MLPA: The Privatization Of Ocean Management

by Dan Bacher, June 23, 2010

Writer Beth Werner claims, "Most people have heard of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) in one way or another, but there seems to be some confusion as to what is fact or fiction."

However, for people that have actually examined the implementation of the MLPA Initiative since Governor Arnold Schwarzengger privatized the process in 2004, there is no confusion "as to what is fact or fiction."

The fact is that Schwarzenegger's MLPA Initiative is a privately funded process overseen by oil industry, marina development, real estate and other corporate interests. Rather than truly protecting the ocean as the landmark law originally intended to do, the MLPA Initiative under Schwarzenegger has completely taken water pollution, habitat destruction, oil drilling, wave energy projects and all other human uses of the ocean other than fishing and seaweed harvesting off the table.

I have a series of questions to ask Werner and other proponents of Schwarzenegger's MLPA process.

Why does the MLPA engage in cultural genocide by banning the Kashia Pomo Tribe from harvesting seaweed and shellfish off their sacred site, "Danaka," in Sonoma County?

Why has the Initiative shown no respect for tribal sub­sistence and ceremonial rights? This is an overt vio­lation of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. Article 32, Section 2, of the Declaration man­dates "free prior and informed consent" in consultation with the indigenous population affected by a state action (http://www.iwgia.org/sw248.asp ).

Why did MLPA staff until recently violate the Bagley-Keene Act and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by banning video and audio coverage of the initiative's work sessions?

Why do the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) and Science Advisory Team continue to violate the California Public Records Act by refusing to respond to numerous requests by Bob Fletcher, former DFG Deputy Director, for key documents and records pertaining to the MLPA implementation process?

Why did the Governor and MLPA officials install an oil industry lobbyist, a marina developer, a real estate executive and other corporate interests as "marine guardians" to kick Indian Tribes, fishermen and seaweed harvesters, the greatest defenders of the oceans, off the ocean?

Why is Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association, allowed to make decisions as the chair of the BRTF for the South Coast and as a member of the BRTF for the North Coast, pan­els that are supposedly designed to "protect" the ocean, when she has called for new oil drilling off the Califor­nia coast?

Why does the initiative discard the results of any sci­entists who disagree with the MLPA' pre-ordained con­clusions? These include the peer reviewed study by Dr. Ray Hilborn, Dr. Boris Worm and 18 other scientists, featured in Science magazine in July 2009, that con­cluded that the California current had the lowest rate of fishery exploitation of any place studied on the planet.

Why do MLPA staff and the California Fish and Game Commission refuse to hear the pleas of the repre­sentatives of the California Fish and Game Wardens Association, who oppose the creation of any new MPAs until they have enough funding for wardens to patrol existing reserves?

Finally, why is a private corporation, the shadowy Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, being allowed to privatize ocean resource management in California through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the DFG?

Werner proclaims, "As we work our way through this challenging process, it's worth remembering why we are doing it -- we all want a healthy ocean that will provide for us and our children."

How can you possibly conclude that a privately funded initiative filled with so many confllcts of interest and violations of state, federal and international laws will result in a "healthy ocean ocean that will provide for us and our children?"

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