MPA assessments could be extended to 10 years

SANTA ROSA — Anglers might not be allowed to recreationally fish in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) for at least 10 years as the California Fish and Game Commission agreed on April 13 to contemplate keeping fishing restrictions in place within state-controlled waters.

The Marina Life Protected Area (MLPA) master plan initially called for five-year assessments of MPAs to determine how conservation efforts have progressed up and down the California coast. There was a question, however, of whether there was a pot of gold at the end of the five-year assessment. The pot of gold: recreational fishing could be restored in areas where the activity is currently banned because the waters there are environmentally protected.

Fish and Game Commission Chair Eric Sklar said no promises were made to restore recreational fishing in protected waters after the state completed a full assessment of MPAs.

“I think there was a misconception. I couldn’t find anywhere where it was stated that these areas were being protected so fishing could be restored in those areas,” Sklar said. “That may be a result, but I think it’s not a short-, medium-, or even a long-term result that fishing is likely to happen in few, if any, of these MPAs.”

Sklar added there was a call for a full assessment within five years but the realities have changed.

“It was stated in one or two places that we would do a full review in five years. It’s become clear that that isn’t biologically sensible,” Sklar said.

“We object to moving the assessment period to 10 years on a statewide basis from a regional five-year basis,” George Osborn, who spoke on behalf of the California Sportfishing League (CSL), told commissioners.

Assessing MPAs on a regional basis every five years would provide state officials and anglers a clearer picture of whether conservation efforts are progressing, Osborn said. He also asked what standards would be used to determine whether MPAs are successful under a 10-year assessment plan and if the state has the budget and funding in place to pay for the state’s efforts.

“If the MPA objectives … have been met, and fishing populations have been restored, will recreational fishing once again be allowed in areas that are now currently closed?” Osborn asked commissioners.

Jenn Eckerle, an ocean policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the state never promised anglers the areas currently designated for marine protection would be re-opened to recreational fishing once fish populations were restored.

“Never during the planning process did [DFW] staff or the [Fish and Game] Commission promise anyone that MPAs would be re-opened if monitoring data showed that fish populations were effectively restored,” Eckerle told commissioners. “The purpose of adaptive management, as defined in the MLPA is, ‘a management policy that seeks to improve management of biological resources, particularly in areas of scientific uncertainty,’”

Eckerle said assessing MPAs every 10 years would give state officials enough time to detect ecological trends and changes and better guide conservation efforts.

An angler from St. Helena, Calif. disagreed with Eckerle and said the state did make a commitment to re-assess MPAs within five years.

“It seems quite clear … the state said they were going to do [an assessment] in five years. Maybe it’s easier to elongate it to 10, but honestly, commissioners, the buck stops with you,” Bill Ryan said. “The thing you should want most is to give those places back to fishermen because it would have proven the value of the program.”

Ryan added 10 years could beget 20 years, and 20 years could beget 40 years, meaning anglers might never regain access to areas where fishing is currently banned.

Sklar retorted Ryan’s assessments with his interpretation of the MPAs mission and purpose.

“The MPAs were not created to increase fishing potential in those areas,” Sklar said in response to Ryan’s comments. “They were created primarily to ensure the survival of aquaculture and marine life in general, throughout our three miles we control offshore. It may be these areas are never allowed to be fished again.”

Sklar said baseline studies of the current state of MPAs would be completed and made available soon and there is funding in place to continue studying and assessing the protected coastal zones.

Commissioners will revisit MPA assessments at their June meeting.

One thought on “MPA assessments could be extended to 10 years

  • June 6, 2016 at 8:50 am

    Total lie!!! Please read the email sent to the SCRSG members.
    From: “Melissa Miller-Henson”
    Date: July 3, 2009 at 12:32:24 AM PDT
    To: , ,
    Subject: [MLPA_SCRSG] MPAs restricting non-extractive activities?
    Reply-To: MLPA South Coast Regional Stakeholder Group


    It has recently been brought to my attention that you have heard concerns about kiteboarding and surfing being restricted or prohibited in areas designated as marine protected areas (MPAs) under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), without the opportunity for public input regarding such designations. I understand your concerns about the potential for MPAs to prohibit public access and use, and want to share a few, brief thoughts with you.

    Under the definition of MPAs and what activities may be restricted in those areas, the California Fish and Game Commission and the California Park and Recreation Commission have the authority to limit human uses (both extractive and non-extractive activities) within state MPAs in order to protect marine resources. It is also possible that there are individuals who would like to see some MPAs placed off limits to all human activities, either now or in the future, and will attempt to make that case regardless of what science may say about the potential impact (or lack thereof) on marine resources.

    However, the same statute encourages that, to the extent feasible, MPAs remain open for public use, enjoyment, education and study. To date, neither commission has acted to further restrict public access or non-extractive uses in MPAs under the MLPA (some restrictions already existed prior to the MLPA), nor have MPA proposals created by stakeholders for the central coast or north central coast study regions contained suggestions that public access or non-extractive activities be further limited in any way. Proposals for the south coast study region have not yet been finalized, but there has been very little discussion within the stakeholder group about limiting non-extractive human activities (what little discussion has taken place has been with regard to protecting a few key tidepools from trampling).

    More importantly, in order to create or modify MPAs with such restrictions, both commissions are legally required to notice and hold at least two public hearings, so it would be difficult for either commission to legally take restrictive action without knowledge by the public.

    I do not want to give you the impression that restricting public access or non-extractive activities in MPAs could not or would not ever occur in California, because none of us can foresee the future. What I do want to impress is that the statutes governing MPAs in California identify dual purposes for MPAs (both protecting marine resources and providing opportunities for public enjoyment and study of such areas) and that there is a mandate for public participation in any decisions about what can be allowed (or not) in state MPAs.

    With regard to future assessments of the MPA system and how well it is or is not functioning, I am not aware of any requirement for an assessment of all human impacts during the proposed five year review process, though there is certainly a mandate for adaptive management as we learn more about ocean ecosystems and the resources that reside within them.

    Thank you for your active participation in the MLPA Initiative. I look forward to meeting with you next week.

    With regards,


    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
    Melissa Miller-Henson, Program Manager
    Marine Life Protection Act Initiative
    c/o California Natural Resources Agency
    1416 Ninth Street, Suite 1311
    Sacramento, CA 95814
    916.654.2506 office
    916.208.4447 cell
    916.653.8102 fax
    MLPA_SCRSG mailing list


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