San Diego News Room-California Fish and Game Commission pass final Southern California Marine Life Protected Areas

Environment and Resources Land
Written by Albert H. Fulcher   
Wednesday, 22 December 2010 18:34
Southern California’s coastline now has more Marine Life Protected Areas (MLPA), with several falling on San Diego County’s shores.More than four years in planning, the California Fish and Game Commission passed regulations creating 36 new Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in the California South Coast Study Region in Santa Barbara on Dec. 15 with a 3-2 vote.Many of these areas generated heavy debate amongst communities, with environmentalists, scientists, commercial and recreational fishermen, and residents joining into the fray on how best to protect the future of coastal natural habitats, preserve local economy and provide public recreational freedom.

Regional boundaries extend from Point Conception to the California-Mexico border. Regulations were adopted as part of the Marine Life Management Act of 1998, which focused on maintaining the health of marine ecosystems and biodiversity in order to sustain resources. This passage encompasses about 187 square miles of state waters in the region.

Planning groups for the expansions of MLPAs include the Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRFT), Science Advisory Team (SAT), Regional Stakeholder Group, Statewide Interests Group, and the California Fish and Game Commission. New regulations were passed following more than 50 days of meetings with formal public comment and are expected to go into effect mid-2011.

Fish and Game Commissioners Dan Richards and President Jim Kellogg voted against adopting the Commission’s Integrated Preferred Alternative (IPA) proposed regulation. Richards named three distinct reasons for his “no” vote.“First and foremost, the protection of the ocean and its habitat is as important to Kellogg and myself as [it is to] the other commissioners,” said Richards. “What we are looking for is a fair, transparent process for all constituents – a plan that truly considers the economic impact of this decision and an adaptive management plan that can be properly funded and implemented.”

The Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) states that the IPA includes changes in allowable fishing and other uses: “Though these changes may result in economic impacts to commercial fishing interest and ocean-dependent fishing businesses, these impacts have been evaluated and minimized during the design of the proposed Project IPA and alternatives.”

Richards argues that the EIR does not address the negative economic impacts on the fishing industry and the actual impact is unknown.

“The economic impact here is huge,” Richards said. “This plan will put thousands of Californians out of work.”

Ecotrust’s January 2010 report to the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative estimated annual net economic impact on commercial fisheries is a loss of -15.6 percent in San Diego and -29.1 percent in Oceanside. The report estimated loss for commercial passenger fishing vessels at -27.4 percent in San Diego and -12 percent in Oceanside.Adaptive management of protected areas includes implementing and enforcing the new laws, closely monitoring protected areas, and educating the public. Richards said current laws are good but with California in an economic crisis, the state is already having a tough time funding enforcement.

“Changes made in the IPA are a lifetime change and there is zero ability to implement and enforce proper adaptive management,” he said. “The new enacted plan is fatally flawed, hurts the fishing industry and I cannot support it. It would be irresponsible.”

Fish and Game Commissioner’s vice president Richard Rogers, along with members Jack Baylis and Michael Sutton, voted yes on the proposed plan. Sutton said he has been an avid fan of the MLPA process and the decision will level the playing field of land-protected areas and the coastal areas.

Sutton’s day job is serving as vice president and director of Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Center for the Future of the Oceans. He said there is less than one percent of protected ocean in the world.

“Our decision will serve all constituents, the fisherman as well,” said Sutton. “We need a place for fish to spawn and live. There is abundant evidence that marine reserves are good for the fishing industry and best for the coastal environment.”

Sutton said many environmentalists think the IPA does not protect enough while fishermen complain it’s too restrictive. He said allowing fish populations to increase would create an overflow, pushing fish into open areas, both protecting spawning areas and further supporting the fishing industry now and in the future.

“On land, I have never met a hunter who did not believe in protected reserves,” he said. “They understand the necessity for preservation of species and its importance to the future of gaming. I think of the IPA as fish unlimited.”

In the city of San Diego, several adopted areas have the highest degree of protection. San Diego-Scripps Coastal State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA)/Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve (SMR) cluster moved the shared boundary below Scripps Pier. Matlahuayl SMR remains a no-take environment and San Diego-Scripps allows recreational hook and line fishing. Other no-take areas adopted were the Famosa Slough SMCA and Cabrillo SMR with an SAT level of very high. Designated at level high, the Tijuana River Mouth SMCA only allows recreational dip net and commercial round haul net fishing.

Dr. Serge Dedina, WiLDCOAST executive director, said the designation of the coastal and marine region at the mouth of the Tijuana River as an MPA is a significant step in its efforts to protect the ecological and economic values of our natural resources. He said WiLDCOAST recently stopped a $75-million Army Corps dredging project that would have destroyed the reef and used its nomination as an MPA to justify its efforts.

“Thirty years after standing in front of bulldozers to stop the destruction of the Tijuana Estuary, I surf the offshore reefs of the federally protected estuary and recently declared marine protected area,” he said. “It was only until the MPA process that this amazing reef—home to our resident pod of bottlenose dolphins and probably the most important leopard shark spawning sight in Southern California—was officially recognized as a real ecosystem.”

With many sites in contention, more than 1,000 people overflowed the Four Points Sheraton in San Diego on Oct. 16, generating more than five hours of discussion regarding MLPAs. Speakers of all ages, backgrounds and interests gave local input on the pros and cons of the proposed regulations.

Several sites with state beaches fall under the management of the Commission and California State Parks. In some areas, this created dispute as the state parks department works to bring visitors and revenue in the area and designation of MLPAs interferes with state park planning.

Swamis in Encinitas had several options for the Commission to consider.

Ruth Coleman, director of California state parks, said the department manages 30 percent of the coastline. Coleman said the department had concerns in the Swami’s SMCA, dealing with recreational fishing and the economic impact of the proposed IPA.

“What we are asking is that you create an additional ribbon along the shoreline to allow for shoreline fishing,” she said. “This is a park where we have around three million visitors a year. Under our regulations these areas are designated as state beaches and fishing is legal here.”

City of Encinitas Deputy Mayor Maggie Houlihan disagreed, saying the current IPA proposal protects the residents’ present and future quality of life and economic vitality.

“I would ask you keep the highest level of protection at Swamis,” she said. “Many of us believe allowing the shoreline ribbon would leave the protection level to low and to seriously consider the scientist advisory team’s recommendation.”

In the Commission’s final adoption, Swami’s SMCA northern boundary extends to the Cottonwood Creek mouth and the southern boundary extends south to align with the State Parks beach. Recreational shore-based fishing with hook and line gear is allowed.

An area of great contention among anglers, divers and the public is the South La Jolla SMR/SMCA, which has a high concentration of recreational divers and boaters.

Diver Michael Dong said the San Diego Council of Divers represents a combination of eight diving groups in San Diego, and divers in the area have a significant economic impact to the San Diego region. He said it is a product of a collaborative effort with the sustainability of a healthy fishery in mind. Restrictions and compression of the La Jolla proposed open-take area will result in users being placed in danger due to boat traffic on the water.

“Including enclosures will not restore the area to the pristine 1920s; that’s a fact,” he said. “A science-based incremental approach is supported by the dive council. A gradual, correctable program is the most optimal, sane and ecologically-sound step to take for a continued productive environment. As fishermen we also want MPAs to continue our resource.”

The Commission’s decision added maximum recommended protection to the area by moving the southern boundary one city block south and one city block north to enclose the intertidal reef.

In San Diego’s October public forum, Tommy Gomes, San Diegan commercial fisherman and South Coast Stakeholder for the MLPA process, said the seeming transparency of the meetings is false. He said the commission and other stakeholders were in violation of several California State Acts. Gomes called the process “crooked, flawed and corrupt,” claiming that BRFT held several private meetings which compromised the entire process.

George Osborn, who represents Partnership for Sustainable Oceans, said the PSO has been continually and constructively engaged in the Marine Protection Act process.

Rushing the MLPA process to meet political deadlines— despite the fishing community’s legitimate concerns about the adequacy of science, data and transparency—was an issue of concern. On Oct. 1, the California Superior Court held up the right for access to all documents requested.

“To this date the requested documents have not been provided,” Osborn said. “Even if they responded soon there would not be reasonable time to review these documents prior to the December vote.”

Osborn urged the Commission to delay adoption of the MPA regulations for the South Coast until receipt of all requested documents.

“No harm would be done to the natural resources by the postponement,” he said. “But it could do considerable harm to the integrity of the regulatory process if the board forces a vote in December. To do otherwise invites legal challenges.”

Sharon Garrison of the Natural Resources Defense council said her focus was on California’s fisheries. She said even though some fisheries are working, there are spawning species declining at rapid rates.

“California has had its share of fishery crashes, from sardines to commercial abalone. We have learned some things since then and fishery management is working for some species now,” she said. “For those species (in danger) and the many others we value, scientists believe the most effective management approach combines protected areas that safeguard spawning habitat with proper fishery management measures. We can all get on the important business of restoring and sustaining abundant oceans and fisheries as our legacy to the future generation.”

San Diego County’s Batiquitos Lagoon and San Elijo Lagoon also passed as protected no-take SMCAs.


Volunteers in the News

Members of the Lemon Grove Soroptomist club and the Mormon church youth group helped pack donations from the annual food and toy drive for distribution Dec. 18.

By Albert Fulcher | Email the author | December 17, 2010

Holiday helpers came ready and willing to prepare care packages Thursday night, for more than 60 chosen families as part of the annual Lemon Grove Food and Toy Drive.

In a twinkling, at the Lemon Grove Community Center, members of the Soroptomist club and youth from the local Mormon Church prepared gift and grocery bags for Saturday morning’s annual delivery. Selected families will be picking up a grand medley of fresh meat, produce and fruit along with grocery bags of food and a large bag of gifts for the children—just in time for the holidays. (The list of families in need came from local Lemon Grove schools; the families to receive the donations were selected and notified confidentially.)

One side of the room held a large variety of canned food, rice, beans and many other staple food items families can use every day. Toys and games for children of all ages, quilts and warm accessories filled the other side, as the large gift bags were assembled. Early Saturday morning, fresh meat, produce and fruits will be delivered as the finishing touch to give families a happy and healthy holiday gift.

Nancy O’Conner, a Soroptomist club volunteer, said the club has participated in the annual drive for more than 20 years, taking over a long tradition from a former church in Lemon Grove. She said in previous years they have provided for more than 300 families but due to the economy and decline in contributions, she is grateful to be able to provide large holiday packages to the chosen families this year.

“We do what we can for them, and it is a lot of fun to do this,” she said.

Large bags lined the walls, with descriptions of each family attached. Information on family size, children’s ages and genders, and “wish list” items helped Soroptomist members Debbye Tellez (“the lady in charge”), Cathy Froelicher and Sharon Jones to make every gift package personal.

“We try hard to match toys and gifts to the descriptions of the family,” said Tellez. “It is really nice that we get to pick and choose gifts for the children.”

Assigned certain bags to fill, conversations between the volunteers focused on the tiny details to match the perfect gifts for the children. With her infectious enthusiasm, Froelicher said it was almost like shopping, and way too much fun.

“A chicken in every pot and a toy in every bag, that’s what it’s about” she said. “I still love toys!”   

On the other side of the room O’Connor led the youth group in organizing food items and filling blue bags of canned goods and black bags of staples. In less than an hour, the youths had 96 bags of each lined up and ready to distribute.

O’Connor said she was thankful for the help of the youth group. “They have been coming out and helping for ten years now,” she said. “Their involvement has been wonderful.”

Froelicher said if not for the youth, they would have to start the packing process much earlier. She said she was very happy for their continued commitment. “I was amazed the first time I saw them work and how fast they are able to get the job done,” Froelicher said.

Young Men and Young Women is a youth group from the Mormon church that meets weekly. Brent Collins, president of the group, said they are very involved in the local community.

“The youth are active in various projects,” said Collins. “Scouting, community service and developing life skills and moral values are what our program is all about.”

Group leaders Nate and Emily James said they have participated in this event since they were in the youth group. “Nate and I did this when we were their age, at the original church,” said Emily James. “We love bringing in some needed power to keep this good work going on.”

With the youth finished and gone, Tellez was checking her list, and checking it twice. While making sure that every young child had a quilt, she said she remembered some special children who had been very good this year.

“Bag number seven is (for) a single child who loves to draw,” she said. “So let’s give her what she really wants.” Jones and Froelicher searched for every style of drawing and coloring materials and stuffed extra in her bag.

All three went into toy search mode when Tellez said, “We have a 9-year-old special education child who just lost his mother the day before Thanksgiving, and is now living with his grandparents. His favorite colors are yellow and green. He loves Disney, especially Buzz Lightyear. Let’s find him something extra.”

Tellez then pulled out a San Diego Chargers hat she bought.

“This is for the young girl with cancer,” she said. “She loves the Chargers and I thought this would a perfect gift for her.”

For more than two decades, the community has come together for the annual Food and Toy Drive. On Saturday morning, there will be many happier families this holiday season because volunteers and contributors show once again, Lemon Grove takes care of its own.

San Diego News Room-Pat Aguilar has big plans for Chula Vista

San Diego Cities Chula Vista
Written by Albert H. Fulcher   
Wednesday, 15 December 2010 09:01
New Chula Vista councilwoman cites rough childhood in New York as driving force behind her committment to public safety
Chula Vista swore in its newest City Council member, Patricia Aguilar, on Dec. 7 at City Hall. After an extensive campaign against longtime Otay Water District official Larry Breitfelder, Aguilar took control of Chula Vista City Council Seat No. 2 with more than 54 percent of the vote.

Endorsed by the Chula Vista Police Department, Aguilar made community safety a top priority in her campaign platform. Aguilar grew up in the projects of Queens and Manhattan during the 1960s when crime was rampant. Without a sense of security, Aguilar believes, people have no quality of life.

“That is one reason I am so concerned about public safety,” said Aguilar. “I grew up in a neighborhood where you needed bars on your windows and doors and you felt afraid to go out at night at all. That’s why I believe public safety is number one – because I grew up in an environment that wasn’t safe.”

Chula Vista financial forecasts show a deficit of $18.5 million for fiscal year 2010-11 and an additional $18.5 million for the following fiscal year. Chula Vista’s proposed sales tax, Proposition A, failed in May and a utility users tax (Proposition H) failed to gain voter support later in the fall.

Both candidates predicted the failure of Proposition H during campaigning. Breitfelder is a strong advocate of fiscal reform in Chula Vista. President of the Chula Vista Taxpayer Association and member of the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce Public Policy and Economic Development committees, Breitfelder achieved positive results in his many business and charitable movements in the Chula Vista community. He founded his campaign on revitalization of local economy, restoration of declining neighborhoods and city fiscal reform.

“It did occur to me that an issue on the ballot would be the utility tax,” said Breitfelder. “I have been on the record for a couple of years stressing that the language of this old ordinance should be modernized — it deals with technology, after all.  However, it should be done in a revenue neutral way. Not as a pretext for a tax increase.”

Prop H would have placed the city’s five-percent telecommunication tax under the city utility user tax and  brought more revenue in by taxing cell phones, text messaging, and other communication devices and services such as T-1 lines, paging, toll free numbers and voice-over-internet protocol.

Aguilar said that Chula Vista faces difficult decisions concerning public services in light of the massive budget problem. With today’s economic climate, she maintains, the only way to reduce the equation is to either increase incoming or reduce outgoing expenses. She said that the city’s financial decisions are like anyone’s personal budget –it’s a process of learning of what you can and cannot live without.

“The city is going to have to do the same thing, and it is going to be very painful,” she said. “I would need to hear from the public on what facilities are affected by these decisions. I believe that most of the community would not mind a small increase in sales tax if they knew exactly what services would be provided with the increase.”

Aguilar said a key element in her platform is job growth and economic expansion. She would like to see Chula Vista become the center for the health care industry in South Bay – a niche for the city that would spin job growth. In tandem with a four-year university and strong programs in medical science, she says, an industry can be created using current hospital resources, a high level of education in the field and all of the businesses and industries that support health care.

“It fits within our demographics, an aging population, the federal health program and our position to Mexico,” she said. “I think the city’s part in this is to bring in experts in the area (Sharp, Scripps) and discuss how we can turn this city into a health care Mecca. I see a synergy here I would like to work on.”

Aguilar said it is time to for council members to work together, focusing on issues that the majority of the public agrees with.

“Too many times we get hung up on an extreme one-sided view of an issue,” she said. “I think it is time for elected officials on all councils and boards to become a little more humble and remember they are there to serve the people that elected them.”

The councilwoman  said her family was instrumental to her approach in getting involved at the grassroots level. Even in the leanest times of her childhood, the New York Times was always delivered and she learned about politics at the family dinner table. Her father worked for the New York subway system was on the forefront of establishing the state into the Transport Workers Union, one of the first municipal unions ever founded in this country. Her mother, due to landlord discrimination in the projects, was instrumental in obtaining protection for tenants who paid rent and did things right.

“That is the kind of environment I grew up in. You see something, you don’t like what is going on, you do something about it. This is one reason I tackle issues the way I do — from the bottom up, rather than the top down. I feel so strongly in fulfilling a community service. I have no plans of running for assembly or congress, I just want to serve this community.”

Aguilar has been active at the grassroots level in Chula Vista for 20 years. She has served on several community organizations, including Bayfront Citizens Advisory Committee, Chula Vista Design Review Board, Chula Vista Planning Commission, Chula Vista General Plan Update Steering Committee and the Chula Vista Redevelopment Advisory Committee.

Aguilar co-founded Crossroads II, Chula Vista’s community advocacy organization, in 2003 and served as president until declaring candidacy. She earned a masters degree in architecture and urban planning from University of California, Los Angeles. The majority of her professional life was spent working at University of California, San Diego as director of planning during a time of tremendous university growth.

Aguilar called Chula Vista an incredible place to live, though she was initially skeptical when moving from Point Loma 20 years ago. She said she fell in love with the canyons and plateaus, and being surrounded by the bay, Otay Valley Regional Park, Otay Lakes and the Sweetwater River made Chula Vista a beautiful home for her family.

“It is physically beautiful and the weather is like nowhere else in the world, but more than that there is something about the spirit of the people here. I just want to make a contribution to this place I’ve come to love,” said Aguilar.

Student journalists become ‘pros for a day’

By Albert H. Fulcher and Serina Duarte Senior Staff Writer and Managing Editor

Published: Monday, December 13, 2010

Journalists had their tape recorders whirring, cameras flashing and pens scribbling furiously and they were covering… other journalists.

An all-star lineup of San Diego region print, broadcast and on-line journalists shared their experience and wisdom with journalism, telemedia and photography students from Southwestern College and county high schools as SWC hosted the San Diego Association of Black Journalists  “Pro For a Day” boot camp. About 50 students received a full day of hands-on experience in photography, broadcast, print and online journalism.

SWC adjunct journalism instructor Jerry McCormick, an associate producer at NBC 7/39, led the event.

McCormick presented the students with the challenge for the day—to attend a mock press conference, break into groups of print, broadcast and photography, and have their stories ready by 4 p.m.

“We are here for you,” said McCormick. “This is your opportunity to ask all the questions you want to ask. We have some really heavy hitters.”

SDABJ had 10 of its members and three guest journalists on hand.  A panel of five experts opened the day.

On the panel were CEO Scott Lewis of Voice of San, editor Leslie Wolf-Branscomb of Lemon Grove, weekend anchor Angele Ringo of KGTV Channel 10, General Manager Dick Kelly and News Operations Manager Donna Stewart of KNSD Channel 7/39.

 McCormick asked panelists what they thought the one things high school and college students could do to get ready to enter the competitive field of Journalism.

Branscomb said she recently made the transition from traditional print journalism as a Union-Tribune editor to the growing hyper-local Internet news industry. Wolf-Branscomb spent 18 years with The San Diego Union-Tribune as a reporter and legal affairs editor. She said students need to earn a degree in journalism or communications.

“That should be your goal,” she said. “Find yourself at that four-year university to earn that degree. Yes, you need the experience, the clips and the internships, but you need that degree.”

Voice of San Diego’s Lewis said he was disillusioned seeing that high school and college students were not news consumers. He said aspiring journalist need to identify role models.

“Find journalists you like and follow them,” he said. “Find the best writers that engages you and emulate them. That is the key, when you start consuming it, start to emulate it, then you will start to become as valuable as they are.”

Kelley said to be a part of this wide-ranging business a student must learn as much as possible.

“If you get in the business, there are certain things that you are going to have to address that are not in your scope of expertise,” he said. “I encourage you to read, absorb, watch and ask questions.”

Greg Khachatryan, 27 a telemedia major stirred the conversation when he said “print is dead.”

Branscomb and Lewis said that they did not believe print was dying, but that it was definitely changing and being augmented with broadcast and Internet news.

Dana Littlefield, vice-president SDABJ and legal affairs reporter for the Union-Tribune, said the most important thing for journalism students is to learn how to write, interview, report and tell stories well.

“I don’t care if you get it on-line, read it in the paper, or come down to the UT and wait for us to come out and tell it to you,” said Littlefield. “Why you may think that print is dying, the skills are not. The skills that we hone in traditional journalism, learning the craft of journalism, that is what’s important.”


Leadership has ignored SWC students

By Albert Fulcher, Senior Staff Writer

Published: Monday, December 13, 2010

A breeze of fresh air is at last cooling down the hot climate of Southwestern College. Two out of four incompetent governing board members are history, and Raj K. Chopra himself snuck out in the middle of the morning just as quickly as he fled to India for vacation after suspending four professors last year.

Left behind is a scarred campus that needs time and attention to heal. This college does not need people to come in and fill these departing footsteps, it needs a new pair of shoes.

Our new governing board has some very difficult decisions to make to begin a path of recovery. Who will take over running the college? At this point and time, no one knows, but the first 100 questions asked by the governing board to potential superintendents needs to have the word “student” in them. Serving the students is the governing board’s job description and so far, students sit at the back of the line, uninformed of the many decisions that will affect their futures.

The college’s website is in limbo land as it gets updated. Other than required items, such as governing board agendas and minutes, the site is in many ways useless to students. It is still an adequate tool for recruitment, but a disservice to the current student population. A majority of the college’s press releases have very little to do with students’ daily life on campus. They focus more on the college and its relationship to the outside community and an introduction to new programs and expansion.

Until registration, a student does not find out that courses in the college’s catalogue offered by semesters are not longer there. Higher division classes have taken a severe cut. Waitlists for classes offered are so ridiculously long, leaving many students out in the cold leaving the possibility of crashing a class impossible. Counselors are overwhelmed with students attempting to get an associate degree in two years.

Information needs to get to the students and before registration begins, classes cut from the catalogue need to be announced. There should be press releases regarding all student activities that occur at SWC every day. A few bulletin boards spread throughout the campus are totally ineffective.

To encourage student participation in college activities major changes need to be made. Administration, faculty and staff have a global e-mail system that works, but students do not. Where is the students’?

College participation is one of the best teaching tools that SWC has to offer. All campus leaders should find a global way of letting all students know what is going on daily. When there is a free speech rally, with government officials at a college that has received the Thomas Jefferson Muzzle Award, students should be told in advance, no matter the administration’s take on it. Students should know in advance that the Student Veteran Organization is having its “Wieners for Warrior” fundraiser, money that goes to wounded and recovering service members. When the ASTRA Club is holding a bake sale to help support a student going through cancer treatment, students should know before they walk by the Student Center. Students are consistently left out of the communication loop.

Student global press releases beforehand would offer these clubs and events the ability to raise more money for their particular causes and highlight what its organization contributes. It is a big recruitment tool to get students engaged in school activities. E-mails to all students informing them of upcoming governing board and ASO meetings and agendas promote the education of politics, policy-making and community involvement. Do more than what is required by policy or change it.

Only great leaders can understand the importance of this ethical, open flow of communication between the college and its students. Be that leader.

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