In spring of 2016, a small, anonymous coalition of environmentalists drew up a proposal for President Obama to declare all of California’s Offshore Seamounts, Ridges and Banks as a single new Marine National Monument. Because the Monument designation process is made as a unilateral decree by the President under the Antiquities Act, there is no official public engagement involved. By summer, members of congress had been made aware of the proposal and brought it to the attention of the California fishery leadership, because all of the areas in the proposed closures are important fishing grounds.
A coalition of fisheries and industry supporters was quickly formed, spearheaded by Diane Pleschner-Steele of the California Wetfish Producers Association. CFSB joined this coalition, and as a group we were successful in making a case for transparency, stake-holder engagement, policy alignment and the need for a scientific process in the planning of any new closed areas. We sent a letter to President Obama outlining our concerns and helped in the process of gathering hundreds of signatures (sign here).
We also made an effort to reach out to the marine science community because many scientists had been misled into signing their names in support of ‘new offshore protections’ without full disclosure that their signatures would be used to support a Monument designation (read our letter here). More than a dozen local scientists expressed concern over the lack of science, transparency and due process in the situation.
In late July, CA representative Sam Farr introduced Bill H.R. 5797 to advance the Monument proposal. Certain defeat of this Bill paves the way for justifying a Presidential decree.
In September, the Pacific Fishery Management Council sent a letter to President Obama expressing their concerns with a Monument designation (read more here).
In October, Mr. Chuck Tracy, Executive Director of the Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council), sent a letter to Congressman Sam Farr and Congressman Duncan Hunter regarding the Council comments on H.R.5797, the California Seamounts and Ridges National Marine Conservation Area Designation and Management Act. In addition, CA State legislators Jackie Speier and Jared Huffman created a sign on letter for their colleagues opposing the Seamount proposal.
Currently, no announcement has been made about the President’s plans to pursue this Monument proposal.
Excerpts from our letter to Obama:
“California has the most strictly regulated fisheries in the world. Precautionary policies for protecting resources in federal waters exist under the federal Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), and many other bipartisan laws, such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act, which require science-based analysis conducted in a fully public and transparent process.”
“Further, the use of the Antiquities Act to designate marine protected areas as monuments in open ocean waters is inconsistent with the nation’s ocean policies set forth in the panoply of Federal laws in the US – even this Administration’s own National Ocean Policy Plan, which promises “Robust stakeholder engagement and public participation."