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MLPA process gets more than a little bit fishy, pro-fishing groups claim

June 2, 2009 |  2:34 pm

Prop c

A reader shared an interesting observation this week regarding the controversial Marine Life Protection Act process, an ongoing saga that ultimately will set in place a coast-wide network of zones that will become off-limits to fishermen or carry severe restrictions.

The process is already complete off Central California and is close to being complete off the North-Central Coast. Southern California is now the primary theater.

The reader wondered how California, which is so broke that it plans to cut all core funding for 279 state parks, can afford to continue with a process of establishing underwater parks that will require steady and significant funding for enforcement of rules and to evaluate their effectiveness.

Short answer: The state is receiving private funding for the process and will worry about future funding once the process is complete and  no-take zones are in place. And what a crazy process it has become, especially if you're a fisherman or in the fishing industry and facing an uncertain future.

At issue this week, as all parties prepare for another Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting Thursday morning near LAX, is external proposal "C." It's the most extreme proposal (pictured above and below; the red areas are no-take marine protected areas) and probably should have been scuttled by now.

(It may soon be discarded, although most fishermen are not aware of that yet, and they're still seething over what transpired during the last meeting in Santa Ana.)

Briefly put, members of the South Coast Regional Stakeholders Group were instructed to vote on four of five proposals to further narrow options. External C, which calls for 47 marine protected areas or about  33% of the Southern California coastline to be designated as marine protected areas, received the fewest votes.

Prop c catalina

But the MPLA Initiative's Blue Ribbon Task Force chose to disregard the vote and place all proposals back on the table. It was perceived as a slap to the face of those who had been working within guidelines during a long, arduous process that still has months to play out. The United Anglers charged that if a pro-fishing proposal had received the fewest votes it would have remained shelved. It's not lost on anyone that a conservation organization, the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, is funding the process.

However, criticism might have gotten to the MLPA Initiative staff. This morning, according to sources inside the process, the staff issued a memo to the Blue Ribbon Task Force, recommending that the vote should be considered and that the external C proposal should be removed from consideration.

If that's true, it's good news for pro-fishing groups. But those groups and irate fishermen are likely to remain suspicious heading into Thursday's meeting. For those interested in attending, it'll be held at 9:30 a.m. at the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel, 6101 W. Century Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90045.

-- Pete Thomas

Graphics: External "C" proposal is regarded by the fishing industry as the most extreme and calls for 47 marine protected areas along the Southern California coast and the Channel Islands. Bottom map shows how much of Catalina would become off-limits