Kudos to the Journal for trying to encapsulate the complex and controversial Marine Life Protection Act Initiative (MLPAI) as we approach the Feb. 1 deadline for submission of the North Coast’s unified external Marine Protected Area (MPA) array proposal (“United Front,” Jan. 21) . I do think, however, that your reporter may have left a few misimpressions.
The use of the term “hard feelings” to describe the North Central Coast’s response to the MLPAI was off the mark. I helped pull together the Humboldt Bay Harbor District MPA local oversight committee, which has grown into the regional group described in your article, when we learned that reefs on both sides of Point Arena, in the North Central region, were being shut, essentially crippling the economy of a small town with an already beleaguered economy.
The MLPAI staff had worked for over a year with local fishermen down there and then double-crossed them, essentially shutting down the $10 million Point Arena Pier. The parallels to Shelter Cove, where the Humboldt Harbor District is poised to spend $1.5 million to improve fishing access, were just too striking, and the potential for substantial regional economic harm was just too great to simply sit on the side lines.
Your writer inappropriately summarized my statement regarding the Science Advisory Team (SAT) guidelines as “bunk,” a term that I never use. She then quoted the marine research specialist Dr. Peter Nelson as stating that “most of the group isn’t questioning the science behind the guidelines.”
Pete Nelson is our expert and he is mindful that antagonizing or disrespecting the SAT could confound a decision in our favor. That said, the North Coast region’s letter of June 2009 to Resources Secretary Chrisman stated clearly that the science guidelines were flawed. The new Harbor District Web page that I helped put together on the MLPAI process (www.humboldtbay.org) will inform your readers and provide access to that letter and a slide show presentation that I made to our committee that explains the issues in depth.
I am helping write the justification for the North Coast region’s external Marine Protected Area (MPA) proposal this weekend and it will be submitted on time, by midnight Monday, Feb. 1. I would like to give special thanks to Dr. Betsy Watson, who helped the people of our region get beyond their concerns and to forge the trust needed to make this momentous accord possible. We are truly blessed to have such talent in our community.
No matter how some others may behave, the governments and tribes of the North Coast will now review the external MPA array that we are preparing and will consider signing on to a support resolution which will make clear that we have solid regional — not fractious nor competing — demands.
Pat Higgins, 5th District Humboldt Bay Harbor Commissioner, McKinleyville