MLPA Planning Process, Call for Input

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Posted by Stephen G. Benavides on November 26, 2008 at 10:31:17:

The California Department of Fish of Fish and game is currently in the process of redesigning Marine protected areas all along California's 1100 mile coast. In each of the five study regions a transparent process invites public participation. Currently we are involved in a public planning process for the south coast study region which includes an area from point conception in Santa Barbara County to the California Mexican border in San Diego.

Members of the public are encouraged to participate in the planning process and if you have any interest in this issue now is certainly the time to get involved. The initial step would be to visit the Department of Fish and game website for the Marine life protection act which is www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa .

The timeline for public involvement in the Southern California process is running quite short. We are expected to begin development and review of draft Marine protected area proposals beginning in January of 2009. The time is short but you have an interest I would encourage you to get involved.

As a stakeholder driven process, public input is critical to the successful implementation of the Marine life protection act initiative. There are a number of ways you can become involved including:
1. attending meetings, public review of documents or watch meetings live or archived on the website

2. Comment on draft documents a Marine protected area proposals.

3. Add your name to the e-mail listserv at the MLPA website.

4. Send general comments by mail or e-mail.

The state is done a really good job with their web-based information delivery systems and if you have any interest in this process the time for you to get involved is now.

I was fortunate to be appointed as a recreational diving representative to the regional stakeholders group for the Southern California MLPA initiative process. This is my third time involved in the implementation of the MLPA. initiative. The first two attempts to implement the statute were suspended first for planning considerations and then for fiscal reasons. In the course of the last eight years trying to implement this initiative the department has come a long way in designing a process that will yield a result which is both politically and scientifically defensible. At the current time there are over 58 members of the regional stakeholder committee. I must admit that it is probably one of the best assemblages of Marine knowledge that I have ever seen in one room. In addition to the regional stakeholders group there is also a scientific advisory Council made up of the scientific disciplines necessary to provide input to the regional stakeholders group. The goal of this process is to come up with a series of proposed Marine protected areas that can be presented for approval to the fishing game commission sometime in late 2009. Between now and September when the first Marine protected area proposals complete their review and a preferred alternative is selected, we all have the ability to affect this process.

If you want to get an idea of the size and magnitude of the changes that are going to be proposed for Southern California the MLPA website maintained by the department contains the after action reports for the first two phases of this initiative process in central California. In that process a little less than 20% of the coastline was designated as some type of the four Marine protected areas with less than 20% of those receiving full protection has Marine Reserves were no take is allowed.

Why is this important? This is the first time there has ever been a comprehensive attempt to provide some levels of protection for species and habitats on the California coast lines. Because of the overwhelming costs, both political and monetary, the chances of something like this ever happening again in our lifetime are going to be remote. The changes wrought by this initiative process will be binding on our children and possibly their children. If there is any doubt whether this is important or not find an old SCUBA diver, somebody is old or older than Ken Kurtis (lol), and ask them what their thoughts are on the health and vitality of the Southern California oceans over the last 40 years. When you couple the continuing decline of the productivity of our oceans with the projected increases in human population and habitat disturbances caused by coastal occupancy, you will understand why this process is so important and why it is receiving the high attention to getting it completed in this most dire fiscal time. There are going to be severe economic consequences to some of the user groups and a compaction of 100% of the effort into a smaller subset of available area will stress the State's enforcement assets to the breaking point. [As a matter of fact it might break and since I think our enforcement is already broken. As a separate issue I would urge all of you to write letters to the director of Fish and game with a copy to the governor's office asking for an increase in salary for the departments wildlife protection officers to bring them up to the same level as the Highway Patrol. We do not have enough game wardens and we do not pay them enough to get by in a living wage in a coastal metropolitan areas. They need our help, and we need their efforts to protect and preserve our wildlife and fisheries]

In the middle of January we will meet to begin a process of reviewing existing Marine protected areas and drawing lines on maps for new ones. Since I don't think there is a single square foot of coastline in Southern California that is not someone's best fishing hole or favorite sunset retreat, we all have a stake in this process. If you have something meaningful to add and a passion for getting involved in designing how we and our children letter rack up the coastal marine resources in the future, it is now or never for Southern California, at least for the next few decades.

Stephen G. Benavides


"If you want to build a ship don't herd people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."

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