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Wednesday, December 02, 2009
December’s Damage Assessment


MLPA Log: Coming clean at the closing bell
 

Reality hits hard

Paul Lebowitz was among the South Region stakeholders. This is a final MLPA Log for WON now that the fate of SoCal closures in the hands of the Fish and Game Commission.

When the MLPAI Blue Ribbon Task Force finished their sausage making last week, I was nauseous from the bitter taste of this vile recipe. The disgusting ingredients included some of the most obvious agenda-driven science yet seen during the stomach-churning ordeal of the South Coast process.

Jolly SAT pirate Steve Murray surely lined up plenty of grant money booty for himself and his colleagues with the overnight invention of a new guideline. Habitat quality – there’s no definition, but as Murray showed for all the world to see, in place after place it favored maps drawn by the close-it-off-camp.

Maybe their maps were better? You couldn’t think so if you were forced to sit silently through the glaring inconsistencies. Precious and rare deep rock off Malibu was worthless at Del Mar. Persistent kelp at Pt Loma suddenly turned into garbage. Only the equivalently classified persistent kelp (an earlier SAT surprise) at La Jolla would suffice. The bias was never clearer.    

Dessert was a heaping help of betrayal, as an eleventh hour backroom political deal between Los Angeles County Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Don Knabe delivered every inch of Malibu’s Point Dume to the radical environmentalists, Palos Verdes’ Rocky Point standing in for a wretched thirty pieces of silver.

I suppose they were inspired by the MLPAI contrived ‘cross-interest’ machinations that came out of RSG Workgroup 1, the first place this tit for tat popped into public view. It didn’t matter in the least that no recreational fishing group bought into it. A couple of commercial RSG reps sidled close enough to get some of the slime on themselves, but to their credit they eventually repudiated the trade-off.

Of course the Point Dume debacle was just the tip of the iceberg aimed at sinking much of Southern California’s fishing economy and lifestyle. Greater Laguna suffered the same fate, as the SAT and DFG ignored directives that should have prevented acceptance of a triangle shape aimed squarely at maximizing the shoreline hit. MPAs too small to count for conservation value but just right for serving special interests ended up all over the final closure map. Examples include Catalina’s Long Point, reputedly to protect black seabass (already protected and thus unnecessary and counter to MLPA guidelines), Santa Barbara’s Naples Reef (linked to shoreline development), and a significant chunk of northern La Jolla (another trophy for the NGOs).

In the end, only the location of the Palos Verdes closure and Isla Vista up north came from the fishing-friendly maps. Everything else was a straight-up smack-down, a clear signal the governor’s Task Force has nothing but contempt for grubby fishermen and honest hard-working folk. That the largest, most egregious coastal closures landed squarely on ritzy Malibu and chic and exclusive Laguna was no coincidence. Get thee gone, rabble!

Remember this, the fishing-preferred Proposal 2 was already a serious economic hit, one that offered just a fraction less in terms of conservation value and overall acreage at significantly reduced cost. Rather than select this option and go arm in arm to the Fish and Game Commission, the BRTF shoved their sausage down our throats.  

I’m sad to say none of this was a surprise. That fishing interests would lose was obvious from day one. Sooner really, as most of us who fought this hopeless battle for fisheries were aware of Central California’s ugly prior MLPA history. Few of us harbored illusions that it would be any different down here. We only knew it would be worse if we sat on the sidelines.

Did our participation make any difference in this march to a predetermined outcome? Yes, it did. Take a look at the early proposals if you doubt me. The preservationist proposals started with an ‘Ocean Closed’ sign.

We fought a stubborn rear-guard action fueled by the army of kayak anglers and free divers who turned out every time we issued the call. Other groups weren’t so obvious, but played critical roles. And of course the solidarity among the RSG’s fishing representatives was remarkable to behold. Old arguments and jealousies were largely shelved for the duration.

Now that I’m finally free of the RSG, there’s no reason to bite my tongue. The Torquemadas who drove this process twisted and tortured it at will to reach their single-minded goals. Those just getting started with the MLPA in Northern California should take heed.

Base lines repeatedly shifted; the science bar was lifted ever higher and higher. Procedure changed mysteriously in the dark of night, without explanation. And I defy you to find much in the way of public debate between BRTF members. They didn’t have the stomach to do their dirty work in the light of day, preferring instead to hide behind closed doors.

Contempt for the public was palpable, demonstrated in the bullying ways of MLPAI Executive Director Ken Wiseman. Many anglers who stood up for themselves were hectored and harassed, treated dismissively. Twenty or thirty seconds of speaking time was the norm. The BRTF didn’t want to hear it. They had their minds made up. Why else would they order their public relations staffers to actively discourage attendance? That was an outrageous, anti-democratic topper that reveals the lie in the words “open and transparent process,” and it’s on the record.   

What else should we expect when private money funds public policy? The MLPAI staff served their paymasters rather than the people of the state. The MLPA law itself would not be the problem if it were enforced as written. It’s supposed to cost the state $250,000 a year, not $25 million or more. Point the finger at those who hijacked it.

There’s much more I’d like to say, but I’ll close this series of columns written from the belly of the MLPA beast with heartfelt thanks to WON’s editors and publishers for their unwavering support over the past year and this message. There’s a long way yet to go before this drastic snatch of public resources is completed. The battle for an equitable outcome will continue at the Fish and Game Commission. As it stands today the deck is stacked 3-2 against us, but circumstances change quickly in politics. A vote can’t be assumed until it happens. Whether you’ve sat on the sidelines or are only just awakening to the threat, it’s time to get involved.   

The Fish and Game Commission will formally take up the South Coast MLPA issue on December 9 at the Radisson Hotel LAX, 6225 West Century Boulevard.







Reader Comments
Having watched the process since the beginning, I want to publicly state just how far this man rose to the occasion. Over the course of a year+ I watched this mild mannered quiet person come to the forefront of this losing battle with focused determination. I think he showed suppressed anger while articulating valid concerns at every junction. The results don't show it.....but I know he gained considerable respect from anyone following this travesty. I commend you, sir, for your efforts.
Dave Renner
You hit the nail on the head Paul, just like people like Meg Caldwell hit us on the head. This entire process was a sham. To watch the way Caldwell orchestrated that meeting, it was if she were the puppet master and the rest of the BRTF were her marionettes. Of course the enviros with the cash were the true puppet masters pulling all of her strings. I spent a lot of time focused on Caldwell during the last meeting and the one prior. I was amazed at the contempt she showed for our speakers, rarely even giving the respect to actually listen to them, often chatting with the person next to her as the public was giving comment. When she did speak to a point it was generally to shut them down. IT was obvious to me, at that point our fate was sealed, as their minds were already set and this entire circus was just a show. They had to act like they were going through the proper process, but in reality their minds were already set. AS a Kayak angler I was proud that our group along with the spearfisherman were the most prominent opposition to the steamroll that was the BRFT. I can only imagine how much worse it could of been. Paul thank you for doing all you could to keep these people in check. Don't give up the fight.
Jim Sammons
Paul, Very well done, a huge debt of thanks is in order for all your hard work and torture you were forced to endure over the last year and a half. We will continue this battle into the future until the MLPA becomes law, and past that I have a feeling! Now take a step back, relax, hug your loved ones and enjoy their company, and at some point we need to get out and enjoy the waters we are fighting so hard to protect! TL Jeff
Jeff Krieger
Paul we thank you so much for all the work you have done for us! Keep your head high and be proud my friend.
Kiyo Sato
Paul, you fought the good fight. I was there when we anglers were bullied, lied to, smeared, and betrayed by a public agency that did everything BUT serve the public. I'll never forget what happened Nov. 10 when Meg Caldwell just up and threw out the best overall map at Malibu and took a draconian map instead. I'll never forget the way the rambling grannies went driveling on and on while Kenny sat there, yet anglers were held to some strict standard and had the mics shut off. I'll never forget the spectacle of the bussed in school kids and the way they were paraded around. Most of all, I'll never forget the way we anglers came together, fought and stood our ground. We showed up at and inconvenient times (middle of the day for public comment. some of us have jobs!!! guess the envios don't.), put up with the changing nature of the meetings, and never lost heart even when we knew it was a rigged game. The black shirts were a force, and will continue to be. Thank YOU!!! for all you did. We couldn't have had a better rep. The game ain't over yet.
Rob Mandel
Paul, you fought the good fight. I was there when we anglers were bullied, lied to, smeared, and betrayed by a public agency that did everything BUT serve the public. I'll never forget what happened Nov. 10 when Meg Caldwell just up and threw out the best overall map at Malibu and took a draconian map instead. I'll never forget the way the rambling grannies went driveling on and on while Kenny sat there, yet anglers were held to some strict standard and had the mics shut off. I'll never forget the spectacle of the bussed in school kids and the way they were paraded around. Most of all, I'll never forget the way we anglers came together, fought and stood our ground. We showed up at and inconvenient times (middle of the day for public comment. some of us have jobs!!! guess the envios don't.), put up with the changing nature of the meetings, and never lost heart even when we knew it was a rigged game. The black shirts were a force, and will continue to be. Thank YOU!!! for all you did. We couldn't have had a better rep. The game ain't over yet.
Rob Mandel
Paul, Thank you for all you have done so far to support Kayak fishing. I'm new to it, and have been fishing for 2 years in the Pt.Dume/Malibu area. I love it and have been reading on this MLPA action. I don't understand everything that is discussed but realized quickly these deals are done in smoke filled rooms and I figured the rich and powerful on the Malibu beach front probably drive the process in one way or another. I'd like to get involved. If you have time, please respond to my email address with any direction or information on how I can help. Best Regards Tim Varacek
tim varacek
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