Request for Letters of Support for Critical Habitat retention

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Posted by Stephen Benavides on January 14, 2009 at 23:16:52:

California Marine Life Protection Act (“MLPA”) Initiative

Request for Letters of Support for Retaining San Nicolas Island and San Clemente Island in the south coast MLPA Mapping Process.


Last Tuesday, the SoCal MLPA Regional Stakeholders Group ("RSG") received a memorandum from the MLPA I-Team (the staff from various disciplines and direct the process) requesting the Blue Ribbon Task Force (“BRTF”)Adopt the following motion:

“Marine Protected Areas should not be considered and areas identified by the United States Department of Defense on a map dated December 4, 2008, as a live fire, training minefields and amphibious operation areas. Legally permitted fishing will continue to be allowed in the same manner as now in these areas, which is currently estimated at over 80% of the time….”

The BRTF is a body of political appointees who are charged with evaluating the MLPA proposals and recommending a preferred alternative to the Fish and Game Commission for final approval. They have the final say before the Commission.

That map identified all of San Clemente and San Nicholas and 17 miles of Camp Pendleton as live fire areas, ie No MPA's there a all.

I will cut to the chase. What they're requesting is that all of the coastline of both San Clemente and San Nicolas Islands and the entire 17 mile coastline of Camp Pendleton be completely removed from consideration in the Marine life Protection Act Initiative process. In the meantime there will be no levels of protection applied to San Clemente or. San Nicolas Island. Commercial and recreational harvest their will continue unabated and free of any restrictions imposed by the MLPA. In plain terms, this means that the RSG are to have to apply the guidelines for establishing a network of marine reserves through out the Southern California bight without applying any of the protections to those islands or to Camp Pendleton. I can't begin to tell you how bad an idea this is or how difficult it will be to design any meaningful network of marine reserves without including those to islands and Camp Pendleton as integral parts of the network. If the BRTF agrees to the Department of Defense request, this also means that one of the possible outcomes is that Catalina Island will be forced to absorb all of the network carrying capacity for all the offshore islands in the study area.

If you care at all about a successful conclusion to building a network of meaningful reserves in Southern California, It is vital that the regional stakeholders group and the State planning staff be allowed to include the coastlines San Clemente Island and San Nicolas Island and Camp Pendleton as an integral part in designing the spatial array of marine protected areas that will support one another with transport of larva or adult finfish.

We need emails letters from concerned divers who care about trying to create the comprehensive system of protected areas envisioned by the MLPA. I believe this opportunity to finish this process will never exist in most of our lifetimes. This decision is scheduled for January 22, so send an email, not a snailmail.

The Department of Defense and the state of California have already reached accord in similar circumstances. When the Department of Defense took a similar position at Vandenberg Air Force portion of the Central Coast. The central coast RSG and the BRTF made accommodations that met both the needs of building a network of reserves with the correct spatial properties and accommodated the needs of the Air Force for a very sensitive facility. I absolutely believe we can do the same thing at San Clemente Island. Recreational fishers and divers and commercial fishing and been living in close proximity to bombs and guns for dozens of years. The fact remains, however, there is a COMPELLING STATE INTEREST in seeing that all of the offshore islands are included in building this network of reserves that we so desperately need. Your letter can simply say that you feel it is important to include San Clemente Island and San Nicolas Island as an intergral part of the South Coast MLPA process. Below are just a few good reasons. Please don't just cut them out and paste them on your letter, because when they get to many e-mails about the same they throw them away. Your letter should began as follows, it has the email address:

January 14, 2009

Via email: MLPAComments@resources.ca.gov

Re: Military Use Areas in the MLPA South Coast Study Region

Dear Chair Benninghoven and members of the BRTF:

Please accept the following comments regarding military use areas in the MLPA South
Coast study region…


You can send it by e-mail, it's as easy as that. I would appreciate your help. This is very, very important to the diving community. Scratch that, it's good for my grandchildren, and yours

Here are a few good reasons. This is a very small list of the good reasons to keep all the islands in the process. These come from RSG members and scientists assisting the RSG.:

-Exclusion of offshore habitat with exceptional water quality from consideration in the network is ignoring and in contravention to the preservation and protection of potential habitat. (This is goal number six of the regional goals)

- Both of these offshore areas are designated as areas of special biological significance by the state California. There is a Compelling State Interest to include them in designing the spatial array of MBAs
- Both of the islands have been designated as areas of special biological significance by the state California. This means they have exceptional water quality.
- Approximately two thirds of all the offshore, shoreline habitat in the entire study area is represented at San Nicolas and San Clemente Island!!!

- The property the Department of Defense wishes to exclude contains approximately 50% of the entire persistent canopy of to help cover in our study area!!@!

- The scientific advisory team, which is tasked with providing input on the best available science to the Marine life protection act initiative process is not even met to consider this and the BRTF is being asked to make a final decision by January 22. The Science Advisory Team does not meet until January 23. There is no need at this time to take this drastic action.
- Clemente and San Nicolas Islands exhibit a wide variety of high quality habitats and high diversity of marine life, as well as complex oceanography and bottom topography.
- Both islands are farther offshore from mainland than any of the other Channel Islands. They have much greater freedom from turbidity and pollution from mainland sources.
- From a biological point of view, both islands are far enough south yet far enough off shore to support marine life communities characteristic of both warm water and cold water conditions, but warm water marine life predominate at San Clemente. Cold water and marine life predominate at San Nicolas. These islands appropriately placed in different bioregion, but each island has features that are distinct from the other islands in the bioregion.
- San Nicolas Island has the greatest total extent of kelp beds (30%) and San Clemente has second-most (22%) of all the Channel Islands, so those to islands account for over half the kelp of all eight of the Channel islands!!!
- San Clemente Island has many more important seabird and marine mammal areas than Catalina. Lots of people at Catalina: therefore, more disturbance for sea birds and marine mammals. Long-ago elephant seals used to haul out at Catalina Harbor: now, unlike other southern Channel Islands, no elephant seals haul out at Catalina). The people affects the Catalina in general represent a major difference between the two islands.
- CIRP surveys have found unique warm water species (some representing species range expansions) at both Catalina and San Clemente Island , but many more at the south end of San Clemente Island than anywhere else.

I could go on but you get the idea. In fact, I have another three pages pertinent information, but I'm just too tired to dictate now. Please excuse me, if there are any typing or grammar errors, but I wanted to get this out quickly, because it's important.

If you're willing, thanks for your help.

Then again, if you don't like what I'm asking, write one anyway because they need to hear from you too. It's your ocean too. You should also have a say. This issue is very important.

Stephen G. Benavides


In 1850 California became a state. The new state had no electricity, and no money. There were gunfights in the street and almost everyone spoke Spanish.

The irony compared to today, is inescapable.

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