AG Kamala Harris Leads Strong Legal Defense of California's Marine Life Protection Act


Posted on 17 September 2011

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By Warner Chabot

Kudos to Attorney General Kamala Harris for defending the state’s landmark Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) from a lawsuit filed against the California Fish and Game Commission by members of the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans (PSO), an industry group supported by foreign fishing equipment interests.

The Attorney General is taking strong action in protecting California’s coast from this meritless, “Hail Mary” legal attack by overseas special interests. In a brief filed in San Diego Superior Court late last week, the California Department of Justice asked for dismissal of the suit, which was filed by PSO group member, the Coastside Fishing Club.

The PSO has battled the establishment of marine reserves off the California coast for several years. It has spent millions on lawsuits and a public relations campaign attacking the scientifically-backed proposals to set aside areas of the ocean to allow fish and other marine life to rebuild after decades of heavy exploitation.

Coastside’s lawsuit alleges the Fish & Game Commission did not have the authority to adopt 22 marine protected areas along the California coast, an argument that the Attorney General’s office aggressively countered.

“Misunderstanding the MLPA, Coastside presents a misleading and confusing argument incorrectly interpreting two legislative acts,” the AG wrote in her brief. “The entire argument is not only irrelevant but misstates the appropriate authority upon which the Commission relied in adopting MPAs.”

Incredibly, the special interest lawsuit also calls for placing the Commission’s marine reserves before the California Coastal Commission for approval. It is astonishing that these special interests, which previously have called the Coastal Commission “corrupt and overreaching,” now want to delay ocean habitat protection by seeking a Coastal Commission permit.  There is one word to describe their legal ploy: laughable.

The AG’s brief states that a Coastal Commission development permit was not needed to establish marine reserves, because those reserves are not “development” at all, but constitute a fish and wildlife management plan exempt from Coastal Commission review.

To repeat: the special interests behind PSO are now on record saying the role of California’s Coastal Commission should be expanded. Oh, the irony.

The Attorney General’s brief also noted that over a 14-month rulemaking process, the Commission conducted seven public hearings to hear presentations on the status of MPA proposals, received scientific analysis, and stated that “Coastside should not be allowed to challenge the regulations at this late date just because Coastside’s preferred MPA option was not selected by the Commission when Coastside participated fully in the rulemaking process and advocated the Commission exercise its statutory authority to adopt an alternative MPA option.”

And that’s exactly what this meritless lawsuit is all about.

CLCV sponsors the website, www.SomethingsFishyAboutPSO.org. The website reveals the organization’s funders and actions to undermine ocean protection efforts in California, the United States, and around the world.

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Warner Chabot is the CEO of the California League of Conservation Voters.

Nice to see someone fight for the people of California for a change.

The fishing community strongly opposes the MLPA process for one specific reason; its mandates simply prohibit public access to public resources for the benefit of oil exploration.

Our North Coast is possibly the healthiest fishery in the world largely because of its remote access.

The MPLA process was railroaded thru by the Schwarzenegger administration, supported by big oil, and coorperate developers.

Dan Bacher, editor a predominate fishing publication criticizes the legislation saying, "Catherine Reheis-Boyd, chair of the MLPA task force and the president of the Western States Petroleum Association is an ardent advocate of new oil drilling off the California coast."

Imagine that, a process that removes Fishermen and Tribal Communities from the most productive fishery on the west coast has the support of Kamala Harris, a Schwartzenegger apointment.

Additionally, Coastside, a costal watchdog group, was not invited to the MLPA closed door hearings, the Attorney General fails to look into those allocations as well.

This is a flawed process with no real intrest in protecting marine life other than its label, which most Californians bought, Hook line and sinker!

More about the flawed MLPA process at,http://blogs.alternet.org/danbacher/2011/09/14/environmental-leader-applauds-oal-decision-lawsuit-against-mlpa/

Apparently it's Mr. Schurr who is uneducated about the MLPA -- a bipartisan piece of legislation that, finally, after hundreds of hearings and input from thousands of Californians, is about to take effect.

Apparently Mr. Schurr doesn't realize that the tribes now support MLPA after excellent work by the Brown Administration (Resources Secretary John Laird) to ensure their rights are maintained.

Apparently Mr. Schurr doesn't understand that the oil industry had absolutely no role in the process -- but that citizens did. And citizens OVERWHELMINGLY supported the MLPA.

As for Mr. Bacher, his extremist views are paid for by the commercial fishing industry, which wants to put its selfish short-term interests above what's best for the coastal economy and the long term health of our oceans.