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The California Legislature's Joint Committee on Fisheries will convene in Eureka on Friday, January 21 to provide an opportunity for North Coast residents to talk to state lawmakers with their concerns about the controversial Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative.

Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro (D-North Coast), in his capacity as chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture, today announced the Committee will hold the hearing to examine the North Coast Marine Protected Area of the MLPA. The hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday, in the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors Chambers, Fifth and J streets, in Eureka.

"The Fish and Game Commission is scheduled to consider the North Coast MPA next month in Sacramento," Chesbro said. "It is critical we hold a local hearing in advance so that North Coast residents who can’t travel to Sacramento have a voice. It’s also an opportunity for us to focus on the unified proposal – the hard work of the North Coast Regional Stakeholder Group that has been supported by seventeen local government jurisdictions in three counties and adopted by the Blue Ribbon Task Force."

"I intend to take what I hear from constituents in the local community at Friday’s hearing and relay their suggestions and concerns to the Fish and Game Commission when it meets," Chesbro added.

North Coast residents, including Indian Tribal members, fishermen, seaweed harvesters and environmentalists, have strongly criticized the MLPA process for its violation of tribal fishing and harvesting rights, numerous conflicts of interests and corruption of the democratic process. In contrast with the Central Coast, North Central Coast and Southern California coast regions, the stakeholders on the North Coast approved a unified single proposal for marine protected areas.

This proposal will be considered at the Fish and Game Commission meeting Wednesday, February 2, and Thursday, February 3 at the Resources Building Auditorium, 1416 Ninth Street, Sacramento.

The North Coast MPA Study Area starts at Alder Creek near Pt. Arena in Mendocino County and runs up to the Oregon border, encompassing the entire coasts of Humboldt & Del Norte counties.

Under the Marine Life Protection Act statute, the Joint Legislative Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture has the authority to hold hearings on the Act and its implementation, according to a news release from Chesbro's office.

The Committee is a joint body of the state Assembly and Senate, consisting of four members from each house. Chesbro has served as chair of the committee since last fall. Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez reappointed Chesbro chair this week.

State Senator Noreen Evans, who represents Humboldt and Del Norte counties, is scheduled to attend the hearing, according to Chesbro's office. State Senator Doug LaMalfa, who represents Del Norte County, will send his Crescent City field representative, Scott Feller, to attend the hearing. Evans and LaMalfa both serve on the Fisheries Committee.

The hearing will open at 10 a.m. with a traditional native prayer by Cheryl Seidner, an elder of the Wiyot people. An introduction by Chesbro and an overview of the Protection Act by MLPA Initiative staff will follow.

Eureka fisheries consultant Adam Wagschal will detail the unified proposal for the North Coast Marine Protected Area.

Members of a Native American panel, consisting of several North Coast tribes and tribal organizations, are expected to provide testimony. The speakers will include Thomas O’Rourke, Chair of the Yurok Tribe, John Corbett, Yurok Tribe Senior Attorney, and Mike Belchik, Yurok Tribe biologists.

Other tribal representatives set to testify include Jacque Hostler, Chief Executive Officer, Trinidad Rancheria; Russ Crabtree, Tribal Administrator, Smith River Rancheria; Dale Miller, Chairman, Elk Valley Rancheria; Stephen Kullmann, Director, Environmental Department, Wiyot Tribe; Nick Angeloff, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Bear River Band of Rohnerville Rancheria; Hawk Rosales - Executive Director, InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council; Atta Stevenson, Representative, California Indian Heritage Council; and Valerie Stanley, Representative, Noyo River Indian Community.

Participants in the Regional Stakeholder Group and members of the Blue Ribbon Task Force will also speak. This panel includes local elected officials and representatives from the fishing community and environmental groups.

The hearing will close with a public comment period.

"Everyone who wants to will have an opportunity to comment," Chesbro said. "I urge all who have an interest in the Marine Life Protection Act and how it is implemented on the North Coast to attend this hearing and make their voices heard. We want to hear from everybody."

For more information, contact: Andrew Bird, Chesbro communications director, (916) 319-2001, Tom Weseloh, fisheries committee consultant, 707 445-7014, ext. 10.

The Marine Life Protection Act was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Gray Davis in 1999. The Schwarzenegger administration privatized the MLPA process in 2004 when it allowed a private corporation, the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, to fund the implementation of the process.

The Blue Ribbon Task Forces that have overseen the implementation of the creation of so-called marine protected areas have included an oil industry lobbyist, marina developer, real estate executive and other corporate operatives with numerous conflicts of interests. Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association who has repeatedly called for new oil drilling off the California coast, was chair of the South Coast task force and sat on the North Coast and North Central Coast panels.

Advocates of true marine protection have criticized the MLPA initiative for taking water pollution, oil spills and drilling, corporate aquaculture, military testing and other human uses of the ocean other than fishing and gathering off the table in the creation of "marine protected areas" along the California coast.

On July 21, 2010, over 300 people including members of 50 Indian Nations, fishermen, immigrant seafood industry workers and environmentalists peacefully took over a MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting in Fort Bragg to protest the violation of tribal rights under the MLPA.

“Whether it is their intention or not, what the Marine Life Protection Act does to tribes is systematically decimate our ability to be who we are,” said Frankie Joe Myers, Yurok Tribal member and Coastal Justice Coalition activist, on the day of the protest. “That is the definition of cultural genocide.”

“The MLPA process completely disregards tribal gathering rights and only permits discussion of commercial and recreational harvest,” Myers concluded. “The whole process is inherently flawed by institutionalized racism. It doesn’t recognize Tribes as political entities, or Tribal biologists as legitimate scientists."

More recently, the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force decided on December 10 not to approve an amendment that would have effectively terminated Tribal gathering and fishing rights on the North Coast, due to political pressure from the Yurok Tribe and other North Coast Indian Tribes.

Governor Jerry Brown and Natural Resources Secretary John Laird have not indicated yet whether or not they will continue Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's fast-track MLPA Initiative.

Below is the agenda:

Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture - North Coast MLPA Hearing
Humboldt County Board of Supervisors Chambers – 825 5th Street, Eureka, CA
January 21, 2011 10 a.m.

I. Wiyot Prayer - Dr. Cheryl A. Seidner

II. Introductions - Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro, Chair

III. MLPA Overview

Ken Wiseman - Executive Director, MLPAI
Melissa Miller-Henson - Program Manager, MLPAI

IV. Unified Proposal Description
Adam Wagschal - Regional Stakeholders Group

V. Native American Panel

  1. Thomas O’Rourke - Chair, John Corbett - Senior Attorney, Mike Belchik - Biologist, Yurok Tribe
  1. Jacque Hostler- Chief Executive Officer, Trinidad Rancheria
  1. Russ Crabtree - Tribal Administrator, Smith River Rancheria
  1. Dale Miller - Chairman, Elk Valley Rancheria
  1. Stephen Kullmann - Director, Environmental Department, Wiyot Tribe
  1. Nick Angeloff - Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Bear River Band of Rohnerville Rancheria
  1. Hawk Rosales - Executive Director, InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council
  1. Atta Stevenson - Representative, California Indian Heritage Council
  1. Valerie Stanley - Representative, Noyo River Indian Community

VI. Blue Ribbon Task Force/Regional Stakeholders Group/ Constituents

a. Local Government Representatives Panel

  1. Jimmy Smith - Humboldt County Board of Supervisors
  1. Martha McClure - Del Norte County Board of Supervisors
  1. Kendall Smith - Mendocino County Board of Supervisors
  1. Doug Hammerstrom - Fort Bragg City Council
  1. Richard Young - Crescent City Harbor Master

b. Stakeholders/Constituents - Panel #1
a. Jennifer Savage - Oceans Conservancy
b. Tom Trumper - Urchin Fisherman
c. Bill Lemos - Natural Resources Defense Council
d. Brandi Easter - Recreational Divers
e. Zack Larson - Del Norte Fish & Game Advisory Commission

Stakeholders/Constituents - Panel #2
f. Dave Jensen - Audubon Society
g. Aaron Newman - Humboldt Fisherman’s Marketing Association
h. Tim Klassen - Humboldt Area Saltwater Anglers
i. Pete Nichols - Humboldt Baykeeper
j. Dave Bitts - Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman’s Association

VII. Public Comment

VIII. Closing Comments by Committee Chair

Originally posted to Dan Bacher on Thu Jan 20, 2011 at 08:11 AM PST.

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