The Big Corporate Money Behind Fake Marine 'Protection'

Posted on 21 February 2011

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By Dan Bacher

In a groundbreaking investigative piece in the Laguna Beach Independent on February 11, Ted Reckas exposed the private money that is behind the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, a widely-contested program to create a network of "marine protected areas" on the California coast.

“Five non-profits, including one based in Laguna Beach, donated a total of $20 million to see the drafting process to completion since the state legislature never budgeted adequate funding for the marine-protection law, which was enacted in 1999,” according to Reckas in his article, “Marine Hearings Buoyed by Nonprofits.”

The Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, a shadowy organization that North Coast environmental leader John Lewallen describes as a “money laundering operation” for corporate money, received the funds from these foundations to implement Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's unpopular MLPA process.

The David and Lucillle Packard Foundation contributed $8.2 million to fund MLPA hearings, according to Reckas. The Packard Foundation is not only the biggest funder of the MLPA, but also funded studies to build the peripheral canal, including the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) report in July 2008 calling for the construction of a canal. The peripheral canal is opposed by a coalition of fishermen, environmentalists, Indian Tribes, family farmers and Delta residents.

Julie E. Packard, the executive director and founder of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, serves as Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the foundation. Carol S. Larson is the President and Chief Executive Officer, while Susan Packard Orr serves as Chairman.

The Laguna Beach-based Marisla Foundation, founded by Getty Oil heiress Anne Getty Earhart, gave $3 million to the MLPA over several years, according to the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation. "The most recent tax records show Marisla donated $12 million in 2008 to 50 causes, including $1.1 million towards the MLPA. A foundation spokeswoman declined comment," noted Reckas.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation donated $7.4 million. Gordon and Betty Moore are the founders of the Foundation, and Gordon also serves as chairman of the board.

Gordon Moore is co-founder of Intel Corporation and Chairman Emeritus of the Corporation's Board of Directors. Prior to Intel, Gordon co-founded Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957.

The Keith Campbell Foundation’s contributed $1.2 million to the MLPA Initiative. D. Keith Campbell founded Campbell and Company in 1972, and currently serves as Chairman of its Board of Directors.

Campbell and Company is now one of the largest derivative investment managers in the world. "Headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, it employs more than 130 skilled professionals, and manages approximately thirteen billion dollars. Its worldwide client base includes institutions, corporationa, and individuals,” according to the foundation's website.

Finally, the Annenberg Foundation contributed $200,000. The Annenberg Foundation is a private foundation established in 1989. It is the successor corporation to the Annenberg School at Radnor, Pennsylvania founded in 1958 by Walter H. Annenberg.

Fishermen, seaweed harvesters and grassroots environmentalists contend that the MLPA process was rigged from the start and that funding a public process with private funding is a huge conflict of interest.

MLPA critics, including fishermen, environmentalists and Indian Tribal members, have charged the initiative with corruption, conflicts of interest and institutional racism since Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger privatized the initiative in 2004 by directing the Department of Fish and Game to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Resources Legacy Fund Foundation.

The MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces that implement the law are dominated by oil industry, real estate, marina development and other corporate interests. Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association, served as chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast and on the task forces for the North Central Coast and North Coast.

MLPA opponents also slam the MLPA process for setting up marine protected areas that fail to protect the ocean from water pollution, oil spills and drilling, military testing, wave energy projects, corporate aquaculture and all other uses of the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

Until June 2010, the initiative made no provisions whatsoever to protect Tribal gathering rights. No Tribal representatives were appointed to the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force until 2010 and no Tribal scientists have ever been appointed to the MLPA Science Advisory Team, in spite of the fact that the Yurok and other Tribes have large natural resources departments that employ numerous scientists.

MLPA officials contend that the private funding of a public process is "good public policy."

“They wanted the law implemented and were willing to put up $20 million to ensure that we had a public process and everyone was heard. That’s good public policy,” Ken Wiseman, executive director of the MLPA Initiative, told Reckas.

However, Wiseman's claim that private funding of the MLPA is "good public policy" is countered by the documentation of numerous violations of state law now being exposed through a landmark lawsuit by United Anglers of Southern California, the Coastside Fishing Club, Bob Fletcher and the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans (PSO).

George Osborn, PSO spokesman, on February 2 presented the California Fish and Game Commission with a 25-page report containing numerous emails and correspondence documenting illegal private, non-public meetings of Marine Life Protection Act Initiative officials.

“After reviewing the documents turned over to us, which previously the BRTF had improperly withheld from the public, we now have evidence, indicating that the public meetings of the BRTF have been an elaborately staged Kabuki performance, choreographed and rehearsed down to the last detail, even to the crafting of motions, in scheduled private meetings held before the so-called public meetings of the BRTF," said Osborn. "Clearly, this has not been the most open and transparent process, as it has so often been described.”

To see the entire set of BRTF private meeting documents, go to the San Diego Freedivers website.


Dan Bacher is an editor of The Fish Sniffer, described as "The #1 Newspaper in the World Dedicated Entirely to Fishermen."

Right, so foundations are corporate money huh? Guess we better watch that Surfrider Foundation more closely then...

Also, MLPA was passed before Schwarzenegger. You forget who runs this state. He was following the law as it was passed by our legislature.

Just accept that sportfishing, unfortunately, is a dying sport in California. It is directly correlated to our overfishing; as it has become harder to find fish, people have stopped fishing. We've fished down the food chain and look at what we have now... a record squid catch this past season... why? Because we've effectively killed off all their predators and its all we have now in good numbers. It's not the sportfishing community's fault, but it doesn't matter now as the stocks are so low, all stakeholders pay the price. Sportfishermen failed to come to the table on the MLPA process, while every other stakeholder did, so I don't see why there is so much whining now.

Its time to leave the ocean alone for a while and let her rebuild...

Mr. Anonymous advocate of privatized marine protected areas.

You apparently haven't ever been on the ocean in recent years or read any of the scientific literature regarding the reality of fishing restrictions in California. The entire continental shelf of California, the Rockfish Conservation Zone, is closed to fishing. Recreational rockfish and lingcod seasons are extremely restrictive, lasting for only several months on the North Coast.

In fact, huge swaths of the ocean off California are already being "left alone" so that fish stocks can rebuild. For example, over 80 percent of the area that Santa Cruz charter boat anglers traditionally fished was closed to fishing when the federal Rockfish Conservation Zone went into effect over a decade ago. This was before the fake "marine protected areas" imposed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's corrupt MLPA process went into effect.

I personally worked hard on getting the most stringent gill net and trawl net regulations found anywhere, those now in effect off the California coast, signed into law.

There are regional differences in fishing pressure along the California coast, with extremely light pressure on the North Coast and heavier fishing pressure in Southern California because of the millions of people that live there. However, a groundbreaking study published in the July 31 issue of Science magazine revealed that the California Current ecosystem has the lowest fishery exploitation rate of any place in the world examined by co-authors Ray Hilborn and Boris Worm and 19 other scientists.

Who am I to believe? Somebody who doesn't have the courage to post their own name while serving as a promoter of corporate greenwashing under the MLPA Initiative or the 21 scientists who wrote this landmark study?

I have one big question to ask you: why was Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum, allowed to serve as CHAIR of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the Task Force and on the task forces for the North Coast and North Central Coast? Doesn't that fact in and of itself taint and invalidate the entire MLPA process?

Please read my article below and educate yourself:

Landmark Study Counters Pseudo Science Behind MLPA Process

California has the lowest exploitation rate of fished stocks in the world

By Dan Bacher

A new groundbreaking study published in the July 31 issue of Science magazine reveals that the California Current ecosystem has the lowest fishery exploitation rate of any place in the world examined by co-authors Ray Hilborn and Boris Worm and 19 other scientists.

“The drastic reductions in harvest in California have been designed to rebuild the overexploited rockfish stocks,” said Hilborn. “At present the community of groundfish is now at about 60% of its unfished biomass, far above the 30-40% level target for maximum sustained yield.”

Dr. Hilborn, a professor at the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington, and the other authors of "Rebuilding Global Fisheries" say that efforts made to reduce overfishing are succeeding in five of ten large marine ecosystems studied, including those in California, New Zealand and Iceland. Their study puts into perspective recent reports predicting a “total collapse” of global fisheries within 40 years.

The conclusions by the 21 international scientists with widely divergent views effectively counter the spurious arguments by Governor Arnold Schwarzengger and his staff for the urgent “need” to fast-track the controversial Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) process because of the “dire condition” that rockfish, lingcod and other groundfish stocks are supposedly in along the California coast.

“Much of the motivation for the MLPA was concern about the state of the groundfish stocks - there is clear evidence that these can be rebuilt without MPAs resulting from the MLPA that have only recently begun to be implemented,” Hilborn said. “The benefits of the MPAs established under the MLPA will be primarily to have some areas of high abundance of species with limited mobility.”

This is not the first time that Dr. Hilborn has criticized the MLPA process. In 2006, Hilborn and others reviewed the MLPA model for size and spacing of MPAs and found: “It appears to us that those prescriptions were pulled out of the air, based on intuitive reasoning.”

Jim Martin, West Coast Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, said the new study confirmed what North Coast environmentalists, anglers and seaweed harvesters have known all along – that efforts to restore groundfish populations through the highly restrictive Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) process are working.

“The conclusion that California has the lowest rate of groundfish exploitation of any place examined in the study demonstrates that the idea that we must rush into the MLPA process or there won’t be any fish left in the ocean is completely false,” said Martin.

MPLA Process: A Resource Grab, Not Marine Protection

A broad coalition of grass roots environmentalists, seaweed harvesters, Native American activists, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, and elected officials on California’s North and North Central Coast is opposing the fast-track process for being an egregious case of corporate greenwashing rife with conflicts of interests, mission creep and the corruption of the democratic process. Many believe that Schwarzenegger and his allies are trying to kick sustainable fishermen and seaweed harvesters off the water to clear a path for corporations to install offshore oil rigs, wave energy projects and aquaculture facilities off the northern California coast.

As Judith Vidaver, chair of the Ocean Protection Coalition (OPC), said so eloquently in June at a groundbreaking meeting held by environmentalists, fishermen and seaweed harvesters in Point Arena to oppose the corrupt MLPA process, “What I see here is a resource grab. The first thing that the corporations want to do before grabbing public trust resources is to get rid of the people who live or subsist on the land and ocean.”

Likewise, Ann Maurice, Sonoma County Native American activist, put Schwarzenegger’s fast-track MLPA process in the larger context of cultural genocide by the state and federal governments against American Indian nations in California since the Gold Rush.

"Native Americans have been systematically deprived of the right to sustainably fish and harvest intertidal food," said Maurice, who has worked for years to stop MLPA closures from taking away traditional ocean harvesting areas vital to the survival of Kashaya and other tribal cultures. "Now the same thing is being done to you.”

There is nothing "green" about Schwarzenegger's fast track MLPA fiasco except for the Packard Foundation money that is funding a supposedly "public" process. At the same time that Schwarzenegger and his collaborators are ramrodding the MLPA process through the California Fish and Game Commission at the expense of coastal communities, he is pushing for a peripheral canal and more dams that will result in pushing collapsing Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, green sturgeon, Delta smelt and the southern resident population of killer whales over the edge of extinction.

While coastal groundfish populations are rapidly rebuilding under the current fishery management process, Schwarzenegger is trying to impose more unneeded closures on the most heavily regulated coastal fishery in the world. Meanwhile, rather than supporting efforts by fishermen, Indian Tribes and environmentalists to restore anadromous species including salmon, steelhead and sturgeon, he has done everything he can to make these fish populations extinct by fighting a court-ordered plan to restore the fish and relentlessly supporting efforts by corporate agribusiness to increase water exports from the California Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas.

In a stunning case of reverse logic, Schwarzenegger and his staff are ruthlessly opposing fish restoration measures for anadromous species that are on the verge of extinction while imposing redundant area closures on groundfish stocks that are the least exploited of any fishery in the world examined in the landmark study published in Science!

The California Fish and Game Commission will make its decision on which marine protected area alternative to implement for the North Central Coast at its meeting at the Yolo Fliers Club Ballroom, 17980 County Road 94B, in Woodland, California on August 5 at 10 a.m. Fishing groups are supporting 2XA - the alternative that achieves fishery conservation objectives with the least economic impact. At the same time, the California Game Wardens Association, fishing groups and grassroots environmental groups are pushing for a suspension in the MLPA process, in light of the state's unprecedented economic crisis, numerous conflicts of interests by MLPA decision makers and the questionable "science" behind the process.

The data about California fisheries disclosed in the Science magazine article makes it even more clear that the Marine Life Protection Act process must be suspended, since the "science" behind the process needs to be completely re-examined.

The Global Perspective: Fish Stocks Need Rebuilding

While California and other regions have seen the rebuilding of groundfish stocks through the implementation of strict regulations, that is not the case everywhere examined in the study.

"In 5 of 10 well-studied ecosystems, the average exploitation rate has recently declined and is now at or below the rate predicted to achieve maximum sustainable yield for seven systems," according to the study. "Yet 63% of assessed fish stocks worldwide still require rebuilding, and even lower exploitation rates are needed to reverse the collapse of vulnerable species. Combined fisheries and conservation objectives can be achieved by merging diverse management actions, including catch restrictions, gear modification, and closed areas, depending on local context. Impacts of international fleets and the lack of alternatives to fishing complicate prospects for rebuilding fisheries in many poorer regions, highlighting the need for a global perspective on rebuilding marine resources."

The abstract for Rebuilding Global Fisheries is available at A subscription is required to read the full article on-line.

Below is a link to recent comments regarding the South Coast MLPA process by Dr. Hilborn: