State Officials Misinformed California Anglers on Ocean Closures

George Osborn, PSO spokesman, presented a 25 page document documenting these illegal private, non-public meetings of MLPA officials to the Fish and Game Commission during its meeting on February 2 in Sacramento. During his public testimony, Osborn exposed the corruption and violations of law by the MLPA’s Blue Ribbon Task Force

“After reviewing the documents turned over to us, which previously the BRTF had improperly withheld from the public, we now have evidence, indicating that the public meetings of the BRTF have been an elaborately staged Kabuki performance, choreographed and rehearsed down to the last detail, even to the crafting of motions, in scheduled private meetings held before the so-called public meetings of the BRTF,” said Osborn. “Clearly, this has not been the most open and transparent process, as it has so often been described.”

On March 10, 2011, a California Superior Court ordered the Blue Ribbon Task Force and Master Plan Team to pay 100-percent of the legal fees incurred by members of the PSO in the Public Records Act case.

With three court victories in a row, it is clear that the MLPA Initiative created its “visionary” marine reserves in an illegal, highly orchestrated process that is a mockery of democracy and sound public policy. 

The lack of openness and transparency under the initiative are no surprise when one considers that the so-called “marine protected areas” were developed under the “leadership” of Catherine Reheis Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association who has repeatedly called for new oil drilling off the California coast. Reheis-Boyd served as the chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, an egregious conflict of interest with her role as a big oil lobbyist.

It is no secret that the fake “marine protected areas” created under the MLPA Initiative are good for ocean industrialists like Reheis-Boyd, but bad for the ocean ecosystem and sustainable fishing communities. These false MPAs, apparently under pressure from corporate interests, fail to protect the ocean from oil spills and drilling, water pollution, military testing, wave and wind energy projects, corporate aquaculture and all other uses of the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

The urgent need to protect the ocean from industrialization became apparent on May 12, when the U.S. House of Representatives voted to open leasing for offshore oil and gas drilling in federal waters off the California coast in 2012.

To see the entire 25-page set of BRTF private meeting documents, go to the San Diego Freedivers website.

Environmental leader urges support for lawsuit 

Grassroots environmental leaders, including John Lewallen, the co-founder of the Ocean Protection Coalition and the North Coast Seaweed Rebellion, are supporting the litigation against the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative, in contrast with some corporate environmental NGOs that back the process.

“A California Superior Court lawsuit challenging the authority of the state to let the private Resources Legacy Fund Foundation operate a process of setting up Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in violation of the 1999 Marine Life Protection Act, the California Environmental Quality Act, the Coastal Act, and other state laws, deserves the support of all Californians,” said Lewallen.

Lewallen said United Anglers of Southern California,, versus the California State Fish and Game Commission, has an “excellent legal team which has won a string of victories,” and is headed for a July 11 hearing to discuss the heart of the case: whether the state has operated under the proper authority to issue the regulations that it did.

“If successful, the United Anglers lawsuit will invalidate all Marine Protected Areas created by the illegal and corrupt process financed and run by the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation on California’s South Coast and North Central Coast, probably leading to the invalidation of Marine Protected Areas declared on the Central Coast and proposed for the North Coast,” emphasized Lewallen.

Lewallen has been in the forefront of grass roots campaigns against oil drilling, the clear cutting of ancient forests, wave energy projects and military testing off the coast and other environmental battles for over three decades. Unlike some well-funded initiative advocates who support greenwashing under the privatized MLPA process, Lewallen sees the MLPA Initiative for what it truly is- a resource grab by corporate interests.

Lewallen is the author of “Ecology of Devastation: Indochina” (Penguin Books, 1971) and “The Grass Roots Primer: How to Organize for Local Environmental Action,” co-authored with James Robertson (Sierra Club Books, 1975). He has written numerous articles on environmental issues for an array of publications since then.

All anglers, and anyone who supports public access to public resources, are urged to help fight the severely flawed MLPA process in the courts by visiting Ocean Access Protection Fund and making a donation today.

MLPA Initiative Background

The Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) is a law, signed by Governor Gray Davis in 1999, designed to create a network of marine protected areas off the California Coast. However, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004 created the privately-funded MLPA “Initiative” to “implement” the law, effectively eviscerating the MLPA.

The “marine protected areas” created under the MLPA Initiative fail to protect the ocean from oil spills and drilling, water pollution, military testing, wave and wind energy projects, corporate aquaculture and all other uses of the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

The MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces that oversaw the implementation of “marine protected areas” included a big oil lobbyist, marina developer, real estate executive and other individuals with numerous conflicts of interest. Catherine Reheis Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association who is pushing for new oil drilling off the California coast, served as the chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast.

The MLPA Initiative operated through a controversial private/public “partnership funded by the shadowy Resources Legacy Fund Foundation. The Schwarzenegger administration, under intense criticism by grassroots environmentalists, fishermen and Tribal members, authorized the implementation of marine protected areas under the initiative through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the foundation and the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG).

dan bacherTribal members, fishermen, grassroots environmentalists, human rights advocates and civil liberties activists have slammed the MLPA Initiative for the violation of numerous state, federal and international laws. Critics charge that the initiative, privatized by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004, has violated the Bagley-Keene Open Meetings Act, Brown Act, California Administrative Procedures Act, American Indian Religious Freedom Act and UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

MLPA and state officials refused to appoint any tribal scientists to the MLPA Science Advisory Team (SAT), in spite of the fact that the Yurok Tribe alone has a Fisheries Department with over 70 staff members during the peak fishing season, including many scientists. The MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force also didn’t include any tribal representatives until 2010 when one was finally appointed to the panel.

Dan Bacher

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