Oct 232009
 

I was literally pounding my steering wheel while listening to the KPBS Editors round table butcher coverage of the Marine Life Protection Act this morning. They did minimal research (at best), but were more than happy to speak about it anyway. There are several things which were missing from the discussion or simply incorrect:

“Fish stocks haven’t changed in 10 years”
Gloria quoted an op-ed from the UT written by someone from the fishing industry saying the fish stocks had not changed since the law was passed, in 1999. That is simply wrong and they didn’t really follow it up correctly – our fish stocks are not the same as they were 10 years ago. Major pelagic species are under huge threat and the catch size of many species is going down. It seems like everyone forgets that California has a salmon industry in a death spiral. Thankfully someone mentioned the LA Times Altered Oceans series.

“The MPAs will help keep spear fishing away from swimmers”
I’d love to see a list of all the incidents that would prompt this concern. My guess is there are very few. No one wants to spearfish where people are swimming as beaches make for lousy fishing. Why was this even discussed as a valid issue?

“Closing areas will lead to overfishing the only areas left open”
This is a ridiculous statement for several reasons. The size of the MPA at best is going to be in the 15-20% range, far less than the 30-40% range recommended by scientists. If closing that small of a percentage of space available leads to environmental destruction, then we are in horrible shape and it is all the more reason to close areas off. For more on this point, see the next two:

“The MPA’s are about protecting certain areas and will hurt fishing”
Marine preserves are not only about conserving life in the preserve. They are also about increasing life in non-preserve areas. Frequently Marine Preserves *increase* yields in non protected areas as they act as nurseries for the rest of the ocean.

“California fishing industry is well regulated, management is working”
Using salmon as an example, clearly it is not working for all species. Size and catch based fishing regulation alone (as California has) is a very poor management of fish stocks. Most species do their best reproducing when they are very old and mature. It can take many years, even decades for some species to reach a prime reproductive size. If you allow the taking of fish over a certain size only, you are targeting the very best producers of new fish. By blocking off MPA’s, you allow a portion of those best breeders to survive and produce the next generation.

Considering this network broadcast The National Parks: America’s Best Idea not that long ago, I found it very surprising that they didn’t understand the impact or importance of the Marine Life Protection Act. MPA’s preserve our ocean wild areas for generations to come in the same way our National Parks have for land use. These areas are critical to sustaining our economy, our food supply, our way of life, and ensuring it is still as much of a joy to explore our coast in 50 years as it is today.