CalOceans News

North Coast MLPA stakeholders produce landmark unified plan

September 1st, 2010

The Marine Life Protection Act’s community-driven approach is bearing fruit in the North Coast, where local stakeholders have agreed to a single unified proposal for a network of marine protected areas that will stretch from Point Arena to the border with Oregon.
After a rough start, the 32-member Regional Stakeholder Group (RSG)—which includes harbormasters, surfers, sport and commercial fishermen, seaweed harvesters, tribal and business leaders and conservation representatives—has found common ground. The group agreed to protect key habitat areas like Cape Mendocino, Vizcaino, Pyramid Point, Reading Rock and South Humboldt Bay. There was also unanimous support for ensuring that traditional non-commercial tribal uses can continue.  All protected areas were designed to avoid harbors to ensure safe access to local fishing grounds.

The stakeholders have been working since February to develop a marine protected area plan that would balance ecological and economic concerns.  After over 300 hours of meetings, in addition to 20 public workshops and open houses held throughout the North Coast from Casper to Smith River, the stakeholders settled on this landmark unified plan, the first of its kind in the Marine Life Protection Act process.

While the total area protected under the plan is less than in other parts of the state (the proposal calls for 13 percent of coastal waters to be protected, versus 16 to 20 percent found in other regions, conservationists and fishing groups alike were proud of their achievement.

"Everyone talked about a unified community proposal at the beginning of the MLPA process, but I wasn't expecting to pull it off. Sure enough though, everyone came together and we did it. It's a great accomplishment” said Adam Wagschal, Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreational and Conservation District Conservation Director.

“The important thing is that we have a unified plan that blends conservation and consideration of the close connection most of us have with harvesting sea life—one our local communities can work together on, for the benefit of the entire region," said Bill Lemos, consultant to NRDC.