Standing Together

Casey AllenMarine Protected Areas

From the HASA 2012 Spring Newsletter

By Doug Corrigan
Del Norte County Fish and Game Advisory Commissioner

I have recently been given to privilege to be appointed to the Del Norte County Fish and Game Advisory Commission. The mandate of the Commission is to make recommendations and advise our County Supervisors on fish and Game issues. As a nominee for a stakeholder position with the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) initiative I was able to watch the initiative “process” first hand. I attended all the meetings that were held in Crescent City. It became clear to me that as a recreational angler I was going to have to get more involved with the regulatory and political processes concerning the agencies that make decisions involving our fisheries. If I was going to continue to do what I love and that is fish our pacific ocean I could no longer afford to sit on the sidelines and hope someone else would win the game.

My personal opinion on the MLPA’s is that, in general they were not needed for the North Coast. Our weather and sea conditions are a natural limiting factor that greatly curbs fishing pressure and effort. Since the MLPA law was enacted in 1999 there have been several regulations/actions put into place that brought about a more robust near shore fishery without having to close areas. Even though the law provides for a five year review, you and I know that once an area is closed it will never be reopened. Rather it will either expand or be blanketed with a larger preserve perhaps at a Federal level, etc. We need to face the fact that we only deflected a bullet when it came to the MLPA process. In other words I believe we handed them the minimum areas to meet the criteria that was set down by the Law and the Science Advisory Team (SAT). I don’t believe it carried much weight to advise the MLPA initiative group that since 1999, 2002 near shore Fisheries Management Plan adopted a first Federal Rockfish Conservation Area, 2003 Groundfish trawl buyback, Nearshore fishery restricted access, 2008 Trawl Individual Quota program approved, twenty fathom restriction, increased gear restrictions, etc. All of these actions have had a positive impact to the overall health of the bottom fish biomass. Up until about 1990 the Northern California recreational bottom fisherman could fish all year around.

Del Norte County continues its struggle to compete for the saltwater recreational fisherman dollar. Ocean fisherman that come from out of our area need to decide if they are going to fish out of Brookings, Oregon where: facilities are superior (at least at the present time), gas is cheaper, there is no sales tax, you may bottom fish all year round. If you are an Oregonian you probably already have an Oregon fishing license. When these economic factors were brought up to the MLPA initiative group there was clearly no sympathy for our northern area. Most of the policy makers that make these regulations do not live here. Don’t think I didn’t appreciate the tremendous amount of work our stakeholders who do live and work here in the north did. They knew they were in a difficult position being on the stakeholder group. I do believe this hardworking group worked with various groups and individuals to keep these MLPA areas to a minimum while fulfilling the requirements of the MLPA.

There was also a tremendously successful effort to get all of the counties that were affected, Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte together on the MLPA planning process. Supervisors from all of these counties signed a document that went to the California Fish and Game Commission supporting the recommendations that came from the stakeholder group. I believe this had an impact on a favorable outcome compared to what it could have been. There is strength in numbers and in standing together.

I have asked persons on the Fish and Game Commissions and Supervisors of both Humboldt and Mendocino Counties to please consider an information sharing process where all three Commissions find common goals that make positive changes for fishing opportunities. The feedback I have received has been positive both from Commissioners and Supervisors and from HASA members. As with the MLPA I would like to see a single letter going to the State Fish and Game Commission, Pacific Fisheries Management Council, National Marine Fisheries Service or any other agency signed by all three county Supervisors, supporting those recommendations.

One example I recently learned about was the issue of a year around bottom fishing opportunity for our county. I discussed this issue with one of our game officers who enlightened me as to how the decision was made to limit the season. He stated it had to do with a higher bag limit while most of the recreational fisherman would be here. Regardless of how the decision was made I didn’t know that other groups such as the Humboldt Area Saltwater Anglers (HASA) were working on the same thing. I didn’t know HASA was providing education and making available deep water release devices for the Yelloweye and other endangered rockfish that needed to be sent back to the bottom. I believe there is a way this County can help with that effort. HASA members have had success in gaining some extended time to fish in the groundfish arena because of this reduced bycatch mortality. This is the type of success I would like to see us build upon.

In closing I would ask you be become involved with organizations such as HASA and your elected or appointed officials. If you say nothing and don’t attend meetings that will affect those things you like to do, I will assure you that you will see more regulation, laws and restrictions that will limit the activity you enjoy. These decisions will be made with very poor or outdated science and data. You will take your boat out or be on the shore when an official tells you “You can’t fish here.” You will probably say something like, “When did they start that?” It’s at this point that it’s too late to do anything about the situation except perhaps go to court or pay the fine. With you or without your involvement these decisions will be made. You can affect the outcome of these decisions. You can make a difference! It’s up to you.

I have joined HASA. I will be a more effective Commissioner because of HASA. I will try to make a difference.