Skip to main content

Before the California Fish and Game Commission voted to approve a network of so-called "marine protected areas" for the North Coast on June 6, the Yurok Tribe issued a statement outlining several serious concerns with the final proposal.

These included questions about the so-called "science" used under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create the MPAs and concerns over the protection of tribal harvesting rights at Reading Rock and False Klamath.

In spite of moving testimony by Tribal Elders, Commissioners Michael Sutton, Richard Rogers and Jack Baylis voted 3 to 0 to approve new regulations covering state waters from the California/Oregon state line south to Alder Creek near Point Arena in Mendocino County that failed to address these concerns. Commissioners Jim Kellogg and Richard Rogers, both critics of the MLPA process, were absent.

“While we appreciate the Brown administration’s support and the Fish and Game Commission effort to recognize tribal traditional harvesting rights, there is more that needs to be done in order to protect our culture and our resources for present and future generations,” said Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas P. O’Rourke Sr. prior to the meeting. “We also have serious questions about the science, developed under the Schwarzenegger Administration, which the process relies upon. We believe it requires a truly impartial external review and revision in order to work for our region."

“Today might mean the end of the discussion for some North Coast residents," O’Rourke continued. "For us, it’s the beginning of a conversation about how the State can better work with Native people to preserve and protect cultural and natural resources. The proposed project simply does not do enough to address tribal rights. The Yurok Tribe has and will continue to reserves all rights as a sovereign nation as we work towards finding a solution.”

The Northern California Tribal Chairman’s Association, including the Chairs of the Elk Valley Rancheria, Hoopa Valley Tribe, Karuk Tribe, Smith River Rancheria, Trinidad Rancheria, and Yurok Tribe, believes the science behind the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative developed by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Science Advisory Team is “incomplete and terminally flawed.”

For example, in a reversal of scientific logic, the MLPA provides for more regulation of highly abundant species such as mussels - and no harvest limits on fish such as the threatened Pacific eulachon.

“Under the MLPA each marine species is assigned a certain level of protection,” according to the Tribe's statement. “Species like mussels are given a low level of protection, which in MLPA-speak, translates to more regulation. To date, there has been no scientific data submitted suggesting that mussels on the North Coast are in any sort of danger or are overharvested. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The readily available quantitative survey data collected over decades by North Coast experts shows there is quite an abundance of mussels in this sparsely populated study region.”

The Tribe said species like Pacific eulachon, also known as candlefish, are given a high level of protection; or in other words, their harvest is not limited by the proposed regulations. Eulachon are near extinction and listed as "threatened" under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

“Both of these marine species are essential and critical to the cultural survival of northern California tribes," said Chairman O’Rourke Sr. "However, under the proposed regulations they would be summarily mismanaged. It’s examples like these that compel our concerns.”

Science Advisory Team refused to address scientific inadequacies

The Yurok Tribe said it has attempted on numerous occasions to address the scientific inadequacies with the MLPA science developed under the Schwarzenegger administration by adding "more robust protocols" into the equation, but was denied every time. This denial of consideration of the Tribe's scientific data flies in the face of false claims by MLPA advocates that the privately funded initiative creates "Yosemites of the Sea" and "underwater parks" based on "science."

For example, the MLPA Science Advisory Team, co-chaired by Ron LeValley of Mad River Biologists, in August 2010 turned down a request by the Yurok Tribe to make a presentation to the panel. Among other data, the Tribe was going to present data of test results from other marine reserves regarding mussels.

“The data would have shown that there was not a statistical difference in the diversity of species from the harvested and un-harvested areas,” wrote John Corbett, Yurok Tribe Senior Attorney, in a letter to the Science Advisory Team on January 12, 2011. “The presentation would have encompassed the work of Smith, J.R. Gong and RF Ambrose, 2008, ‘The Impacts of Human Visitation on Mussel Bed Communities along the California Coast: Are Regulatory Marine Reserves Effective in Protecting these Communities.’” (

No Tribal scientists were allowed to serve on the MLPA Science Advisory Team, in spite of the fact that the Yurok and other North Coast Indian Tribes have large natural resources and fisheries departments staffed with many fishery biologists and other scientists.

During the historic direct action protest by a coalition of over 50 Tribes and their allies in Fort Bragg on July 21, 2010, Frankie Joe Myers, Yurok Tribal member and Coastal Justice Coalition activist, exposed the refusal to incorporate Tribal science that underlies the questionable “science” of the MLPA process. (

“The whole process is inherently flawed by institutionalized racism," said Myers. "It doesn’t recognize Tribes as political entities, or Tribal biologists as legitimate scientists.”

Justice denied: Commission fails to protect Tribe's harvesting rights

Of the "marine protected area" options before the Fish and Game Commission on June 6, Yurok Tribal representatives supported the adoption of the following:

• Reading Rock- Tribal Take Option (B) Reclassify Reading Rock from a State Marine Reserve to a State Marine Conservation Area. This would allow for specific federally recognized tribes to take living marine resources pursuant to existing regulations.

• Reading Rock SMCA- Name Option (B) Rename as Reading Rock Onshore SMCA if Reading Rock SMR Take Option B (above) is selected.

• ‘No change’ for the specific location of False Klamath Rock Season Special Closure and require the “Special Closure” for False Klamath Rock to be dealt with in a future process that includes the Tribe.

The Tribe said the MLPA Environmental Impact Report, pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), reviewed two different proposals. The first was a “No Project Alternative" that compares “the impact of approving the action against the impacts of not approving the action.”

In the "Enhanced Compliance Alternative," the second proposal, there were two possible protected areas within Yurok ancestral territory near Reading Rock and False Klamath Rock.

At Reading Rock, there were two options before the Commission. The first, and preferred alternative, was an offshore State Marine Reserve (SMR) status that calls for zero human take of any marine species.

The second option was a State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) designation, both on and offshore, which would allow some commercial and recreational harvest, while authorizing access to Tribal members with a valid Tribal ID card.

The proposal also called for a Seasonal Special Closure for False Klamath Rock. In this area there would be a 300-foot seasonal closure around the rock from March 1 to August 31 for avian nesting.

Inexplicably, the Commission failed to approve the Tribe's proposal that would protect traditional tribal gathering rights in Yurok ancestral territory. After the public comment period, the Commissioners rushed through the approval of Option 1, the preferred alternative, without even discussing the Tribe's recommended options.

Tribal elders vow to keep gathering in traditional areas

During the hearing, Yurok Tribal leaders told the Commission they were unhappy with the regulations that would prohibit them from gathering seaweed, mussels and fish at their traditional gathering areas at Reading Rock and the False Klamath – and vowed to keep gathering regardless of the Commission’s decision.

“We are hunters, fishermen and gatherers and we have lived here since time immemorial,” said David Gensaw Sr. a member of the Yurok Tribal Council. “We have gathered on these shores forever since the Creator put us here.”

Gensaw told the Commission about the Tribe’s problems with diabetes, high blood pressure and other illnesses caused by a change in diet since the arrival of Europeans, who took many of the traditional foods from the tribe.

“We’re here today to tell you that we need that subsistence, and we will continue to provide our people with that nourishment,” he stated. “Hopefully, we can work this out without a confrontation.”

Yurok Tribal Elder Jack Matz emphasized, “If the regulations are implemented the way they are planned now, you will have a confrontation with a lot of elders, including myself.”

Nonetheless, Alicia T. McQuillen, Marine Resource Coordinator for the Yurok Tribe, noted after the Commission meeting that she is hopeful that the Tribe will be able to resolve its differences with the state of California over the MLPA process. She said she is encouraged by comments made by DFG Director Chuck Bonham that this was the beginning of a "new era" in the state's relationship with Tribes.

"We are hopeful that there will be a more positive and more open relationship between the state and Tribes - and more open and honest communication," McQuillen said. "We anticipate some disappointment over the results of the hearing, but it takes time to change hearts and minds."

Yurok people consider themselves to be "a vital part of the marine ecosystem." Yurok Tribal members have traditionally harvested marine resources for religious, ceremonial and subsistence use with carefully adapted methods that have maintained balanced abundance on the North Coast since time immemorial.

To read a copy of the Yurok Tribe MLPA and Marine Resource Plan, go to:

MLPA Initiative Background:

The Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) is a law, signed by Governor Gray Davis in 1999, designed to create a network of marine protected areas off the California Coast. However, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004 created the privately-funded MLPA “Initiative” to “implement” the law, effectively eviscerating the MLPA.

The “marine protected areas” created under the MLPA Initiative fail to protect the ocean from oil spills and drilling, water pollution, military testing, seismic testing, wave and wind energy projects, corporate aquaculture and all other uses of the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

The MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces that oversaw the implementation of “marine protected areas” included a big oil lobbyist, marina developer, real estate executive and other individuals with numerous conflicts of interest. Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association, served on the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the North Coast and North Central Coast.

Reheis-Boyd, a relentless advocate for offshore oil drilling, hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the Keystone XL Pipeline and the weakening of environmental laws, also chaired the South Coast MLPA Blue Ribbon Task that developed the MPAs that went into effect in Southern California waters on January 1, 2012.

The MLPA Initiative operated through a controversial private/public partnership funded by the shadowy Resources Legacy Fund Foundation. The Schwarzenegger administration, under intense criticism by grassroots environmentalists, fishermen and Tribal members, authorized the implementation of marine protected areas under the initiative through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the foundation and the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG).

Originally posted to Dan Bacher on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 05:28 PM PDT.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots, SciTech, Native American Netroots, and Invisible People.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  This is an interesting read for sure (5+ / 0-)

    The Yurok fisheries department is justifiably famous and when they speak I'd listen. I have friends deep on both sides of this.   I'll have to look more carefully at the background of the task forces.

    We can say one thing: marine protection has been exceptionally successful and the MLPA was certainly. Alled for and based on solid ideas at least in concept.  Refugia do matter.  

    Courtesy Kos. Trying to call on the better angels of our nature.

    by Mindful Nature on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 06:26:15 PM PDT

    •  The MLPA Initiative does NOT protect the ocean (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ER Doc, GreyHawk

      Actually, you have no basis whatsoever for your statement that the MLPA was "certainly" successful. The MLPA does not protect the ocean from anything other than fishing and gathering - it is a corrupt process, supported by the Western States Petroleum Association, Safeway Corporation and Walmart and funded by the shadowy Resources Legacy Foundation.

      To support the MLPA Initiative is to support Wall Street-funded corporate greenwashing, the racist violation of Yurok tribal gathering rights and fake "science" conjured up by corrupt "scientists" who refused to incorporate any science that disagreed with their baseless presumptions.

      The process has no legitimacy whatsoever, especially when you consider that Ron Le Valley, the disgraced Co-Chair of the MLPA Science Advisory Team that cooked up the "science," was recently arrested for conspiracy to embezzle $900,000 from the Yurok Tribe with two other co-conspirators - and when you consider the fact that Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association, chaired the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast and served on the North Coast and North Central Coast Task Forces.

      Reheis Boyd played a huge leadership role in the MLPA for two reasons: (1) to kick fishermen and tribal gatherers, the most militant opponents of offshore oil drilling, off the water to pave the way for offshore oil drilling; (2) to make sure that the fake "marine reserves" allow oil drilling and spills, pollution, ocean industrialization and all other human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

      These "marine protected areas" do not protect the ocean from the greatest threats to the ocean in California. According to a groundbreaking peer reviewed study on July 31, 2009 in Science magazine, California has the least exploited fisheries  of any place studied in the world. That was because of the successful efforts of real environmentalists like myself to severely restrict gillnetting, trawling, longlining and other destructive fishing practices.

      In addition, the rockfish conservation zone, an existing MPA that the corrupt MLPA Initiative doesn't even acknowledge, is the longest marine protected area on the planet, stretching along the California coast from the Oregon border to the Mexican border. The rebound in California fish populations has NOTHING to do with the MLPA Initiative - the real protections were already well in place before the first Central Coast "marine protected areas" under the MLPA went into effect  in September 2007.

      Some "scientists" can go into a region of the Central Coast and claim the rebound in fisheries was because of the MLPA, but the rebound has very little to do with these questionable "marine reserves."

      I might add that the Central Coast process, in an appalling case of white supremacy and overt racism, refused to incorporate any tribal input into the MLPA process. The so-called "marine protected areas" went into effect without any consultation from the Central Coast Indian Tribes.

      People that support the MLPA Initiative are effectively supporting corporate greenwashing, the racist denial of tribal gathering rights and sovereignty, and the goals and objectives of the Wall Street-funded foundations that pushed this atrocity.

      It is my opinion that there should be an independent investigation into the conflicts of interests, violations of human rights, suspect corporate funding and fabricated science that characterize the MLPA fiasco as the worst "environmental" process in California history.

      When I start talking about this investigation - I have formally asked the Legislature and the Fish and Game Commission to do this a number of times - the MLPA advocates get very, very nervous. After all, the head of the MLPA "Science" Advisory Team who helped conjure up a lot of the fake "science" may be headed to prison if the conspiracy charges against him prove to be true. If he was embezzling money from the Yurok Tribe to conduct spotted owl surveys that were never done in an elaborate scheme, how can we possibly trust what did as the lead "scientist" on the MLPA science panel?

      My biggest question is: why did corporate "environmental" NGO "leaders" embrace and not question the MLPA leadership role of Catherine Reheis-Boyd, a big oil lobbyist who spends her time relentlessly pushing for the Keystone XL pipeline, new offshore oil rigs, hydraulic fracturing? As an authentic journalist, as opposed to corporate media hack, I will keep pursuing my series of ground breaking investigative articles on MLPA conflicts of interest and corruption until I get some answers.


      •  well (0+ / 0-)

        I left out a word.  

        I meant to write:

        We can say one thing: marine protection has been exceptionally successful and the MLPA was certainly a reasonable idea at the outset

        I still think that the principle is a good one, but it is far to early to judge whether it will ultimately be successful. .

        Courtesy Kos. Trying to call on the better angels of our nature.

        by Mindful Nature on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 11:32:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Irony Abounds (6+ / 0-)

    Yurok "Senior Attorney" John Corbett (former manager of the Arcata Co-op) was appointed to the Regional Water Quality Control Board by der Gropenfuhrer in 2002.  There he served as a reliable yes-man for the timber industry as it liquidated inventory on the North Coast.  

    From a water quality standpoint this was important because salmon -- a religious icon and resource to the Yurok -- were the marker species.  Rubber stamping logging meant erosion and increased water temperature.  Erosion meant filling in pools that young salmon lived in, protected from predators.  Filled pools meant increased predation by otters, osprey and bald eagles, as well as a lack of cold, oxygen-rich water.  Increased water temperature throughout the drainages meant that many tributaries to the Eel River, the Mad, the Klamath and Little River became lethal to young salmon.

    All anyone has to do is boat the Klamath River from Weitchpec to the Yurok brush dance site at the estuary.  When you get to Blue Creek -- a religious site for the Yurok -- look up the drainage and see the steep hillsides stripped of trees.  John Corbett helped with that on behalf of Simpson Timber Company.  Or at least he did nothing to stop it and he was in a position to do so.  Blue Creek is supposed to be the last shot of cold, salmon-friendly water before the Klamath hits its estuary.

    So why the Yurok Tribe would hire John Corbett to do anything is beyond me.  In politics it ain't what you know but who you blow. But who is blowing whom; and who is getting blown, in this case is beyond me.

    But I know one thing:  Fuck Mr. Senior Attorney.

    This aggression will not stand, man.

    by kaleidescope on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 06:57:06 PM PDT

  •  More information from Calitics: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ojibwa, GreyHawk

    Where are we, now that we need us most?

    by Frank Knarf on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 07:11:06 PM PDT

  •  I support the tribal elders. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    S F Hippie, Ojibwa, ER Doc, GreyHawk

    More work must be done to protect their rights and the means of subsistence they have always relied on.

  •  Republished (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ER Doc, GreyHawk

    to Native American Netroots and to Invisible People.

    I'm hoping this gets more readership as it is an important issue.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site