News Release

03/06/09 Fisheries Forum

Press Release
April 1, 2009
Contact: John Lewallen

Fisheries Forum: Chesbro Tells Blue Ribbon Panel to “show me the science” requiring new no-take Marine Reserves at Point Arena

Assemblyman Wes Chesbro challenged the Blue Ribbon Task Force which proposes to close about forty per cent of offshore fishing areas and shore access in the Point Arena area to subsistence fishing and ocean food harvesting to “show me the science” driving this push to deny Point Arena residents access to sustainable ocean food.

The occasion was the Fisheries Forum on March 26 at the California State Capitol, where a delegation of Mendocino fishermen, abalone divers and seaweed harvesters went to tell the legislature’s Fisheries Committee about the combined threats of livelihood loss and offshore oil drilling currently facing the Point Arena community. Senator Patricia Wiggins, fisheries committee chair, and Assemblyman Wes Chesbro, listened to all testimony.

Point Arena resident Allan Jacobs presented a petition signed by hundreds of people whose businesses and livelihoods would be affected if proposed new State Marine Reserves and Protected Areas are adopted by the California State Fish and Game Commission. Jacobs described a community whose fisheries experience and observation was ignored by a process determined to prevent Point Arena residents from taking food from the intertidal zone or ocean in places harmoniously harvested for centuries.

In written and oral testimony, Jim Martin, Mendocino County Fish & Game Commissioner, called for the outright “abolition” of the Blue Ribbon Task Force, which runs the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) process of setting up new no-take zones where nobody can harvest ocean food.

“Special interest groups have hijacked the Marine Life Protection Act,” testified Commissioner Martin. “The Packard Foundation has picked up most of the tab for the public meetings and has influenced key policy decisions....the Department of Fish & Game has been completely marginalized in the MLPA process....

“Point Arena Pier stands to lose more than any harbor in the north-central coast study region” if the Fish & Game Commission carries out its declared intention to accept the “Integrated Preferred Alternative”(IPA) at an August, 2009 meeting, testified Commissioner Martin.

“Point Arena Pier is teetering on the brink of survival....Hemmed in by closures to the north and south, the IPA creates a tiny “box” open to rock fishing in front of Arena Cove. This box is about four square miles. That will be the only area open to commercial and recreational ground fish out of Point Arena.”

Assemblyman Wes Chesbro said he had been part of earlier efforts directed by the Fish and Game Commission to set up the no-take zones required by the 1999 Marine Life Protection Act. Assemblyman Chesbro said that the marine science required to back the need for no-take zones was questionable or absent, so the process had been abandoned.

“Now you propose to close areas to seaweed harvest, affecting the livelihood of a seaweed harvesting couple,” Assemblyman Chesbro told the advocates of the Integrated Preferred Alternative. “All I’m saying is show me the science.”

“The proposed regulations close nearly half of the shore-based public access sites in the region,” testified Mendocino County Fish & Game Commissioner Jim Martin. “Our abalone fishery is managed sustainably and is one of the world’s last viable abalone fisheries.”

Seaweed harvester John Lewallen declared that “seaweed is not an endangered fishery,” and called for suspension of any new no-take zones in intertidal areas sustainably harvested for food by people for centuries.

“We need to continue the collaborative stewardship management of edible seaweed, abalone, and other ocean food resources which have worked here, not impose senseless new no-take zones from above,” Lewallen said.

Lewallen described the whole MLPA process as a “divide and drill” strategy where the only winners are oil companies who want to drill for oil off Point Arena.

“Why is Catherine Reheis-Boyd, CEO and Chief of Staff for the Western States Petroleum Association, a key member of the five-member MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force which has decreed new zones where people can take no food from state waters?” Lewallen asks. “Is it coincidence that the Point Arena Basin offshore from Point Arena is the area of highest oil industry interest in Northern California, and the only tract here now open to Minerals Management Service offshore oil leasing process? “

People wishing to contact the Legislative Fisheries Committee with relevant information or opinion can send your comment to:

Senator Patricia Wiggins,
or write State Capital, Room 4081 Sacramento, CA 95814 916-323-6958

Assemblyman Wes Chesbro at:
or write State Capital P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento, CA 94249-0001