Commission suspends license of charter boat operator for poaching in MPA network

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The California Fish and Game Commission on February 7 ordered a five-year suspension of the license of Pacific Star Sportfishing, Inc., a recreational sportfishing vessel operator, for fishing in the “marine protected area” network created under the privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative and other violations.

They made the decision following oral arguments heard at the Commission meeting in Sacramento.

In an undercover operation and subsequent boarding by officers in 2013, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wildlife officers observed 18 violations including poaching within California’s marine protected area (MPA) network, exceeding the possession limits of several fish species, using illegal methods to take fish and failing to report accurate counts on logbooks.

Based on these violations, CDFW filed an accusation with the Commission against Pacific Star requesting that the Commission suspend this commercial passenger fishing vessel license, according to Jordan Traverso of the CDFW in a news release.

“Illegal take of our marine resources, especially in MPAs, undermines the tireless work of law enforcement, scientists, the public and fishermen in California,” said Commission President Eric Sklar. “The Commission took ample time to review the department’s accusation and we hope this serves as a message that we do not take lightly these sorts of violations and will ensure those who are responsible receive the appropriate penalty.”

“The Commission’s decision today follows a two-day hearing in 2017 conducted by an administrative law judge on behalf of the Commission with CDFW and Pacific Star both participating. The judge ultimately proposed that the Commission suspend the license for two years, with only the first 90 days of the suspension taking effect so long as Pacific Star complied with certain terms of probation. The Commission rejected that proposal as inadequate and gave CDFW and Pacific Star each 15 minutes today to argue their positions, resulting in today’s suspension,” Traverso said.

I completely agree with the CDFW and Commission that poachers should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law for fishing in the “marine protected area” network and other violations. It is very important that our laws protecting fish and the marine ecosystem be fully enforced and that violators of these laws be penalized.

However, the CDFW and Commission still fail to address the six “inconvenient truths” about the so-called “marine protected areas” created under the MLPA Initiative.

First, the marine protected areas created under the MLPA Initiative still fail to protect the ocean from pollution, fracking, offshore oil drilling, oil spills, military testing, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts other than sustainable fishing and gathering.

In 2014, I called Zeke Grader, the long time executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations who passed away in September 2015, about a bill sponsored by Senator Hannah Beth Jackson to defend the Vandenberg State Marine Reserve from oil drilling, due to loopholes in both the California Coastal Sanctuary Act and the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative. Grader, who supported the bill, pointed out how the very need for the bill “highlights what a failure the MLPA Initiative was.”

“If these are true marine protected areas, they why are we allowing drilling and other insults to the ocean in them?” asked Grader. “The whole MLPA Initiative was a phony process that provided an opportunity for Big Green and government bureaucrats to write press releases claiming these were ‘protected areas’ when in reality the fishermen and Tribes got screwed. We should have bans on oil drilling in all of the marine protected areas.” More information:…

Second, the CDFW made no mention of the fact that Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and the head  lobbyist for the expansion of fracking and other oil drilling in California, chaired the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called  “marine protected areas” in Southern California. It’s no surprise that this “marine guardian” and her organization opposed Senator Jackson’s bill to protect from offshore drilling the Vandenberg State Marine Reserve that Reheis-Boyd helped to create.

In an apparent conflict of interest, Reheis-Boyd also served on the task forces to create so-called “marine protected areas” on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast. More information:…

Third, the terminally flawed science and false assumptions of the process have never been addressed. Nor has a long-needed investigation of the role of a convicted embezzler, Ron LeValley, in creating the initiative’s “science” ever been conducted.

LeValley, who a judge sentenced to a 10 months in prison for conspiracy to embezzle over $852,000 from the Yurok Tribe, co-chaired the MLPA Initiative “Science” Advisory Team for the North Coast. More information:…

Fourth, the state failed to appoint any Tribal scientists to the Science Advisory Team that oversaw the Initiative’s “science,” even though the Yurok Tribe said it could produce a panel of Native American PHDs to challenge the “terminally flawed science.”

Fifth, state officials, who had originally pledged to conduct a regional review of the so-called “marine protected areas” created under the MLPA Initiative every five years, reversed course and now are doing the reviews only once every 10 years, under their MPA Master Plan adopted in August of 2016. More information:…

Sixth, to make things worse for fish, sea mammals and the marine ecosystem both inside and outside “marine protected areas,” Governor Jerry Brown expanded offshore drilling in state waters under existing leases by 17 percent between 2012 and 2016, according to an analysis by the nonprofit FracTracker Alliance. That’s right — Brown’s gas and oil regulators approved over 200 new offshore wells in Los Angeles and Ventura counties while Brown flew around the world to pose as a “climate leader” at international climate conferences.

According to the Fracktracker Alliance:

“FracTracker Alliance reviewed the data published by DOGGR on permitted offshore wells. (DOGGR refers to the Division of Oil, Gas, & Geothermal Resources, which regulates drilling in CA). Using API identification numbers as a timeline, we actually find that it is likely that 238 wells have been drilled offshore since the start of 2012. The DOGGR database only lists “spud” (drilling) and completion dates for 71 – a mere 1.3% of the 5,435 total offshore wells. DOGGR reports that 1,366 offshore wells are currently active production wells. It must be noted that these numbers are only estimations, since operators have a 2-year window to drill wells after receiving a permit and API number.

Using these methods of deduction, we find that since the beginning of 2012 the majority of offshore wells have been drilled offshore of Los Angeles County in the Wilmington Oil Field (204 in total); followed by 25 offshore in the Huntington Beach field; 7 in the West Montalvo field offshore of Ventura County, and 1 in the Belmont field, also offshore of Ventura County. Additionally, the Center for Biological Diversity reports that at least 200 of the wells off California’s coast have been hydraulically fractured.”  

The FracTacker Alliance report is available here:

The CDFW and California Fish and Game Commission won’t be able to truly implement the Marine Life Protection Act of 1999 until they finally address these outstanding issues that taint what passes for “marine protection” in California.