Taking the other side on MLPA fight

Carl Lind

La Jolla resident

Eric Brickenstein's Community View column (Good reasons to back marine protection act, July 15) appears to be derived from emotion rather than logic and serious science. To understand the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) it is important to know that it is primarily a political creation. It was vetoed by Gov. Pete Wilson on its first attempt at passage, but approved on its second attempt the following year when Gray Davis took office. Both votes were largely along party lines.

Although the MLPA did not mandate additional "no-take" fishing reserves, powerful research institutions and the animal rights lobby have used their resources to exploit this legislation in an attempt to ban sport fishing in about 20 percent of California coastal waters.

One motivation is the millions of dollars in potential grants for studies of proposed new ocean reserves. Because of California's failing economy, such funds are desperately needed by research organizations. Closure activists often argue that the "oceans are in crisis." That is almost certainly true near some third world countries where explosives and poison are sometimes used to capture fish in their local reefs, but ocean waters along the California coast have been — and continue to be — very well managed by the state's Department of Fish & Game using traditional marine management techniques.

No-take reserves are not a legitimate marine management tool. They actually prohibit management! A boundary is established in an ocean area, and whatever happens within that area — is allowed to happen. It is a Utopian, "nature knows best" approach that ignores real dangers to our environment. One only has to see the hordes of sea lions along San Francisco's waterfront, damaging boats and docks, eating marine resources and polluting the water to understand this.

All cities without MLPA reserves now have the right, under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, to remove nuisance marine mammals. San Francisco occasionally exercises this right to dissuade these animals.

Why would any coastal city willingly give up its option to control nuisance animals by acquiescing to MLPA no-take reserves? Various La Jolla swimming beaches, for example, are now being being threatened by expanding populations of harbor seals and sea lions. With the implementation of no-take reserves in these areas, any discouragement of these animals will be illegal within the reserves. Additionally, removal of, say, jellyfish and kelp piles below the mean high tide line will be prohibited.

Despite claims to the contrary, there is no scientific proof that no-take marine reserves significantly improved the marine environment. As leading scientists have pointed out, almost any change in the marine ecology could be contributed to many factors (e.g., water temperature, pollution, disease, storm conditions, out of control sea urchin or pinniped populations, etc.). Because of these variables, replications of experiments are often impossible.

For transparency's sake, I must add that I'm an active fisherman — often fishing several times a week along our coast. My view of local fishing opportunities is opposite that of Mr. Brickenstein. That said, the amount of fish I catch in a year is probably eaten in one day by a decent sized sea lion.

Bottom line: The current Fish & Game rules I must follow are strict, fair and effective. Let's not take the great sport of surf and kayak fishing away from our youth because of an ill-conceived idea such as the MLPA.



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