December 17 2010
After several years of hard work and negotiations, the California Fish & Game Commission approved a network of 36 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Southern California – part of a statewide process required by the 1999 Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). The MLPA’s goals are to: ‘set aside’ areas of the ocean to increase fish populations, enhance marine habitat, and improve recreational and educational opportunities. Research on MPAs from around the world proves that they create larger fish populations and increase biodiversity within their boundaries.
Over the past two years, the Surfrider Foundation worked tirelessly with diverse constituencies, including commercial and recreational fishermen, divers, surfers, kayak fishermen, environmental activists and beach goers to help provide balanced input during the MLPA process. The Foundation conducted extensive outreach by surveying members and non-members (nearly 550 people completed a survey); arranging and participating in “one-on-one” meetings with stakeholders including fishermen, ardent conservationists, ocean-users, and the chapters; holding community forums to discuss map recommendations; and attending all of the public meetings held during the two-year process. The Surfrider Foundation also created its own map that reflected views from both activists who wanted to maximize the size of the marine reserves and fishermen who wanted them limited. The organization submitted its map of alternatives to Fish & Game for consideration, and used it to determine support for the proposed alternatives.
“We did our best to reach out to our membership, the fishing community and environmental organizations,” said Joe Geever, Surfrider Foundation’s California Policy Coordinator. “Many members of the Regional Stakeholders Group representing diverse interests told us that Surfrider brought creative and respectful proposals to the discussion and they appreciated our efforts to find the elusive ‘common ground’.”
At the end of the process, the Blue Ribbon Task Force reviewed all the proposed maps and introduced a hybrid called the Integrated Preferred Alternative (IPA)., When the Surfrider Foundation compared its map with the IPA, they decided that there was enough overlap in most places to support the IPA.
The California Fish & Game Commission chose the IPA map to undergo “environmental review” and the Foundation submitted comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report. They also launched an “action alert” in support of the final map, the IPA. Over 2,400 Surfrider supporters sent letters to the Fish & Game Commission urging them to adopt the IPA.
In the end, some Surfrider Foundation members felt the IPA went too far, while many more felt it did not to protect enough area in Southern California. The Surfrider Foundation thinks the IPA met the goal of finding a compromise not only for those who worked so hard on the Regional Stakeholder Group process, but also for the diverse concerns of its membership.
“It was a rewarding experience to work with so many diverse voices involved in the process,” said Stefanie Sekich-Quinn, Surfrider Foundation’s Campaign Specialist. “While negotiations are always a delicate balance, we believe the final product is a science-based, fair-minded proposal that will help restore important ocean ecosystems.”
To learn more about Surfrider Foundation’s involvement in this two-year process, visit our blog.