SLO County Fishermen on Proposed Chumash National Marine Sanctuary: ‘We’re Unanimously Against It’

‘Once we take on these additional layers of bureaucracy and find out in the future about the problems it causes, we will not be able to turn back.’

By JEREMIAH O’BRIEN
Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Organization

Well, the sanctuary question is back on the table. This issue seems to arise every few years since Monterey got their sanctuary. This one is in the form of the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary. The commercial fishermen in our county are unanimously against it, and we have spoken to various sport fishing groups and have yet to find any one of these groups in support of a sanctuary in our area.

The sanctuary issue is a very big concern, not only for the fishing industry, but the entire county. This is an issue that should not be taken lightly. When we invite the federal government to take over control of our resources, we, meaning our communities, will lose the ability to manage our beaches, our ocean, our ports and our harbors.

The cost to communities for additional federal regulations governing areas such as runoff and discharges, currently administered by local and state government, will increase dramatically. These costs will severely impact our harbors and ports, increasing the difficulty for projects necessary for their operations, such as, dredging, soil samples, construction of docks and slips, as well as maintaining structures that are currently in place. Once we take on these additional layers of bureaucracy and find out in the future about the problems it causes, we will not be able to turn back.

Proponents of the National Marine Sanctuary issue have proclaimed there will be no loss of local control. Unfortunately, this is not true as “National Marine Sanctuary” clearly implies management will not be local but rather at the Federal level.

California Marine Affairs and Navigation Conference, or C-MANC, is a group of all of California’s harbors and the cities affiliated with those harbors. This group encompasses the area from San Diego to Crescent City, the entire length of our state, and deals directly in many of these areas with National Marine Sanctuaries, such as the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, and the Channel Island National Marine Sanctuary.

C-MANC has issued a legislative policy statement concerning marine sanctuaries, which consists of a list of five problems. Some of those problems include disposal of dredge materials, and requirements to the already burdensome federal and state processes, vessel traffic, fishing regulations, either direct or indirect, and general maintenance issues. And finally, C-MANC’s legislative policy reads: “C-MANC recommends suspending the expansion of existing sanctuaries until the problems identified above are resolved.” We should remember these are the representatives of their respective areas, many who are living under the umbrella of the National Marine Sanctuaries.

Our county, cities, towns, and commercial and sport fishermen have long been very outstanding stewards of our ocean. We work with many state, federal and environmental groups, as well as universities and colleges. The Central Coast has been the “poster child” of how to do things right in many discussions and meetings held in California, on the East Coast as well as our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. And finally, it is important to remember the amount of fishing grounds closed to some form of fishing, those include Marine Protected Areas, Essential Fish Habitat Areas, and Rock Cod Conservation Areas. I think we can be very proud of our stewardship of the Central Coast.

I guess I just love the Central Coast, and when my wife and I step outside and look around, we remind ourselves every single day of what we have here. We do not think additional layers of bureaucracy would be in the best interest or add to the beauty of this area.

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