True tales of the California Coast- Part V, MLPA: a rescue mission ‘Marine Neglected Area’

Pedro Nava, Joey Racano and Bob Hattoy

True tales of the California Coast- Part V,
MLPA: a rescue mission

‘Marine Neglected Area’
by joey racano

Fishing, polluting, cementing, developing, building, mining, logging…By the time Americans turned and looked back on 200 years of coastal plunder, it was too late for conservation. It was time for a full blown rescue mission. And that is what the MLPA (Marine Life Protection Act) really is- a rescue mission. A last-ditch plan to save the coast by creating a series of MPA’s (Marine Protected Areas) on the coast of California, with four other west coast states involved as well.

But old habits die hard, and backing down was such an easy way out. Like all environmental laws that came before, enforcement was going to be a battle to the highest levels of government.

When the State Marine Reserve (unofficially named for Bob Hattoy, the late, great California Fish & Game Commissioner) took effect in Morro Bay Estuary, it only took 3 months before a habitual polluter (the California Men’s Colony Prison in San Luis Obispo) violated the law by dumping sewage and chlorine into one of the two streams leading into the brand new SMR.

With groundbreaking cooperation between coastal activists, sportsmen, the Central Coast Water Quality Control Board, and then-Governor Arnold Swarzenegger, the prison was held responsible for their pollution discharge.

The staff of the water board factored into the fine that the pollution eventually found its way into a Marine Protected Area, and an all-important precedent was set. Our rescue mission for the ocean was underway!

Because Morro Bay was the first SMR established, it was also the first one violated, and it wasn’t long before the next challenge reared its ugly head in the form of the Morro Bay Harbor Department.

With Morro Bay’s hideous power plant finally about to close forever, Harbor Department stands to lose the money (250 K a year!) they get from the power plants estuary destruction. So now they want to dredge up toxic waste by building an equally hideous boat marina and make money from renting boat slips -right next to the State Marine Reserve!

Next: ‘Harboring a Grudge’

(Photo: L-R Pedro Nava, Joey Racano, Bob Hattoy, at 2006 World Oceans Conference, Long Beach, California)

Tags: bob hattoy, pedro nava, joey racano, mlpa, sea, ocean, conservation, fish, pollution, ecology, marine, deep, water,

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