I read with interest, “Marine Hearings Buoyed by Non Profits” in the Feb. 11 edition.
As associate director of Orange County Coastkeeper and a member of the South Coast Regional Stakeholder Group that developed the new Marine Protected Areas I spent substantial time on this issue and would like to take the opportunity to provide some missing facts.
First, the statement that it was a “little known fact” that the public outreach and participation process for the Marine Life Protection Act was funded by non-profits is off the mark. The memorandum of understanding between the state and the funders has been posted on the California Department of Fish and Game website for five years, and everyone involved in the process was well aware of the source of the funding.
Another point left out was the funding provided by the same non-profits to the opponents of the process to assure their views were heard. Both United Anglers and the Fisherman’s Information Network received large grants to participate in the process and produce proposals for consideration.
Additionally a group with the misleading name Partnership for Sustainable Oceans (PSO), funded by fishing tackle manufacturers to sink ocean protection efforts, poured millions of their own dollars into the process to influence the outcome.
Every regional stakeholder was provided a stipend to assist with travel costs to the numerous meetings we all attended. The goal of this funding was to allow the community to have a voice in the creation of Marine Protected Areas. Locals participated in record numbers in public testimony and mailed comments, all taken into account by decision makers who ultimately adopted a fair and balanced plan that will keep our ocean and coastal economy healthy for the long-term.
As stated in the article, the non-profit funders had no say over the direct decision making. This was the exact opposite for the stakeholders receiving PSO funding; all were required to stick to a pre designed proposal and were ostracized if they strayed from their script by enforcers in the room watching them. Luckily there were a number of representatives of the fishing community that stayed independent and made substantial contributions to the success of the process.
The non-profit funding provided a great service to the state by allowing the public to participate in implementing a law supported by a majority of residents.
Now the anti MLPA crowd is suing to stop the process because they did not achieve what they wanted. We are all lucky that the funding for the process was available without the state having to cover all the costs. It is time to quit trying to spin a benefit into a problem.
Ray Hiemstra, Costa Mesa