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Posted by Stephen Benavides on June 06, 2009 at 10:12:01:

The following is a report on the current state of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative from my perspective as a diving Rep on the RSG.
Thursday I had the distinct pleasure of spending the day attending the Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting in downtown Los Angeles. The Blue Ribbon Task Force (“BRTF”) was tasked with dealing with a number of very difficult topics, the most controversial of which was the decision to nullify a vote taken during a contentious process which was later reversed by the staff.
The meeting had been well advertised and there were probably somewhere between 250 and 300 people in attendance. In terms of numbers, the consumptive community was overwhelmingly present and, according to plan, they were all dressed in black. The BloodyDecks brigade was out in force. I thought for a while about dressing up in white... but decided that was probably not a good idea. So, I put on my finest blue diving shirt and blue jeans and told everybody that we should have worn blue and been there to represent the ocean.
All of this controversy is going on because at the last meeting of the RSG a last-minute split in one of the three groups created a situation which forced the elimination of one of the proposed draft arrays. Only six could go forward and seven were on the table. Of course, one of these was alternative C. which is a conservationist proposed map which is heavy on marine reserves. It is hated by virtually all of the consumptive community and was therefore voted off the table. This was relatively straightforward sense consumptive fishermen far outnumber the conservation element in the RSG. It is questionable whether the numerical majority of consumptive's represents California's constituency. l What this left was 4 virtually identical maps which are proposed by the fishing coalition and 2 alternative arrays which are proposed as maps which attempted to gain cross interest support.
In my own Opal group the map we produced was a very poor example and we should be ashamed that we let it be issued. My group missed the mark and we should have rejected it as an inadequate attempt at cross interest and produced our own separate map which did in fact reflect conservation values. When I spoke at the BRTF meeting last Thursday I made the following comments:
****
Thank you Chairman Benninghoven, and Members of the Task Force. My name is Steve Benavides and I am a member of the Regional Stakeholders Group and the Opal subgroup. I am here today to urge you not to recognize to advance the staff recommendation [which was to honor the vote with the effect of eliminating outside Alternative C. from further evaluation]
The very first thing we were told last Monday when we met was that if there were multiple maps that were identical than the multiple, identical clones would not be allowed to advance. That was not done. That is why we are here today facing the possible exclusion of a map which, even at its advanced level of protection, failed SAT (Scientific Advisory Team) analysis in fact, all of the maps which you see here today are smaller subsets of maps which have already been created and shown to be less effective than your guidelines by failing SAT analysis.
I am not a proponent of Alternative C. I'm not a proponent of Alternative A. I am one of those threescore people working in the trenches trying to come up with a reasonable alternative to go forward. I must say that the Conservation values have not been reflected today. I'll speak only for the map in the Opal subgroup that I helped create. The Opal map you see before you now does not represent true cross interest support. The only reason you don't have seven maps in front of you is because we were not allowed to split because of time. This view is shared by a number in our group.
I notice a lot of people here wearing black. I didn't think it was appropriate to wear white. Perhaps we should all be wearing blue as we're here to represent the ocean and not our entrenched self-interest. I think I can say that at least the members of my group, my community, the Conservation side if you will, that we have come down off our horse. I would like to see you give very strong direction to the rest of my Brothers on the Regional Stakeholder Group… to get up off the deck.
****
Ultimately, the BRTF upheld the staff proposal. So where do we go from here? I think it's fairly plain. The fishing coalition are going to probably pursue and defend the FIC/FIN proposal of outside alternative A. or one of its clone maps produced by the fishing groups. They risk the very real proposition of having their maps forced into a runoff to avoid duplication. Are they really ready to risk that? The conservation representatives are going to do their own map. We will even get to use shapes which are included in the dreaded outside Alternative C. in order to complete our task. I would be willing to bet that the map designed by a conservation group would be far more similar to the final product we end up with than the FIC/FIN proposal. Even though the dreaded outside Alternative C. was voted off the island last week it isn't dead at all the ideas on it can still be used. I assume there will be a third map prepared because the BRTF wants to have three before making its decision in presentation to the Fish and Game Commission for the final decision.
You know what?, this sounds a lot like what is happening in the north-central coast process! Ultimately, I think the same difficulty to reach cross interest support for the north-central proposals has found its reincarnation in the Southern California applications. We heard at the BRTF meeting that the array that is ultimately produced for Southern California WILL reflect conservation values, BE assembled with scientific inputs and MUST be constructed using a network of state marine reserves. So the BRTF will do it if we cannot. The conundrum we face is how much of the Marine reserve network we are going to be forced to live with will be created by the efforts of the stakeholders versus how much will be created by the politicians. The two main proponents appear to be incapable of negotiating in good faith towards cross interest proposals. The BRTF is composed of people who are eminently capable of doing what we cannot. The risk we all face is that they may not do it the way we want it done.
****
Let me illustrate this risk. Suppose the target price of an element commonly sold in the area is $7.50. I want to buy several of these. If you are a seller and I go to you and ask, “How much for these widgets?” And you say $10. I think if I accepted your first offer of $10 I would be a fool and you would think me a fool. If in fact I offered five dollars and after long negotiations we both compromised an equal amount and came to the middle at $7.50 I think we would have a good negotiation. We shared the pain-equally. Share the pain is the sine qua non for successful political compromise in California.
I've also learned that in the same negotiation, if I responded to your $10 offer with a two dollar counteroffer it would be easy to understand why you would be insulted as the seller. Any attempt and coming to the middle in a negotiation where one of the parties has made an opening bid which does not contemplate an equal sharing of the pain will yield an unsatisfactory result. I think that's where we are at in this process. In my comments I referenced the conservation groups coming down off their high horse. We did that, I don't think many of us really expected to defend alternative C. as our final product. At the same time, the insistence of the fishermen to remain wedded to the initial concepts of the FIC/FIN proposal continues to strike me as the unsatisfactory $2 counteroffer I referenced above.
****
These round 2 proposals are now viewable in MarineMap by SCRSG members, as well as by members of the public (http://www.marinemap.org/marinemap/) under "public proposals." Remember that MarineMap allows you, and members of the public, to generate basic statistics for any MPA concept in these proposals, including information on size, habitats covered, and potential socioeconomic impacts. You may also generate statistics for an entire proposal by right-clicking on the name of the proposal and selecting "array summary" or "replication report." Additional information for round 2 proposals will be posted to the MLPA website early next week. These materials will include pdf maps, descriptions of MPAs, consideration of existing MPAs, etc.


Stephen G. Benavides
SCRSG Representative
steve@sgbcpa.com
949-474-7427

California is proof you can run from your problems.



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