Correcting MLPS mis-information (cross-post)

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Posted by Ken Kurtis on July 04, 2009 at 14:49:54:

Ray Hiemstra, Associate Director of Orange County Coastkeeper, posted this note from Melissa Miller-Henson (program manager of the MLPAI) trying to correct some mis-information that's been going around about future alleged restrictions of non-extractive activities within MPAs. Given the dicussions that have gone on here, I thought it might be appropriate to cross-post Mellisa's comments to this BBS as well.

- Ken
(Memeber, Statewide Interests group - MLPAI)
(Written by Melissa from here on down . . .)


It has recently been brought to my attention that you have heard concerns about kiteboarding and surfing being restricted or prohibited in areas designated as marine protected areas (MPAs) under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), without the opportunity for public input regarding such designations. I understand your concerns about the potential for MPAs to prohibit public access and use, and want to share a few, brief thoughts with you.

Under the definition of MPAs and what activities may be restricted in those areas, the California Fish and Game Commission and the California Park and Recreation Commission have the authority to limit human uses (both extractive and non-extractive activities) within state MPAs in order to protect marine resources. It is also possible that there are individuals who would like to see some MPAs placed off limits to all human activities, either now or in the future, and will attempt to make that case regardless of what science may say about the potential impact (or lack thereof) on marine resources.

However, the same statute encourages that, to the extent feasible, MPAs remain open for public use, enjoyment, education and study. To date, neither commission has acted to further restrict public access or non-extractive uses in MPAs under the MLPA (some restrictions already existed prior to the MLPA), nor have MPA proposals created by stakeholders for the central coast or north central coast study regions contained suggestions that public access or non-extractive activities be further limited in any way. Proposals for the south coast study region have not yet been finalized, but there has been very little discussion within the stakeholder group about limiting non-extractive human activities (what little discussion has taken place has been with regard to protecting a few key tidepools from trampling).

More importantly, in order to create or modify MPAs with such restrictions, both commissions are legally required to notice and hold at least two public hearings, so it would be difficult for either commission to legally take restrictive action without knowledge by the public.

I do not want to give you the impression that restricting public access or non-extractive activities in MPAs could not or would not ever occur in California, because none of us can foresee the future. What I do want to impress is that the statutes governing MPAs in California identify dual purposes for MPAs (both protecting marine resources and providing opportunities for public enjoyment and study of such areas) and that there is a mandate for public participation in any decisions about what can be allowed (or not) in state MPAs.

With regard to future assessments of the MPA system and how well it is or is not functioning, I am not aware of any requirement for an assessment of all human impacts during the proposed five year review process, though there is certainly a mandate for adaptive management as we learn more about ocean ecosystems and the resources that reside within them.

Thank you for your active participation in the MLPA Initiative. I look forward to meeting with you next week.

With regards,

Melissa Miller-Henson, Program Manager
Marine Life Protection Act Initiative
c/o California Natural Resources Agency
1416 Ninth Street, Suite 1311
Sacramento, CA 95814

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