Fish & Game Commission endorses Marine Protected Areas partnership plan

By: Parimal M. Rohit

VAN NUYS – Hosting its final public meeting of 2014 at the Airtel Plaza Hotel in Van Nuys on Dec. 3, the state’s Fish and Game Commission unanimously endorsed a broad partnership plan aimed at better managing California’s Marina Protected Area (MPA) network.

The vote endorses a 39-page report entitled “The California Collaborative Approach: Marine Protected Area Partnership Plan” and issued by the Ocean Protection Council on Nov. 17.

Commissioners endorsed the report about one day after it was approved by the Ocean Protection Council.

“The partnership plan is a guidance document and it’s really aimed at guiding how we engage in and support effective MPA management. It capitalizes on the knowledge and energy gained from the MPA designation process,” said Cat Kulhman, executive director of the Ocean Protection Council. 

Kuhlman said a key element of the partnership plan includes finding a way for various state agencies with regional or local interests to work together toward common goals and the creation of 14 “community collaborative” entities at the county level.

“These collaboratives are locally generated. They have fisherman, local tribe members, lifeguards [and representatives from] parks,” Kuhlman said. “I think this will be one of the key components at the local level to bring together local resources to leverage state resources.”

George Osborne of the California Sportfishing League said an earlier version of the partnership plan proposed using money from the Fish and Game Preservation Fund to help cover the costs of managing the MPAs.

The plan that was finally approved by the Ocean Protection Council ultimately did not include language suggesting the Fish and Game Preservation Fund as a funding resource.

“It’s obvious the state is looking for money to manage MPAs. Can’t we get money from the general fund? The state thinks this is an important program,” Osborne said. “Why doesn’t the state fund this?”

Osborne also urged the commission to conduct regular assessments of fish stock, which would allow the state to maintain adaptive management of the MPAs.

“Our hope is we’ll get to a point where you have a state marine reserve where there’s absolutely no take allowed today, and say, ‘wait a minute, it’s recovered,’ at least to the extent where recreational fisherman with a hook-and-line can go in there and catch a fish. Without the assessment, we’re not going to get to that,” Osborne said.

In addition to the community collaborative element, the partnership plan proposes to give local tribes an opportunity to engage with the state, emphasizes using science for decision-making and connect local and federal agencies on management and dispute resolution.

Among the partners who would participate in the management of MPA under “The California Collaborative Approach” include state agencies, local and tribal governments, federal officials, non-governmental organizations, commercial and recreational anglers, academics and members of the private sector.

“The Partnership Plan will guide interactions across jurisdictions, sectors, and scales. This will allow the State to leverage the extensive resources already being brought to bear on the conservation and protection of these special areas, which will help create sustainable and resilient marine ecosystems,” a portion of “The California Collaborative Approach” reads.

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