt the single proposal.
"I believe that there are fundamental flaws in the way that the MLPA has been implemented," Chesbro told the panel. "The MLPA Initiative has not looked at the ecological differences betweeen regions in the state. They have no consideration of existing fishing regulations. I strongly urge that the unified proposal be adopted unchanged."
"The unified proposal is fragile like a soap bubble," quipped Martin, emphasizing the hundreds and hundreds of hours that were spent by Tribes, fishermen, seaweed harvesters, local governments and businesses to develop one proposal. "If you reach out and touch it, it will pop. The adoption of the proposal with no substantive changes is a huge victory for all of the North Coast communities who participated in the process."
Megan Rocha, Self-Governance Officer of the Yurok Tribe, applauded the resounding support for the unified proposal plus the recognition of tribal uses by the task force and the stakeholders.
"The Tribe now looks forward to working with the Department of Fish and Game, the Fish and Game Commission and the Legislature to resolve the tribal use issue," she said.
"The motion regarding the mutual reservation of rights by the Tribes and the state is really big, since early on in the process the state said it didn't have the authority to recognize tribal uses. Now we can move forward and recognize that the real issue is resource management, not quibbling over who has authority."
On July 21, over 300 members of 50 Indian Nations, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, environmentalists, seaweed harvesters and community activists peacefully took over the previous Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting to protest the violation of tribal fishing and gathering rights under the MLPA.
Frankie Joe Myers, a Yurok Tribal ceremonial leader and organizer for the Coastal Justice Coalition that organized the direct action, said that he was glad that the task force adopted the unified proposal and made motions supporting traditional tribal gathering and co-management.
"It is close to what we are looking for," said Myers. "However, the proposal still has to go through the Fish and Game Commission - it's not over yet. As native people, we have seen time and time again where we sit down and agree on something and then what comes out in the end is nothing like we expected."