Morro Bay Fishermen, PG&E Compensation Negotiations — ‘Light Years Apart’
No Fishing, No Fish, No Compensation
On September 1 Mark Tognazzini, a member of the Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s negotiation team, told KSBY-TV in San Luis Obispo that negotiations with PG&E over compensation for seasonal losses to the fishing industry and fisheries from their upcoming high-energy seismic test off the coast had stalled and that the two sides were “light years apart.”
One week later, on September 8, Mr. Tognazzini, who owns the Dockside Restaurants and fish market on Morro Bay’s Embarcadero, told The ROCK that the fishermen and PG&E are “even further apart now that they were before.”
And it doesn’t look like that galactic gap will be closing very much anytime in the foreseeable future.
The sides are so far apart on the dollar value of the losses to fishermen as a result of the PG&E’s high-decibel California Coastal Seismic Imaging Test, says Mr. Tognazzini, that they are currently in the process of trying to select a mediator, which PG&E will pay for, from a narrowed list. Meetings, however, are few and far between, and it remains unclear if mediation will actually net a settlement prior to the test or produce a legally binding one. The lack of a compensation agreement will not delay or stop the test.
Mr. Tognazzini is not optimistic about a positive outcome for the fishermen. “I think PG&E comes in and does what they want to do. They’ll have a claims process in that will be so bogged down that guys will give up,” he says. “In every meeting we have they always say, oh, we gotta go back and talk to the guys in charge. We bring the right guys to meeting to make decisions; they never bring the right guys to the meetings. It’s always somebody else they gotta go talk to.
“Right now we’re trying to pick a mediator, and they’ve eliminated a couple of really good mediators off the list,” he said. “We’re trying to agree on a mediator, and this is just to get to an MOU, in order words, a memo of doing business with them. We’ve got nothing in writing from them. They talk about this $1.3 million (offer) – this has just been tossed around a couple of times. What that is, that is their data they put together on the catch from ‘the racetrack’ area (of the test) only. Is this (test) going to cover 10 miles, 20 miles, 30 miles? It’s a little more far-reaching (than PG&E acknowledges)…”
Mr. Tognazzini is just as concerned about marine mammals, and is worried that PG&E has already divided and conquered the process by negotiating separately with environmental groups and other interested parties, making negotiations with the fishermen even more difficult.
“I’m willing to negotiate with them, but I think they have to look more far-reaching. I think there’s a little hype on both ends, and I think there’s more truth in the middle someplace. I know there’s immediate larvae kill within three to five meters of the guns. They say it’s inconsequential.
“In other words, if you take and extrapolate out the bio mass that gets killed because air guns travel in part of the ocean that all living forms are in that you can hardly see [then it's inconsequential]. It’s where all the light is, where all the oxygen is; abalone live up there, sea urchin larvae live up there, rockfish, all the larvae live in the zone where the air guns go through. Every time they fire a gun, 18 different guns, three to five meters from that gun, everything is killed. Every 20 seconds, 24 hours a day,” he said. “To PG&E it’s inconsequential because they’re comparing it to 2.5 million gallons of sea water, and killing everything in that that goes into (Diablo Canyon) every day, so it is inconsequential compared to that, but that’s twisted.”
One of the reasons Mr. Tognazzini is on the negotiating team is that he has first-hand knowledge of the seismic testing process and what it does to fish. His boat was chosen for a geophysical survey and study conducted in 1986. “It wasn’t done to this intensity,” he said, “but there was geophysical work going on and we had the same complaints then that we have now.”
The half-million-dollar 1987 study, “Effect of Sounds From a Geophysical Survey Device on Fishing Success,” Mr. Tognazzini said, “shows at a 190 decibels using a single air gun results in a 52% reduction in catch. This study doesn’t begin to cover what you have going long-term.”
The study also included a startle-response test on fish in an enclosure in Cayucos. “It’s germane to this area, so it’s powerful evidence for what the test does. It never addressed the long-term issue. It was only about the behavior difference patterns in rockfish; it’s not about what it might do to larvae, it’s not about marine mammals.
“It’s strictly about behaviors,” Mr. Tognazzini said, “and if you just take that at face value — at 190 decibels, one gun, reduces the catch by 52% — it’s giant.”
PG&E’s upcoming $64-million 3D seismic survey will probe hundreds of square miles of ocean with 18 air guns blasting 240 to 260 decibels of sound, which, according to how science measures soundwaves traveling through water, will multiply the impact on area marine life by at least 20 times.
The Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Organization believes the PG&E test should not take place, and that PG&E already has sufficient information about fault lines surrounding the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant from previous tests to implement all necessary safety measures now — without another test that will significantly destroy marine life.
Click here to read the complete Rockfish study.