North Coast tribes made it clear Wednesday morning that they still have concerns about the Marine Life Protection Act's effect on traditional tribal harvesting, but the tribes and Humboldt County stakeholders gave their overwhelming support of the process, so far.
The commission met at Eureka's Red Lion Hotel to take public comment on the environmental impact report of the marine protection areas, or MPAs, designated by the Marine Life Protection Act, or MLPA. The deadline for comments is Monday and the commission plans to make its final decision regarding the MPAs in Eureka on June 14, a new date chosen at Wednesday's meeting.
The MLPA looks to restrict or eliminate fishing and gathering in a variety of marine habitats in state waters, creating a network of marine protected areas along the 1,100-mile California coastline. A public-private initiative has brought the process to several other regions along the coast, but only on the North Coast were locals able to agree on a single proposal.
During the commission's morning session, Brandi Easter, a recreational diver who was a member of the North Coast Regional Stakeholder Group that created the local MPA proposal, encouraged the commission not to change the boundaries.
She read a letter, signed by 15 stakeholders and various organizations, into the record that emphasized the knowledge of local people incorporated into the boundaries.
”This widely supported network design represents numerous compromises and considerations regarding ecological and socio-economic issues,” she said.
Kevin McGrath, a stakeholder from Shelter Cove who also signed the letter, urged the commission to accept the MPA boundaries as identified by the group.
”If you do not keep the boundaries that we worked so hard for, it will be a slap in our faces,” he said.
Several tribes said the MPA's environmental impact report lists inaccurate information regarding ancestral territories and which tribes are allowed to gather in which areas.
”Rather than consult with the federally recognized tribes in order to correct their interpretation of the factual record, commission and department staff have disregarded the efforts of our tribes who have participated in the process,” a letter signed by five tribes states.
Sonke Mastrup, DFG commission executive director, said staff did receive the information and recognized the need for changes.
”We don't want to be in the business of figuring out who has which tribe ID,” he said, adding that staff can start a cleanup project to later add to the regulations to allow the process to move forward.
Specifically, the report allows several tribes to take from the proposed area of Pyramid Point and Point St. George, both located off the coast of Del Norte County, despite the first being within the ancestral territory of the Smith River Rancheria and the second in the Smith River Rancheria and the Elk Valley Rancheria's territory.
HOW TO COMMENT:
Written comments may be mailed to MLPA North Coast CEQA Comments, Department of Fish and Game, c/o Horizon Water and Environment, P.O. Box 2727, Oakland, CA 94602 or submitted via e-mail to
. Comments by email must include “MLPA CEQA Comments” in the subject line.
All comments (mailed or emailed) must include a name, address and daytime telephone number.
All comments must be postmarked no later than 5 p.m. on April 16 in order to be considered for inclusion in the final EIR.
For more information on the North coast MLPA process, visit online at www.dfg.ca.gov/ mlpa/northcoast.asp.