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Leo Panetta: from marine 'protector' to whale killer

California’s privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, a process criticized by fishermen, grassroots conservationists, environmental justice advocates and supporters of democracy and transparency in government, has “friends in high places.”

Leon Panetta, the former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and President Barack Obama’s current Secretary of Defense, has been a huge supporter of the MLPA Initiative since it began under the Schwarzenegger administration in 2004.

On August 30, 2008, prior to his appointment as CIA Director, Panetta wrote an editorial, “Protect Our Oceans,” in the Silicon Valley Mercury-News that touted the “marine protected areas” created under the MLPA process.

“California has always been on the cutting edge of policy protecting our coastline and ocean,” wrote Panetta. “In 1999, an unprecedented state law, the Marine Life Protection Act, required the creation of marine protected areas down California’s coastline. These areas are vital to restoring a sustainable fishery. Californians are forging ahead to create marine-protected areas through an inclusive, regional public process that involves sport and commercial fishermen, marine scientists, conservationists, divers, kayakers and educators.”

“In California alone, our ocean supports a $42 billion economy, dependent on the health of fish and wildlife, tourism and recreation. It is crucial to our health, our nutrition, our economy and our spirit. President Kennedy once said that the oceans are the ’salt in our veins.’ By protecting our oceans, we will protect life itself,” Panetta concluded.

The words from Panetta, who served as chair of the Pew (Sunoco Oil Company) Oceans Commission, could have come right out of an MLPA Initiative, DFG or corporate environmental NGO news release.

It is no surprise that the controversial “marine protected areas” that Panetta gushed about don’t protect the oceans and “life itself” from the impacts of military testing, pollution, oil spills and drilling, wind and wave energy projects and all other human impacts other than fishing.

After being appointed as Defense Secretary by Obama in the summer of 2010, Panetta has been pursuing al Qaeda, waging multiple wars, urging global support for tough economic sanctions against Iran – and gearing up for military exercises off the West Coast that threaten marine mammals and the ocean ecosystem.

As a Congressman in the 1980s and 1990s, Panetta voted against U.S. military intervention in different countries, but he has become more of a “hawk” in recent years.

“Some of the wars that I voted against, I didn’t think that that was — you know, that they were not — they did not make the case,” Panetta told the New York Times on October 24, 2011. “But after 9/11, there was no question in my mind that we were dealing with a group that attacked America, killed a lot of Americans, and that it was important for us to take action.” (

MLPA Initiative overseen and backed by corporate interests

Panetta isn't the only powerful individual or organization to back the MLPA Initiative. The corrupt process, touted as “open, transparent and inclusive” by MLPA advocates is backed by “green” organizations and corporations such as the Western States Petroleum Association, Safeway Stores, Walmart Chairman Rob Walton's Walton Family Foundation and the shadowy Resources Legacy Foundation.

The so-called “marine protected areas” that went into effect in Southern California on January 1, 2012 were created under the “visionary leadership” of Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum and chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast. Now that fishermen have been kicked off large areas of the South Coast, Reheis-Boyd has been relentlessly lobbying for new oil drilling off the California coast, the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline and the evisceration of environmental laws.

A marina corporation executive, coastal real estate developer and others with numerous conflicts of interests also served on the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces for the South Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast.

Apparently, it’s OK for the military to conduct exercises in and around “marine protected areas” and for cities, agribusiness and the oil industry to pollute, but it’s not OK for a person to catch and release fish from a kayak or a mother and father to take their children fishing in these bizarre parodies of “marine protected areas.”

The failure of the MLPA Initiative to comprehensively protect California marine waters occurs at a time when the military, with Panetta at the helm, is planning to expand its training exercises in West Coast waters.

Groups sue to stop U.S. Navy warfare exercises

A broad coalition of conservation and tribal organizations on January 26, 2012 sued the Obama administration for failing to protect thousands of whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, and sea lions from U.S. Navy warfare training exercises along the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington.

Earthjustice, representing the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Friends of the San Juans, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and People For Puget Sound, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California challenging the National Marine Fisheries Service’s approval of the Navy’s training activities in its Northwest Training Range Complex.

“These training exercises will harm dozens of protected species of marine mammals—southern resident killer whales, blue whales, humpback whales, dolphins, and porpoises—through the use of high-intensity mid-frequency sonar,” said Steve Mashuda, an Earthjustice attorney representing the groups. “The Fisheries Service fell down on the job and failed to require the Navy to take reasonable and effective actions to protect them.” (

One of the reasons why this and similar lawsuits are so necessary is because the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative creates so-called “marine protected areas” that fail to protect the ocean from military testing and all other human impacts on the ocean than fishing and gathering.

“If Defense Secretary Panetta really is concerned about the health of the ocean and people, he should order a halt to destructive military tests in the ocean, help us keep fisheries open to sustainable ocean food providers, and join the world outcry for peace conversion,” said John Lewallen, North Coast environmental leader, co-founder of the Ocean Protection Coalition and North Coast Seaweed Rebellion and independent candidate for U.S. Congress in California’s Second Congressional District.

Ironically, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the former marine "guardian" who served as chair of the Pew (Sunoco Oil Company) Oceans Commission, is planning deadly military testing that will result in killing huge numbers of whales, dolphins and other marine mammals!

Even more ironically, a survey boat mapping the sea floor for the MLPA Initiative backed by Panetta, allegedly a process to protect marine life, struck and killed an endangered blue whale off Fort Bragg in October 2009, outraging fishermen, tribal members and environmentalists.

The California State Lands Commission (SLC) that December found that Fugro Pelagos, the company contracted to conduct the survey, violated the terms of its permit when it struck the whale. The company didn’t notify the State Lands Commission prior to its survey activity and failed to have marine wildlife observers on board, as required. (  

Coastal Commission decision sets historic precedent

Fortunately, the public is now beginning to wake up to the  fact that marine protected areas must protect the ocean from other human impacts besides just fishing and gathering. The California Coastal Commission voted unanimously on Wednesday, November 14 to reject Pacific Gas and Electric Company's widely-contested plan to conduct seismic testing off the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. They found the plan inconsistent with the California Coastal Act.

In a massive display of unity, hundreds of fishermen, Tribal members and environmentalists showed up to oppose the plan at the standing room-only meeting in Santa Monica. Only one person - Mark Krause, the spokesman of PG&E - spoke in favor of the plan.  

The high energy testing would have resulted in potential injury and death to thousands of whales, dolphins and other marine mammals, along with chinook salmon, steelhead, rockfish, halibut and a host of fish species in the Point Buchon State Marine Reserve and other marine protected areas. They agreed with the Coastal Commission staff, who urged the Commission to reject the permit, since the danger posed to marine life would be great while the information to be obtained by the survey could be obtained by analyzing existing data. (

"The good news is that many of the proponents of the marine protected areas created under the MLPA Initiative are starting to wake up to the fact that fishing is just one small part of protecting the ocean," said Zeke Grader, Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Association. "A lot of other things need to be considered, including pollution, offshore oil drilling, noise impacts and future development such as offshore aquaculture and deep sea mining."

The MLPA Initiative proceeds as the Brown and Obama administrations are fast-tracking the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral canal to export more California Delta water to southern California and corporate agribusiness on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. Delta advocates believe the construction of the peripheral canal will lead to the extinction of Sacramento River chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, Sacramento splittail, green sturgeon, southern resident killer whales and other imperiled species.

So while state and federal officials tout the creation of "marine protected areas" off the California coast, they are proceeding forward with a canal plan that will kill many more fish and other species that these "marine protected areas" would ever "save." There is no doubt that the MLPA Initiative, combined with state/federal plans to build the peripheral canal and and military plans to conduct training exercises off the coast of California, Oregon and Washington, is corporate/oil industry/military greenwashing at its very worst

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Comment Preferences

  •  "Protection" is a scam. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lisa Lockwood, S F Hippie

    Protection presupposes a threat, not infrequently originating from the "protector." After all, the shepherd "protects" the sheep from the wolf so he, the protector, can eat the sheep later, at leisure.
    The problem, however, is threefold:

    1) the assumption that nature exists to be exploited by man as a resource and a repository of waste;

    2) the assumption that human behavior is good unless and until it is proven to be bad;

    3) the extension of 1 and 2 to artificial bodies (corporations) whose activities are much more powerful and potentially destructive than those of an individual person.

    In the beginning, it was assumed that artificial bodies, corporations, could be effectively limited by specifying their functions, duties and obligations ahead of time. But, as the law developed, the obligations of corporations shrank to just one -- making a profit. How that is accomplished and how it affects the natural environment was set aside and the impulse to exploit was set aside.

    Then there's the additional problem of the impulse towards segregation as a predicate for control.  Some humans become fixated on control and indulge in segregating various populations for no other purpose. The Constitution was initially designed to limit powers. Instead, especially in recent decades, our agents of government have preferred to extend their powers and limit their obligations to service a select constituency. It's a reflexive response to the push for popular control. Power-mavens are not keen to relinquish authority to the people. And that's true regardless of which political party they claim to be alligned with.

    Traditionally, Republicans ruled the people as if they had a royal mandate while Democrats claimed to act on behalf of the people. Neither party subscribed to the people governing. When Howard Dean said, "you have the power" to the grass roots, he challenged the establishment and had to be removed. His demise was engineered by the supporters of Richard Gebhardt, not the Republicans.

    We organize governments to provide benefits and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Sun Nov 18, 2012 at 03:36:34 PM PST

    •  That's a very thoughtful comment (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      divineorder, S F Hippie, kurt

      That's a very thoughtful comment that points to the real problem - the corporate control over our government and institutions and increasing monopolization of political power by a ruling elite. That's the type of control that allows a guy like Panetta to praise alleged "marine protected areas" while overseeing military testing plans that will kill whales, dolphins, fish and other marine life in the same "marine protected areas." That's also the type of control that allows an ocean industrialist like Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association, to oversee the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force to create "marine protected areas" on the South Coast.

      •  Yes, but corporations (artificial bodies) are (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lisa Lockwood, kurt

        created by legislative bodies (mostly states but some by Congress) and those bodies are, in turn, subservient to the electorate. Legislators across the board have been successful in denying their own culpability. They blame the executive, lobbyists,  private corporate pressure, the courts -- everyone but themselves.  But, if the effort to destroy unions in Wisconsin and Indiana and depriving the cities of Michigan of their charters should have taught us anything, it's that the legislators have the power and authority and, if they misuse the law to abuse individual rights, they need to be removed from office. There's a reason why these offices are up for review every two years.
        We need to remember that legislators and private corporations have a common interest and perspective. Legislative bodies are also corporations (public artificial bodies) organized for specific purposes and to provide the individual participants with personal immunity from the consequences of their actions by letting them delegate functions. This is a useful strategy because it lets people take risks that they would not take if their personal safety were at stake. Corporations can afford to be more innovative because there is someone to back people up in the event of error. What they risk is supposed to be limited by their limited mission. Of course, that's out the window when their mission is reduced to generating a profit or, in the case of punitive legislators not spending resources except to promote their own longevity in office.
        While I'm not in favor of fixed term limits, we out to be wary of people who hold on to public office for decades. Also, we need to question the claim of corporate distance from government. There never has been a time when enterprise didn't suckle at the public teat. "Free market" obviously refers to free resources being taken to market for a profit and the free enterprise ideal is not to have to give anything back. Now that our natural resources have either been depleted or all doled out as private property, legislators resort to contracting out their obligations to deliver public services, giving private corporations an easy and guaranteed profit. That gives us an advantage, if we bother to look at the accounts.

        We organize governments to provide benefits and prevent abuse.

        by hannah on Sun Nov 18, 2012 at 04:13:07 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

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