MLPA Update, BRTF guidance on proposed MPA's

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Posted by Steve Benavides on July 30, 2009 at 18:47:16:

RSG Members are coming very close to finishing up the primary job of the regional stakeholders group. Next Monday and Tuesday the regional stakeholders will meet to begin our final round of adjusting our proposed maps prior to submission to the BRTF. I also spent two days this week at the BRTF meeting in Santa Monica. Here are the highlights of that meeting. First off, not a single one of the six maps that were forwarded from round 2 met the SAT (scientific advisory team) guidelines. The chairman of the BRTF made it perfectly clear that we would be required to submit maps which meet the minimum scientific guidelines or product would not be forwarded to the Fish and game commission. Of course what this means is that the BRTF will be happy to take our product and modify it, along with the help of the scientists, in order to meet minimum scientific standards. We call this " making sausage"

The clear problem is that any increase in the level of protection imparted to any of the maps will come at an increased socio-economic cost, which translates as less revenue for the fisherman. The levels of protection on most of the maps actually fell from round one to round two. It will be very difficult to turn this around and it will be very painful for the fishing community.

When we meet next Monday and Tuesday we will be under incredible time pressure to complete our tasks. Basically, we will be divided into one of three groups. One of those groups will be charged with creating a map that contains levels of protection at the "preferred" level. My guess is that this map will look something like Opal B. from round one. The second group will be charged with attempting to create a cross interest support map using the Topaz map as a starting point. The final group will consist of members who are charged with turning External A (the FIC/FIN proposal) and bring that map up to conformance with scientific guidelines. It is interesting to note that in so doing, the BRTF collapsed all three of the fishing maps (external A, external B., and Lapis 2) into a single map. This was done because the three maps have virtually identical scoring in the evaluation that was just delivered at the BRTF meeting.

What this means is that they're going to be three maps prepared by the close of business next Tuesday. One of those maps will be prepared primarily by the consumptive fishing coalition and their supporters. A second map will be prepared which will reflect generous conservation values and an enhanced level of protection but with significant socioeconomic cost to commercial fisheries. The third map will fall somewhere in between those two. It will be interesting to see if this cross interest map can actually be produced. I say that because there has been a distinct reluctance of the polar opposites involved in the process to move off their entrenched positions. I think it's fair to say that the BRTF will move them off their positions if we don't move them ourselves. If the Maps meet the correct guidelines they will be forwarded to the California Fish and game commission for approval. One of them will receive a preferred endorsement from the BRTF. So after we are done, and in the BRTF is done, the final decision will be made by the California Fish and Game Commission sometime this December.

We are going to have a very difficult time at that meeting and will be working very long hours. There will be an opportunity to provide public comment next Monday afternoon. You should be aware that while we do listen to the comments and enjoy some of them greatly, at this late stage negotiations are going to come down to about six very difficult geographies including Catalina Island, La Jolla/point Loma, Laguna Beach, Palos Verdes, and Dana point. There is probably very little that can be done at this point to change the direction of the process, kind of like the rudder on the Titanic. If you do choose to speak, please remember the quality is more important than quantity. Some of the representative groups have chosen to cede their time to a few chosen speakers and do a coordinated, well thought out, well delivered presentation. I think I speak for a number of the RSG members that we far preferred this type of presentation over listening to 200 people saying the same thing. I especially like to hear from children, especially when they read their letter, not their dad's. That said, t5he process over the next few months will have a profound impact on the way that we and our families interact with the ocean. This is a very important issue. I am sad that so few people have taken the time to become knowledgeable about the Marine life protection act and appreciative of this opportunity and at the same time impressed that some of the user groups such as the kayak anglers and Spearos are so thoroughly schooled, prepared and well represented at the meetings. If you have been following this process here are three very good reasons to consider attending the next meeting.

Orange county is a particularly difficult geography. Remember, that if the Marine reserve posed by the fishing coalition is accepted as the final product there will be a no take marine reserve from Irvine Cove to three arch Bay. That means no spear fishing and a lobster hunting in Laguna Beach anymore. Attempts to move this reserve south, towards Dana point, into what many (and me) believe is better habitat, is being fiercely resisted by commercial fishermen who will suffer loss of habitat if the reserve is shifted south. No matter what, because of spacing guidelines, there is going to be a large state marine reserve located somewhere between Newport and Dana point in the odds-on bet, like it or not, is smack dab in the middle of Laguna Beach.

As difficult as Laguna Beach is, the La Jolla Cove/ Pt. Loma area is an even more complex geography. We have probably heard more about the San Diego area than any in the south coast study area. There are several competing geographies and only a couple of them are similar. The only thing I can say is that it looks like the northern edge of the La Jolla kelp down to somewhere below Casa Cove will be left open to fishing and other consumptive activities. The kayak fishermen and consumptive divers have made a very good case for leaving this particular area open and it appears that most of the competing proposals honor their wishes.

There is also going to be considerable pressure to locate a state marine reserve on the west face of Palos Verdes. There is considerable political and scientific opposition to locating one of the backbone reserves on the south facing side of Palos Verdes near the White's point sewer outfall and the Portuguese Bend landslide. It is virtually certain that there will be some type of large marine protected area located somewhere on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Again, the spacing guidelines and the need for adequate representation of habitats and replication of the same command the location somewhere at that point. I don't think anyone is going to like whatever the final solution of Palos Verdes will be. The intensity of use and the number of people utilizing the resource is considerable.

Stephen G. Benavides
South Coast RSG member

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